How to Dress for "Business Casual"

Daily inspiration and advice for the ambitious savvy young professional

How to Dress for "Business Casual"

This is a guest post from our current campus ambassador Jennifer Wagner. Jennifer is a student at Purdue University.

Dressing appropriately will leave lasting impressions and can open doors.  An example of this is what happened to me last summer when I volunteered at a children’s hospital.

Every day that I was at the hospital I made sure to be in business casual attire and always came dressed to impress.  I would wear a variety of blouses or polos that I would tuck in to my dress pants, along with a belt, and a pair of reasonable wedges or heels.  I also never ran in with my hair wet, or pulled in a ponytail; I always had it done and out of my face.

One day I ran into a woman and she asked me how I had come to be volunteering here.  At the time I did not really know her but I briefly explained that I am a pre-med student looking for an opportunity to get some real life experience in the medical field and hopefully pediatrics, more specifically, because I hope to one day become a pediatrician.  She told me that she was glad to hear that and bid me adieu.  We talked on a few other occasions as the days went by and finally she came up to me and said, “Every time I see you, you are dressed so well.  I like that.  I never see the volunteers wearing anything besides jeans and sneakers, and that does not reflect well on the hospital.  I could see someone like you working for me.”  At that point, she held out her hand and introduced herself as the Child Life Specialist for the pediatrics ward in the hospital.  What luck!  Due to the way I dressed and presented myself to a complete stranger I landed an internship, and an internship involving aspects of what I want to do in my future career.

So here are a few key tips to keep in mind when thinking Business Casual:

1)  Get one great BLACK suit (a blazer with pants and/or a skirt).  And if                         you can afford it, then get another suit in a lighter color.

Make sure your suit fits well.  If you need to, spend the extra money to get it             tailored to fit your body.  Remember you want to look polished, not tacky.

2)  Give your suit life by adding color!  You can use a bright, not                                     a painful hue to look at, blouse.  Also, basic neutral colored tops are always             acceptable.

3)  If you do not own a knee-length skirt, then it is time to add one.  A nice             black, tan, or khaki pencil skirt is always a safe bet.

4)  A nice cashmere cardigan in a pretty color adds a stylish but classy look           that will pull your business casual look together.

5)  If you want to accessorize, then definitely go for it.  You want to blend                         in at work so that you represent your company in a positive way but that                         does not meant that you need to suppress your personality.

6)  Heels- every girls best friend and worst enemy.  We love the way they make our legs look and a man’s jaw drop, however, you need to be careful- you do not want to make the wrong impression on someone.  So go ahead and wear the heels, just make sure they are not four-and-a-half inch heels.  If you are uncomfortable in heels, then wear a pair of comfortable flats or wedges.  Just make sure you avoid flip-flops at all costs.