Thursday, April 5, 2012

Business Casual 101

Many years ago, we had a program at USD entitled: "Does Your Momma Know You're Wearing That?" It was all about what we communicate to the world by how we dress. Last semester I was sitting in a meeting and two students began an exchange about how they were in SLP Dining on a Monday and they thought the train to Las Vegas was leaving. Ooops. This week I have invited a guest author to share some insights from an undergraduate perspective on Business Casual for 2012. While the source can remain anonymous, the sentiments are shared by many. Enjoy!

“What is Business Casual?”
It seems that the answer to this question depends on the person you are talking to. I admit, this question is a difficult one to answer, I mean, there isn’t even a clear definition of “Business Casual” in the infamous Vanderbilt book of etiquette. But, regardless of that, there are a few things that just don’t fly in the realm of this attire.

If we break it down, we know that business attire is composed of slacks, blazers, suit combinations, blouses, etc. We know casual attire to be something that is dressed down and usually comfortable for daily activity. Putting these two together, I am envisioning what we would consider formal business-wear, just a step down. But as I look around the University Center on Monday nights (when most sorority chapters have chapter meeting), I see most women dressing far from this standard.

First, let’s talk about what I call the “San Diego Business Casual.” Many tend to think that a sundress with a cardigan thrown over is somehow transformed into business casual-wear. At the end of the day, however, I don’t think your place of employment would consider this acceptable for the office.

A second combination of what women think is appropriate business casual attire is what I call “Vegas Business Casual.” What I mean by this is tiny dresses with blazers over them, or tight skirts with tights or flats. BREAKING NEWS – something you would wear in Vegas is NEVER appropriate business-wear, even if you try. I’m not sure why women even wear some of this stuff to chapter meeting anyway; you are #1 – sitting (all sorts of body parts can pop out), and #2 - in a room full of women (who are you trying to impress?). I just don’t quite understand why most women think some of these clothing choices are appropriate, basically ever.

A third and final definition of business casual that I see often is what I call, “Lazy Business Casual,” and I admit, I have fallen into this category on a few occasions. For me, this usually happens when I have a long day at school and I rush to meeting after class and I just don’t feel like changing into business attire. What’s the best solution then? Just wear something to school that can cheat the system – it looks business, but it is really just casual. The best examples of this: black jeans, jeggings, fashion forward skirts and dresses, etc. At the end of the day, these clothing choices just aren’t business casual, and we know it, however they are convenient.

Finally a note on shoes: The new trend in heels and pumps is the large platform, and as fun as these shoes are, some of them don’t make the cut when it comes to business casual. If you would wear them out to the club or to a chapter formal – they probably aren’t meant for chapter meeting. Furthermore, most of us know not to commit this business casual crime, but I just have to say it, sandals are a no-no, even if they have a heel strap.

It seems that business casual attire is pretty limited in terms of one’s wardrobe, but this doesn’t mean you must go out and buy all of J. Crew in order to create business casual possibilities. You may need to purchase a high-wasted, business-type skirt, or a pair of slacks, but many of the clothes in your closet can be business casual, as long as you put them together appropriately. On that note, consider any of the appropriate purchases you make to be “wardrobe enhancers.” Especially as you come closer to the real world, these items of clothing will be forever useful for interviews, jobs, and presentations. The requirement of business casual at chapter meeting truly does prepare you for life beyond college.

What to wear (in no particular combination):

What not to wear (as cute as some of these are):

1 comment:

  1. I'm fully agree with you that there's no definite meaning for business casual. The two pictures above have provided a general idea about the differences between business casual and normal casual clothes. Thanks for the information Mandy!