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News-Sentinel.com Your Town. Your Voice.

Etiquette column: There's a difference between 'business casual' and dressing too casual for business

Karen Hickman
Karen Hickman
Copyright 2014 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.The Associated Press

Consider dressing for the job you aspire to have.

Friday, April 21, 2017 12:01 am

Q: Could you please define business casual dress? It seems that people take it to the extreme sometimes, and I wonder if they don't understand what it really means.

A: Dress in the workplace has changed a lot over the years, and some of it has come with the introduction of “business casual” as an option in many companies.

It's important for companies to stay up with the times, even in the dress department, because not doing so can cause new talent to wonder if they are behind the times in other areas.

However, it is still important for companies to have well-defined dress codes listing what can and cannot be worn. One person's view of “business casual” may be very different from someone else's view. And there are those serious business venues, such as law and finance, that may require a little more formality than other business types.

To assure that you are always appropriately dressed for whatever business you are in, consider asking yourself these questions when choosing your work attire for the day:

  • Will I be appropriately dressed for where the day will take me? It might be casual or jeans Friday, but you have an appointment with a new client or you may be attending a business lunch or dinner during the day. Dress for the most formal situation of your day. It is better to dress up than be too dressed down.
  • Would I apologize to anyone for what I have on? If the answer to that question is yes, than it's wrong for work.
  • Would someone wonder if I was working based on what I have on? If you look like you are going to play golf instead of going to the office, you may want to rethink your choice.
  • Would my boss wear what I am wearing? Consider dressing for the job you want and mirror what management and people up the line are wearing.

I prefer the term “relaxed business” over “business casual. ” Relaxed business or business casual should be a step down from “business attire.” Too often people confuse “casual” with “business casual.” They are not the same.

Karen Hickman is a local certified etiquette/protocol consultant and owner of Professional Courtesy. Email questions to features@news-sentinel.com.

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