As we enter into the holiday party season one of the hardest decisions I have to make is when I’m going out and my friends say “casual.” Or if invited to a party and the host says casual, what do I wear? Bottom line, even if it’s casual, dress nicely and keep the sweats at home. As much as I want to wear my jeans, in many situations like night clubs, dinner at restaurants or parties,jeans are not the appropriate attire.
Particularly overseas I have found that people dress up with coat and tie when you ask them over for dinner or when going out for it. What an embarrassing situation when, as a southern Californian, I answered the door in my jeans and they were in coat and
tie and party dress. Your dress tells a lot about who you are and how you feel about the people around you. So when the invitation is casual here are some tips that will guide you so that you look your best and are comfortably
- If the invitation says casual and you’re in doubt call the host and ask what they mean.
- The term “casual” means different things in different parts of the country and in the world. In the eastern part of the US casual is usually sport coat and tie, pant suit or coordinated separates. In the Midwest things loosen up with cowboy boots, nice jeans and shirt and blazer. In the western part of the country casual varies from sport coat and tie to jeans.
- Outside the US“casual” is less often seen in gatherings as Americans know it. When invited out or to someone’s house, dressing up is the order of the day.
- When thinking about options for casual wear, khaki pants or skirt, a blazer or sweater set are great choices. If your friends say jeans, wear your nice jeans, and if you don’t have a any, perhaps consider buying a pair.
- Men can choose from trousers in worsted wool, wool flannel or twill with a mock turtleneck and a vest or blazer. A turtleneck and slacks in the winter are a nice combination and comfortably warm as well.
- In shoes, avoid your running shoes for something that is comfortable but dressier such as docksiders, loafers and similarstyles.
Come “casual” or “come as you are” are often what people will say when they invite
you, but by dressing up more than the sweats you or I might wear at home says a
lot about how you feel about the person and shows your best side.
Particularly in work situations, when with colleagues for dinner or superiors, they may say casual but it’s definitely a time for a blazer, slacks or skirt. Often superiors will have a party and say casual but don’t be mistaken, look your best. This may be their opportunity to see how you approach gatherings and deal with others as they are contemplating you for a promotion or partner.
So inasmuch as we want to go out in our sweats and be really comfy at the movies or
dinner, take “casual” more seriously and you will communicate to others that
they mean a lot to you or that being at a gathering is important to you. And as
Loreal says it, “You’re worth it!”
So if jeans are permitted at your workplace, get a pair of “nice” jeans without holes or ragged hems. Also make sure your jeans fit without any “extra” at the top! You will want to wear jeans to work that land at your waist or slightly below. Choose from jeans with a dark or medium wash as opposed to bleached and washed out varieties. Add a classic shirt over a turtleneck and belt it for interest. Make sure to accessorize to draw attention to your best asset – your face!
So as it gets a little cool consider a jacket, but not your usual choice. Here we have a bomber style jacket in suede. Pair this jacket with matching colored pants and a black turtleneck for a professional yet comfortable look. Be sure to accessorize with a scarf and jewelry to pull the look together and give it impact. This is a great option if Jackets are Optional!
In just the past five years, the world of work has changed as well as the clothing we wear for it! What was once considered “Business Casual” is simply business as usual. The high-tech industry, according to Google, Apple and Facebook, has transformed the image of what an executive looks like or what anyone wears to work. In the past, business attire was a suit; however, that no longer represents all professionals or the average work environment.
In my former book, Your Executive Image, the suit was the principal form of nonverbal communication for the workplace. When I was promoting it back in the early 90s, some people would say, “. . . but I don’t wear a suit!” And that’s true, particularly now. Today, there are a lot of jobs and careers that don’t require a suit but the need to look professional is paramount.
Moreover, in many occupations, going to work without a jacket, in jeans, or wearing other formerly “casual” clothing is now considered appropriate. When I look through the pages of catalogs from which I once purchased suits, these items are no longer part of the retailer’s merchandise mix. Things have indeed changed, but neither for better or worse.
Bottom line: Realize that dressing for work is just that, dressing appropriately. Coming to work looking like Hollywood’s latest red carpet fashion stroll, the cover of GQ, or the sexy housewives of Orange County doesn’t work for business either. These are not definitions of business attire. Work apparel is still conservative, since building a bridge and functioning easily with different people on a daily basis is a must. We just have more options than formal or informal or suits and business casual.
Why the Change?
Among the reasons that the suit has not remained the prevailing code of dress for the workplace is economics. The cost of living has risen and buying a suit can be very expensive. The last global recession really impacted individuals’ ability to maintain a roof over their heads and food for their family. Employers have become sensitive to this issue and have relaxed their dress policies to accommodate this new reality.
Another reason is the diversity in the workplace. We are fortunate to have a multitude of ethnicities living in the US as well as throughout the world. And in this environment, each person brings their own style of dress to the workplace – whether for religious or other cultural reasons. In addition to that is the influence of pop culture. Actors, designers, singers and artists of all types are bringing their own take on what constitutes dressing up for events such as TV interviews or even the Oscars!
Another reason why the suit is not the mainstay for work is the influence of women in the workplace. Women have long established themselves at work, and wearing a navy or black suit that mimics menswear is not advantageous for them today. Amazing, but it only took a court case for women to be allowed to wear pants to work!
Additionally, baby boomers, who make up the largest market segment globally, are aging, and with that comes the need for more comfortable clothing suitable for work. The members of this segment have established themselves in their profession and they can now take it a little bit easier. Lycra-blended fabrics, softer materials, and less structured apparel with more ease have replaced structure and confinement found in traditional work apparel. The baby boomers were the generation that vowed to always wear jeans, and so, with the introduction of a fine denim weave suitable for trousers, we now have the ability to go back to wearing our “jeans” even to work!
