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​Business Casual Vs Business Professional Attire

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Whether you are appearing for a job interview or leaving for work, wearing the right attire is crucial to your success. The first impression creates a lasting impression and when you want to excel at the interview or impress your boss, wearing the right office attire can make a huge difference.

There was a time when wearing a suit to an interview or professional attire was the norm at offices. However, times have changed and people are now more open to a flexible dress code. Suits are no longer compulsory and ladies are allowed to be more experimental with their dress and accessories.

Even then, there is a certain standard you must adhere to. So whether you prefer professional dressing or casual attire, here are some tips to help avoid a faux pas.

Understand the Company Culture

This is your prime guideline when deciding whether to dress in a professional manner or stick to casuals. If you are about to appear for an interview, you should know something about the company beforehand.

Some companies make it mandatory for both interviewees and employees to  dress in professional attire. Men in such companies are always in suits while women are dressed in smart shirts and skirts or pants.

On the other side of the spectrum, there are companies that love casual attire. They want a fun environment in the office so that people can enjoy themselves more even while they are working. Such companies allow and encourage casual attire both for interviewees and regular employees.

No matter how you dress, your goal should be to gel in with the company’s culture and make yourself look smart and professional.

Dress to Impress

Once you have joined a new company, it might take you a few days to adjust to the environment. Observing your co-workers is the best way to know the dress code (or lack of it) in your new office.

If different people are dressed differently, (senior managers in suits, juniors in casual), don’t hesitate to ask around.

Often your job profile dictates your dress code.

For example, if you are in the reception, your attire should exude a smart and confident look even if you are in casuals. Too much make-up or glitzy accessories may not always create the right impression.

On the other hand, if you are in the back office and your employer allows casual dressing, you might wear khakis with long sleeved, buttoned-down shirts or jeans and polo shirts. Also, keep your designation in mind. If you are in a senior position, maybe your employer wants you to turn out in suits or professional shirts or formal skirt or pants.

Observe your co-workers to get to know the appropriate dress code at your new job.

Always Choose Good Quality Clothes

Be it professional suits or business casuals, you will find work-wear in a wide range of materials, brands and prices. While you may not be able to afford high-end brands, do not settle for very cheap clothes either.

Cheap, glitzy clothes reflect poorly on your taste and your professionalism. Irrespective of whether you are appearing for an interview or are already employed, good quality clothes always make you look self-confident and efficient.

Whether you love a minimalist look or traditional attire, always invest in good quality clothes that create the right impression.

What to Avoid?

When it comes to professional attire, things are crystal clear. Suits, formal shirts or skirts, a tie, leather shoes and bag are all covered under this category. However, when it comes to business casuals, things can get a bit complicated.

There’s an endless choice when it comes casual wear. However, that does not mean you can wear anything. You must know where to draw the line when attending an interview or going to the office.

Avoid that old shirt or shabby dress even if it’s your favourite. Do not turn up in antique sneakers or ripped jeans or an outlandish haircut. For ladies, too many accessories, especially in glitzy designs might not be the right choice. Remember that although casual, it is all about ‘business’ casual so your attire must exude professionalism and a well-dressed look.

There are plenty of options when it comes to business casuals. These are not only stylish and fun to wear but the cut and designs have that professional look about them.

What to Wear?

For men, professional business attire should include conservative suits, long sleeve shirts in solid colours (not too loud colours, though), good quality ties, dark socks and leather shoes and a leather portfolio.

Business casuals can include corduroys, khakis, cotton pants or twill. Knit shirts, polo shirts, button-downs; long-sleeved shirts, cardigans or sweaters (for winter) and sneakers are also acceptable.

Some companies even allow flip-flops!

For women, professional attire would mean a conservative suit with a matching smart blouse in solid colours. Always opt for standard shoes (pumps, flats or medium high heels), a good quality leather handbag and some simple jewellery.

Business casuals for women can include smart and stylish dresses, jeans, cotton pants or skirts with matching shirts in unique cuts. Add to that a fashionable handbag and some classic accessories and you are ready to go.

Maintain a Certain Standard

Irrespective of how you dress or what the company’s dress code is, be sure to keep a few things in mind.

Always wear properly ironed clothes and dress neatly. Avoid clothes that are offensive or overtly revealing. Even if the office allows casual dressing, don’t opt for outlandish hairstyles.

Keep your nails clipped and hair neatly cut.

For ladies, nails should be properly trimmed and polished if you so desire (no chipped nails) and avoid cologne or perfumes that are too strong.

Maintain a good haircut that can be managed easily and does not give a messy appearance. Makeup does enhance your looks but don’t go over the top. Keep it subdued and elegant whether you are wearing professional business attire or business casuals. 

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