How To Dress Well in Business Casual
The words “business casual” can send some of my friends into a confused panic as much as seeing the words “shabby chic“ would to me. Ditto the phrases relaxed business and smart casual. And getting it wrong can be awkward especially since at a business event no matter how casual it is - there is usually a superior (usually a boss or a client) to impress. I once witnessed as business colleague got subtly snubbed by a potential client as she showed up at a “smart casual” cocktail party in mid-town Manhattan dressed in a cotton sundress and Ipanema sandals … while everyone else was dressed in flowy summer dresses and open-toed heels. Later on in private she bursts out, “How am I supposed to know they don’t really mean casual?!”.
Well, below I’ve outlined some tips for dressing appropriately to this tricky phrase.
Also look at the venue for clues. An outdoor event at a beachfront 5-star hotel would call for something a bit different than cocktails at a conference room in an office building. I love accessories - but do remember that less is more at a business event and opt for understated elegance. Casual doesn’t mean you can break out the Lakers baseball cap or the or your limited edition Hunger Games lapel-pin.
Finally, look to your boss or host for an estimate of how casual to go (I would even go to Google or research more about the event host on social media if needed.). If she’s likely to show up in a dress and heels, then you can’t stroll in wearing jeans and a t-shirt. That’s clearly not the meaning of business-casual in that office. If you’re your own boss – kudos to you BTW – consider your clients or anyone else you come into contact with at casual business times. And one final word about fabric - pick fabrics of good quality. A great outfit is never about labels or cost. It’s about picking well-made fabrics and not wearing frayed pieces of clothing. E.g I’d rather pick a brand new white t-shirt to wear underneath my jacket rather than a well-worn blouse from 15 years ago.
The idea behind business casual is a good one – sometimes we need to shake things up, change our perspective, and taking on a more relaxed feeling can help a lot of people do this. All in all its important to remember its about showing a slightly more relaxed version of our business or professional self, not baring our (at-home) selves. Do safe that for your family and closest friends or, in my case, my cats.
Photography by Bibo Aswan | Makeup by Anna Sherie
Taken at E&O Residences Kuala Lumpur Malaysia
Lookin’ sassy and great Heidi! I wish I could put justice to my own business casual outfit.
I’m loving this business casual look of yours Heidi.
Thanks for the 4 F rules. I’ll keep an eye on my accessories next time. That’s what I often forget when I go out, not that I don’t have accessories, it’s just I am not really organized with my things. I’m such a klutz..
I am one of those who actually freak out when hearing business casual vs business attire. I always thought these are just the same. So I always rummage through my wardrobe to look for business/professional look. Turns out, I’ve been mistaken all the time! Thanks for this Heidi.
Thank you for telling us about business casual. I can’t believe I didn’t know this all along!
Thank you for sharing your business casual must haves. I will be rearranging and doing make-over on my wardrobe soon, and these are just what I need.
Oh, so this is what business casual looks like. I’ll have to make sure I got the right pair of clothes when I get the memo for business casual.
Oh Heidi, I love your whole look, especially your top and earrings! Simply exquisite!
As appropriate and helpful was this article, it makes me smile because yeah, those terminologies are sometimes enigmas … I do remember an “easy chic”, a “mid casual” or some “casual classy”
Most of the time, when our boss tells us that we need to dress smart casual, he means we’re gonna be having mini-meeting slash relaxation at beach fronts or resort hotels. So we opt to wear denims or slacks and casual blouses or silk tops.
I always thought that ”business casual” means wearing something business appropriate like donning pencil cut skirts and blazers/jacket over blouses. I now think I have been overdressed everytime I wear that combo. tsk, tsk.
Oh, your beautiful pair of shoes caught my eye. That from your post about custom shoes by Lewre Couture, I presume? It does look perfect on you!
Yes it’s from Lewre Couture. Thank you so much.
“Don’t forget the wording order: business before casual. ”
Ahhh, so that’s the secret… Hmm, I admit I never thought that way whenever I need to dress business casual. I always assumed it should be formal.
For my wardrobe, I usually wore long skinny jeans partnered with a semi-formal blouse over a vest or jacket, for the casual element when asked to wear business casual outfit.
Your business casual outfit is so on point Heidi. You always look lovely whatever you wear 🙂
Ah, your shoes are divine! Thanks for the business casual tips, by the way. You always slay it girl. I love your fashion style!
Thank you so much!
I never thought wearing business casual could look this so much fun and fab! Thank you for this guided post.
If only I could dress as stylish as you! You are absolutely beautiful even with business casual.
Now I know who business / smart casual looks, thank you so very much Heidi. This means a lot to me.
I love that silk top you’re wearing, it’s perfect on you. Awesome!
Love the jeans and heels! 🙂
Great business casual look! 🙂
YouTube | Blog: Geekette in High Heels | Instagram
Can’t believe I’ve been wearing business casuals the wrong way. Oh my. Thanks so much for the enlightenment! You’re very gorgeous Heidi!
I thought smart casual and business casual sounded the same. Heck, I thought all casual outfits referred to the same kind of cloth patterns. I’ve been such a fool.. Thanks for enlightening me.
I didn’t wear jeans or denims when I’m required to dress business casual, because I thought that wasn’t an acceptable choice. Honestly, I didn’t do any research regarding casual clothings, until I stumbled upon your post. Thanks so much for this info, Heidi!
Thank you so much for this tips. I never know what to wear when the words business and casual is on one sentence. Oftentimes, when the boss tells us to do smart casual, me and my peers wonder which are best to wear. Your post just clarified our questions, thank you!
I dunno what to do whenever my boss says, wear something smart casual, or semi-formal because I always thought they’re just the same. Apparently, not. How many times have I failed my colleagues for wearing something inappropriate to a business casual meeting. Ugh. Thanks for guiding me through this post, though. I appreciate it very much.
You really have great taste in clothes. So effortless.
I wish I could dress as good as you.. your fashion style is effortless!
Gotta love these tips, never knew the real significance and meaning of business casual until now. Thanks!
Casual, be it business or smart, I like it better than when my boss say, formal or semi-formal attire. All I have for a formal attire is my slacks and button down long sleeves dress shirt. But with casual, I can experiment and add accessories to my business wear, and that’s really something I love.
You’ve got really nice physique, Heidi!
I don’t usually see you wearing denim slim pants, but I gotta tell you, you certainly look good in it 🙂
Very grateful for the tips! Keep ’em coming!
Let me just compliment your pair of stilettos. I love it so much. You’ve got the nicest pair of shoes I’ve seen!
Most of the time, our business meetings happen outside the office, sometimes in restaurants and even at times, at resorts. SO I tend to wear something casual to compliment my office attire. So far, so good!
Wow, love that full outfit! especially the top/blouse, it’s so gorg!
Sometimes I wonder how different is business casual from smart casual. Now I know.. You’ve just opened my mind to a lot of things Heidi. Thank you so so much!
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