Finally, there is the influence of business casual policies, once initiated to boost employee morale and confined to “Casual Fridays.” This look has now become the mode for every day of the week. As a result, the clothing industry has created lots of options that are considered just as appropriate for work.
No Longer “One Size Fits All”
What you wear to work makes all the difference for you, your workplace, and ultimately your business success. First of all, when you feel good about how you look, you feel better about yourself. At work, you take on a business-like, serious attitude, and with it, you perform better. When you look good, people around you respond in a positive manner. When you take the time to dress appropriately for work, coworkers and customers respond to you as a professional.
In the past, there was just one “uniform,” the suit, that defined a professional. Now there are many that are just as appropriate and “business like.” Earlier, it almost seemed that if you wore a suit then you were “dressed for success.” However, you can now be in jeans and be seen just as serious about your work and success. We have dropped the “one size fits all” model of what constitutes work apparel or a successful business image, and this has opened the door to many more acceptable options.
Yes, today you have many choices available besides the suit, depending on your corporate culture, where you live, and what you do. In fact, what we wear to work is a continuum of possibilities that may change, depending on the various needs of your business, the seasons of the year, and who you’re meeting. It is no longer an “either or” situation; it’s a range of choices for the workplace that work for you and works for business.
The iconic man that created the tech world we live in also influenced how we dress for work today. Steve Jobs, Apple’s founder, reminded me of the fashion designer Halston who always wore a turtleneck and other celebrity icons that could always be spotted with the same thing on day in and day out. But with technology as a major business sector in the US and around the world, Jobs and Apple’s mode of dress created the era of business casual as the new norm for office attire. Thank you Steve
It’s the new form of antisocial behavior, people walking around texting like mad! So what would you do if you are at a meeting and you get notified of a text or email. Are you going to stop everything to check it out? WRONG! What is most important is right here, right now.
Actually, as noted in Bloomberg’s Businessweek, some folks are walking away from their Smart Phones and concentrating on tasks at hand with the people involved. They
are building relationships and companies the old fashion way, with people in
real time, face-to-face. The onslaught of social media, texting, tweeting, in addition to regular email and cell phone use has spurred the incidence of miscommunication, incivility and lack of just plain manners in dealing with people and situations in our daily lives. We may communicate tremendously on facebook or twitter, but do we see the reaction our words are saying to those that read our comments? Therein lies one of the problems.
Here are some tips to make the best of these new forms of communications and building relationships with your clients and peers.
- If the issue is privacy in communication realize that e-mail, faxes and telephone lines are not secure. Many companies monitor conversations as a matter of evaluating customer service and routinely tap into employees e-mail, and who knows who sees the messages faxed at the machine down the hall!
- Anything you say on a social media site, or post online is a permanent record that can haunt you the rest of your life. Be careful what you put on blogs, facebook, twitter, and in your emails. Prospective employers, clients, and
others will see it. Now with GPS, you can also be located so be mindful of what you do with these sites. You don’t want anyone to know if you’re playing hookie!
- Be sensitive to the technological sophistication of the individual that you’re dealing with. Evaluate the means most employed by the other person and use that means as a way to communication. Just ask them, “What is the best way to contact you?” Don’t assume everyone texts. Different strokes for different generations!
- When confirming a meeting, try to do it by phone and either talk to that individual or to their assistant. Otherwise leave a voice message, e-mail, text or fax confirmation – usually the person will not get it in time. If they text you can text them.
- Avoid trying to conduct new business with clients over voice mail, text, fax, or e-mail. Face-to-face contact is essential.
- Contact friends at their home e-mail address for matters not related to business.
- Avoid bringing cell phones and pagers to any kind of meeting i.e. new client, or job interview. If you are in an interview and your cell phone goes off, you’ve
- Limit cell phone use. In most states, it is against the law to drive and be on your cell in the car unless you have a hands-free device. No texting in the car, period.
- If you are with someone, do not email, or text someone ELSE.
- Avoid making or taking calls during meetings unless it deals with the business at hand.
- Inform customers of forthcoming faxes or e-mail messages and follow up with a hard copy in the mail.
- When developing communication with foreign companies, evaluate their level of technological sophistication prior to sending messages via hi-tech vehicles.
- When using a laptop or iPad in a presentation remember the focus needs to be on the human factor. The presentation on the laptop is meant to enhance retention of the material since its employing more of the prospect’s senses in comprehension of your message.
- What about a letter of invitation over the internet? When it comes to using the internet, there is a generational factor involved. Some generations prefer a call or a hard copy letter. Others are satisfied with correspondence over the internet. Ask first so not as to lose the connection. Also if it’s important material, send a hard copy just for assurance measures.
- Minimize of the use of palm pilots, Smart Phone, iPads, iPods, pagers, computers until after a client meeting.
- What about a thank you note over the internet. Again it’s a generational thing but people are still amazed when they receive a written thank you note. It says that you took the extra time to write and send it. But more and more people
are satisfied with conducting all correspondence over the internet. Check first.
- A couple of things to remember. Faxes and computers in the office are for business only. Anything private should be handled at home. With faxes coming in, everyone sees them and now there is software to tap into where you are surfing on company time. Fair – I can’t answer that, but employers today feel if you are using their equipment for private use on their time, It’s wrong and grounds for a reprimand or termination.
- When having a business lunch or dinner, turn the cell phone off. It is a distraction and communicates that the person that you are with are not that important which doesn’t say anything good about you. Getting lots of calls doesn’t mean you’re important, it means that you’re rude.
- How about the phones that can take pictures and send email? Be ethical in its use and don’t intrude on someone’s privacy. If you are going to take someone’s picture, ask them first
- Face-to-face meetings are still the best way to close a deal!