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Jan 31, 2013 by Vanessa Fiorido in PM Best Practices & News

Guest Post: What Is Business Casual?

“We dress business casual.”

“Oh, yes. Of course,” you smile.

The next day, there you are, standing in front of your closet, with your boss’ phrase running over and over in your head. What does that even mean?! Khakis and a polo? A pencil skirt and a blouse? Are jeans game? Will I be overdressed with a tie?

Take a deep breath everyone, because today Easy Projects sits down with former fashion industry worker Natasha Hughes-Germain to discuss just what the elusive term business casual means. Follow her helpful tips and be the best (and most appropriately) dressed project manager around.

Hi Natasha, thanks for agreeing to sit down with us today. To start, how would you define business casual?

No problem! Well, business casual has a broad definition depending on your work environment. To get a sense of what is acceptable; take cues by noting daily business wear from upper management. It should be consistent with the work environment, whatever that is.  No matter what the circumstance, looking respectable is always expected.

Is it different across industries?

It definitely varies in each industry. A dress code can be anything from tailored work attire to simply having standards like collar and sleeves being mandatory.

Employees that are performing behind the scenes can have a more relaxed approach to business casual but those in influential roles with regards to sales and company image must always have a high standard for business casual.

What’s a wardrobe mistake? A business casu-hell, if you will.

This is always a personal perspective. Respectable hemlines are always expected. Collars should be at an appropriate point and not revealing too much. Anything that is suggestive or meant for evening is likely not within the company’s image.  Apparel designed for a gym or fitness program should not be part of the business casual spectrum.

A common rule you hear is if you’re going to wear jeans to work make sure they’re dark jeans. Why are they more professional than light?

In general darker denim isn’t much of a departure from dark dress pants. It’s an easy way for an office to allow a broader range of choice for work apparel without inviting a much more weekend look of lighter denim.

My big issue is always what to wear to work in the summer. No one wants to wear a blazer in the heat, but at the same time you can’t really show up in a bikini and flip-flops. So what do you do?

Women have a broader selection of seasonal attire in summer. Work-wear is always more put together with a blazer. Showing up to the office to a meeting in a blazer will always leave a positive impression. The underpinning has flexibility in the warmer months. Wearing short sleeves for daily demands is acceptable. Having a blazer within reach can come in handy to pull an outfit together effortlessly; put together with a pencil skirt or crop pants would be appropriate for almost any work environment. As for summer footwear, ballet flats are comfortable, appropriate and affordable.

Last question, what are some essentials every project manager should have in their closet?

As mentioned before, a neutral colored blazer is essential. A crisp white dress shirt is key. For both of those pieces, a perfect fit is important. Shopping around to make sure you have a quality piece with a perfect fit for your body type will give you timeless wear. Always have a perfectly maintained pair of black dress shoes. To be more specific, nothing higher than a mid-level heel (no stilettos for important meetings or interviews) without noticeable scuffs or flaws.

Natasha Hughes-Germain graduated from a Fashion Merchandising and Management program. Over the course of her career, she crossed many fashion based industries including manufacturing, product development, sales, marketing and styling & photography.

Image credit, Richard Rhee, Flickr

vanessa-fiorido
Vanessa Fiorido

Vanessa Fiorido watches a lot of YouTube at work. Sometimes she blogs about project management.

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