Boss Lady

Business casual vs professional dressing


We’ve all heard the saying ‘dress for success’ and it applies to many situations. Whether it’s a job interview, professional event or party, your appearance is important. But with the changing trends, and the increasing acceptance of ‘business casual’ some of us still struggle to get it right.

While it seems simple for men to dress for business, women can just as easily match the standard — and you don’t need to empty your wallet on a corporate wardrobe. Of course the situation determines what you wear; however to keep it simple and safe: dress conservatively.

So what are the main rules and differences between professional and business casual attire? Here are our favourite tips on putting an outfit together for each standard.

Business Casual

The business casual outfit is simple to put together and is worn in most office environments. Starting from the bottom, flat shoes or small and medium heels can be worn. Save the sky-high stilettos and Lady Gaga platforms for the weekend. In cases that are not “most office environments” such as the shared office, workspace, or workbase as they can be called, the dress code will differ greatly from professional dress to rather casual dress, as there is no specified dress code.

A skirt, trousers or khaki pants can be worn, however the skirt should be no shorter than where your fingertips end when your arms are by your sides. A neat shirt can be dressed up with a suit jacket or cardigan.

If you’re attending an interview or event in summer, wear your cardigan or suit jacket in the waiting area and take it off once in the room if it’s too warm. Colours and patterns are acceptable for business casual dress, but keep them fairly subdued. You don’t want to look like you’re auditioning for a clown act.


The professional outfit is usually a suit or business dress. For medical professionals, it is best to avoid wearing scrubs or casual clothing to an interview, even though you won’t be dressing professionally everyday for work, you need to for your interview.

A suit can be viewed as a business uniform, as it is a set piece — which simplifies your wardrobe choices. Yes, suits are the most expensive items you will buy, but they are a good long-term investment.

Suits should be solid colours like black or navy, and with minimal or no stripes so mix and matching in the future is easy. Some muted colours are also acceptable, but stay away from bright hues … again, you don’t want to look like Ronald McDonald.

For shoes, low heels are acceptable but if you are not comfortable wearing any heels, neat flats can still make the outfit work. Your jacket should match or enhance pants, slacks or dress.

General tips for any business situation

Here are our favourite tips to complete your professional look.

  • It may seem obvious but make sure your outfit is wrinkle and lint free.
  • Also check any buttons or zips on your outfit are done up.
  • Grooming is important for both men and women.
  • Hair should be clean, neat and avoid the “messy” look.
  • Accessories can be worn, but kept to being minimal and simple. And generally one is enough.
  • Nail polish should not be loud but kept to solid or neutral colours.
  • Perfume is refreshing when worn correctly, the smell should be subtle and not overwhelming when you walk into a room.
  • When selecting a shirt or blouse, avoid lettering or graphics.

Business Casual































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About Jolie Chantharath

Jolie Chantharath is an intern for The Business Woman, currently studying a Diploma in Project Management and freelances in filmmaking and screenwriting.

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      Career Advice

      January 26, 2016 at 3:11 pm

      There are no pockets in a shroud. ~Author Unknown



      September 13, 2016 at 8:02 am

      Referring to the graphic at the end of the article. “Khaki pants, nice trousers or a fingertip length skirt”. Fingertip length as awfully short for business causal. That is in the nightclub range. On me that is about 7 inches above the knee.

      • Karla Pincott

        September 20, 2016 at 7:54 am

        Okay, you probably have a long leg ration, but point taken… we all have different proportions, and the article should reflect that. We’ll make that clearer.



      February 22, 2017 at 12:44 pm

      Great article. Thank you. For the skirt a good rule of thumb is not shorter than 3 fingers above the knee. That works for any height person.



      November 9, 2017 at 9:44 am

      It looks like the woman in the picture at the top of the page is wearing some form of denim. Does this imply that dark wash, neat jeans are also acceptable for business casual?

      • Karla Pincott

        November 16, 2017 at 7:52 am

        Yes, this is business casual.



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