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How to dress appropriately using the clothes already in your closet

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Casual, business casual, business professional or smart casual?

Every work day, employees go into their closets and create their outfits for the day. Every workplace has its own rules and its own leniencies that employees need to keep in mind. Are you required to dress in business professional for client meetings? Do you have to pay to dress down on Fridays? Do you wear red shoes every day of the workweek?

It can be tricky to decipher the difference between business casual and business professional. To make things more difficult, smart casual is thrown into the mix and casual is an option as well. Have no fear, we’re here to help you navigate the wardrobe-waters so next time you are told to dress business casual, you will know what clothes to wash.

Casual
Casual may sound self-explanatory, but casual at work is not the same as casual at home. This is not your invitation to show up in sweatpants (or yoga pants). Instead, opt for a nice pair of jeans without holes and a dress top. A casual button down, polo or a nice blouse will do the job.

Business Casual
Business casual is the most difficult outfit to plan for many people, even though there are many options. How do you appear business-like without wearing a suit? Try:
• Dark-colored slacks or khakis with a collared shirt and a blazer or tie
• Loafers or casual dress shoes for appropriate business casual footwear
• Knee-length or longer skirts and dresses
• Colored or neutral slacks
• A nice blouse, knit sweater or a button-up dress shirt
• Heels or flats that are peep-toe or closed-toe, not strappy sandals

Business Professional
Business professional is straightforward. Overall, keep in mind that business colors include black, navy blue, brown and gray.
If you desire a pop of color, add in a colored tie, shirt, or jewelry. Consider:
• A pantsuit, a skirt suit or a dress
• Closed-toe low or high heels
• Business suit with a tie, or pair clean-cut slacks with a sports jacket and tie

Smart Casual
This is a new term to many, but smart casual takes pieces of all the above dress codes and brings them all together. Mannix Marketing described this outfit choice as combining casual, business casual and business professional into one “smart” outfit. This could include:
• Colored skinny jeans, a nice blouse and a blazer
• Khakis, a colored button up and a sports jacket

No matter what your dress code is, be sure that you check the employee handbook and comply with its company-specific guidelines. After you know what boundaries you have, you can effortlessly translate the outfit lingo on a day-to-day basis.

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