Article by Maya Kislyuk
They always say you should dress for the job that you want, not the job that you have. Recently, I attended an event on campus that required “business casual attire.” What I mostly saw was clothing that was boring and didn’t show anything about their personalities or what made them unique. Like a stack of black and white resumes, they all looked the same and blended together.
When you Google “professional attire,” the search results tend to be generic, drab, and unflattering clothes. For young adults just starting their careers, these outdated examples do not accurately reflect what is expected of us today or the possibilities that are available to us. Our generation is full of unique personalities, and styles so why not let our clothes reflect that? It’s time to help students reinvent the way they view business casual and show that you can be stylish, comfortable, and professional all at the same time!
Here are my top 4 tips for dressing business casual while still looking good:
1. Master the basics. A key aspect when constructing a business casual look is having the right basics! For women, get an assortment of neutral colors in your closet (i.e. bodysuits, shirts, and pants). On top of your neutrals, you can add color or design to your look by incorporating a blazer. The blazer can also be the focus of your look playing around with the length of the blazer and the texture/ material of the overcoat as well. While blazers are what is commonly seen in the workforce, you can also swap that blazer for a long & oversized wool coat, or a classic trench. For men's business casual, I recommend also sticking with basics and mixing and matching in ways that feel comfortable for you. For example, a turtle neck, nice fitted trousers, and a sports coat on top can be a great business casual option!
2. It doesn’t have to be expensive. Remember that this doesn't have to be an expensive process and there are so many ways to shop professionally while saving money and being environmentally friendly. I encourage students to check out their local consignment stores for some great blazers, trousers, and basics that they can use for any staple professional look. There are also multiple spots on campus that will provide students with renewed business professional wear for a low cost, such as Office Clothier and Plato’s Closet, or online services like ThredUp.
3. Pants are key. The next tip in building your new look lies in the pants. An often disdained clothing item in the workspace is denim, but not all denim has to have a bad reputation. For men, a classic pair of denim pants could be a great alternative to your basic dress pant. Layering this look with a fitted button-up and an overcoat is a great swap to your wardrobe. For women, you can mix and match with different colors or patterns of denim: a green pair of jeans could be matched with a white blazer, or green jeans and a green blazer for a fun matching look. Try playing around with your pants to shirt ratio; mixing wide-leg pants with more simple tops or a more simple staple pair of pants with a fun textured button-up, jacket, or blouse. My favorite trend right now is the loose-fitting trouser pants with the matching color bodysuit or basic to create a professional monochromatic effect.
4. Shoes. The final and most important elements of any look are the shoes. Creating a balance of more casual to more professional shoes is essential. For both men and women, having a pair of your favorite white sneakers could be a great addition to any professional look while incorporating comfort and personality to a look. For a more professional event or atmosphere a great pair of loafers, an ankle boot, or a classic matte dress shoe is key. For women, a glossy dress shoe could be the perfect staple for any look. Additionally, as we move away from the classic heel, having a chunky colorful heel or even platform clog is a great substitution for the uncomfortable heel.
Students can change their outlook on professional clothing choices; dressing up doesn't have to be hard or boring. Students can create a new workplace look for themselves that highlights their personality while also being a reflection of their professionalism.