Dress to Impress, Business Casual Yet Credible

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Recently, a client came to me describing their team of over 100 employees ranging from millennials to those approaching retirement. It should be noted that this company allows a business causal dress code the majority of the week, and allows jeans on Friday, which is a common practice nowadays in many organizations. Yet, as you can imagine, a 25-year-old most likely has a drastically differing definition of what “business casual” means to them as compared to a 55-year-old’s definition. Herein lies my client’s predicament – how does a credible business, open to visiting guests, define and implement a “business casual” dress code that suits various demographics while upholding professionalism among all employees?

Months ago, you may have dug out your coats and boots from the back of your closet anticipating colder weather and most likely you are still wondering if you will ever get the chance to wear them during this “winter” season. Technically, the winter months are still upon us, yet, here in Southern California temperatures are already suggesting summertime. The warmer weather usually lends to more comfortable attire in the office and most businesses allow for at least one “casual” day per week. However, that begs the question, at what point does a relaxed appearance reflect a lack of credibility? Business casual should remain appropriate and professional, mirroring your competence. How is business casual defined and how do you dress to impress while remaining comfortable and confident? The five following tips will demystify the confusing definition of business causal and will lead you to dressing successfully:

  1. Business then Casual, always. Business casual is simply combining two types of attire. It combines traditional business wear which communicates professionalism and credibility, and casual wear which allows for comfort and creativity. Many people hear the word causal and jump to the notion of “weekend wear.” This is not how business causal should be executed. The business aspect should define the attire while causal allots for lighter fabrics, brighter colors, and professionally styled separates to present a successful look. Remember that the attire you wear must still look ready for an unexpected meeting with clients or top management, and should not include any hints of lounge, athletic, nightclub, or logo wear. The exception being if the logo is of your company and the item of clothing is permitted within your company’s dress code, of course.
  2. The Skinny on Skin. Studies show, the more skin you show, the less important you will appear! Whether you are a male or female, select your sleeve length carefully – long sleeve will always communicate more power than short sleeves. Going sleeveless is basically taboo, unless you are Michelle Obama and have perfectly toned arms! Even if you are worthy of showing off your impeccable physique, chances are your company is not looking for you to make such a loud statement. Guys, your short sleeve length should cover your bicep. Depending on the formality of your company, it is always best to coordinate a jacket, as you never know when an impromptu meeting may be held. Women, a good rule of thumb is to never show any cracks and skirts should be around the middle of the knee.
  3. No go on toes. I am never popular when I advise women to not wear open-toe shoes but the truth is close-toe shoes communicate more credibility. Appropriate, yet cute options include slingbacks and peek-a-boo styles. Some women like to wear mules (slip-ons that do not have a back), but as you walk beware of the “flopping” sound many styles will make as you walk. Flip flops are never advisable even for the most casual office settings. Instead, guys, select a moccasin style loafer in leather or suede. Also, pair of retro tennis shoes or top-siders are good options for very casual environments. If you must show your toes, make sure they are perfectly pedicured.
  4. Grooming speaks. Dressing down does not mean dressing sloppily or sexy. Personal grooming is highly essential especially is your attire is more casual. Do not let your personal grooming routine go on vacation while you are still at work. Substandard grooming (unshaven, no makeup, wet or un-styled hair) sends the message that you are lazy, unorganized, or lack common sense. Remember that personal grooming does not have to be expensive, it is an investment in yourself at whatever you deem appropriate. It allows you to show respect for yourself, which shows respect for others.
  5. Consistency is Key. Regardless of what your company’s dress code allows, or the season of the year, presenting a consistent image is key to your success. Brand yourself with a consistent image that represents the most capable image of “you” every day of the week. This will send a message about you and your company that says you are reliable, smart, successful and serious about getting the job done, and done well.

If you and your employees need help achieving an A+ “business casual” look, I would be happy to get you the grade you deserve. Don’t let your image say something about your professional presence that you don’t intend to say. Elevate your personal success today! Call now to sign-up for private coaching and/or group seminars.

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