Monday, 31 October 2011 by Keith Bahlmann
In today's economic climate, there are more job applicants than there are jobs. Landing or keeping a job with so much stiff competition means employees must take the necessary steps to ensure they're a viable part of the company. Dressing the part may seem inconsequential, but it can say much about how seriously you take your work.
A business casual dress code is standard across much of the white-collar business world. It has supplanted formal attire, sometimes called international standard business attire, in most companies. In the U.S., roughly 45 percent of employees arrive to work in business casual clothing. Still, many are not quite sure what constitutes business casual wear.
Business casual clothing is neat, professional and classic. Although not a uniform, this type of attire helps to keep workers uniformly dressed in tailored and comfortable clothing.
For women, khaki or dark-colored slacks are customary; women may choose to wear conservative skirts that are not too short. Pressed, long-sleeved, buttoned solid shirts are safe bets. Short sleeves are customary during the warmer weather. Some companies allow collared polo shirts or golf Ts. Informal dresses for women and sweaters are also acceptable. Women should avoid baring too much cleavage, which can be viewed as sexually forward. With both genders, clothing should fit well but not be too tight or suggestive. Depending on the organization, shoes should be closed-toe and modest.
Many companies institute "casual Friday" attire, which is a variation on business casual by allowing jeans or sneakers to be worn. However, even on casual days, most companies frown upon wrinkled, ripped, too trendy, or revealing types of jeans. Shorts are often frowned upon as well. If women will be wearing dresses, spaghetti straps should be avoided in favor of thicker tank top straps or capped sleeves in warmer weather. Flip-flops and other flimsy sandals also should be reconsidered.
In terms of accessories and jewelry, less is often more when complementing business casual attire. Avoid flashy items or pieces that may distract or inspire envy. The work environment is not a fashion runway, and dressing to stand out could make others feel intimidated.
Not all companies employ the same rules and regulations concerning wardrobe. For those who are new to a company, it's best to stick with conservative business casual basics and then observe what others are wearing. Keep in mind that attire worn by supervisors or business owners may not be what employees are allowed to wear. Just because the CEOis donning jeans and a T-shirt every day doesn't mean it is acceptable for you. When in doubt, ask human resources or a personnel director if there are attire guidelines. Fellow employees whom you trust can also lend advice.
Here are some other tips when shopping for business casual.
* Avoid large patterns because they are memorable, and these items will not be able to be worn frequently without risking the chance of someone recalling the outfit.
* Invest in some blue, black, brown and tan pants and/or skirts. These basics can be worn with many different colored shirts and blouses.
* A cardigan or blazer can instantly dress up a business casual outfit for a client meeting.
* Avoid overly pungent perfumes or colognes around the office.
* Companies may have policies on piercings or visible tattoos. When in doubt, take it out or cover up.
* Hairstyles should be kept well-groomed.
It is always a safer bet to err on the side of conservative in any business environment unless you definitely know their wardrobe policies.