So What Exactly is Business Casual?


Work environments are changing, so has our dress code.  But navigating the employee handbook terminology can sometimes be hard.  And then there's that awkwardness when you want to dress one way but feel it goes against the company vibe.  We've noticed the changes!  Our customers are asking for different work uniforms, they've come to us with the "deer caught in headlights" look when their company has gone to jeans optional and we know the importance of dressing for the career you want.  We've helped navigate countless women through career changes and fashion trends.  Just consider it part of our civic duty. Recently during a Jophiel table talk, we sought advice from the stylists about their approach to dressing for success in this new age of fashion in business.
Julie Eckert Clancy, President and founder of Jophiel opens the floor, “There are huge differences today versus when business casual first became prevalent, you didn’t have casual attire even available for you to purchase. There was no such thing. You had khakis or jeans, there was not the wardrobe selection that is available to you now. A wardrobe that exists for a relaxed work environment. Plenty of styles to shop from, giving you the relaxed, comfortable look without being stiff and yet very approachable.  You can look easy-going, you just have to put the same effort into it as you did when you bought suits.” But let’s go back to the term itself. Julie emphasizes that business and casual don’t actually go together. “You aren’t casual about business, so make certain you aren’t seen that way,” she adds. One doesn’t want to appear casual and lack luster about their career, you want your appearance to reflect your work and be that of a polished, put together, confident women. How to present that image can be a difficult place to start so Janice Futter, Stylist of 20 + years explains, “Begin with the basics and staple pieces that you can mix and match together. Black pants, black dresses, basic cardigans, a white blouse and black blazer, these are all great basics you can invest in and can wear different ways. You can easily add other pants, like a great charcoal and navy that will work with your basics.”
How does a stylist start to guide one to dress for success? “First off, knowing the work environment is key. A law firm’s definition of relaxed is going to vary from that of an ad agency’s,” Julie explains. “How you dress depends on where you want to be. Leadership often recognizes image first, then work.  Do you want the job, the promotion?” Project that career goal with your image, show that you are capable. In an interview the first thing someone notices about you is your appearance, so it’s important to make an impression that represents success,” Janice explains. Dressing for success isn’t as simple today as it once was, the business suit used to be the go to for the everyday working women.  Now with the evolution of fashion paired with a variety of different work environments, the idea of what is work appropriate has changed and is even different from company to company. It’s important to adapt to your company, and show that in your appearance. “If your work environment is relaxed you wouldn’t show up and do a presentation in a Carmen Marc Valvo couture dress ,”  Leah Strauss Grant; Stylist & Associate Director for Digital Media and Marketing. You want to dress for the environment you’re in so as not to alienate others but still stand out and keep an edge.  Julie explains how to accomplish this, “Make sure your clothes are pressed every day, that everything is clean without stains, and fits you properly. These are big factors.” Think about walking into a place that’s adopted business casual attire and the person helping you has pants dragging on the ground or a shirt that is to tight or even showing to much cleavage. All of those things come across as sloppy or unprofessional, and like it or not that is instantly a part of your experience at that establishment. So project an image that supports the quality work you are producing as well as the company you are working for. 
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“Dressing for your body type is something you always have to keep in mind, if you’re petite pay attention to your pant length. Dressing for your body is going to make you stand out,” Cassie Teagno, Stylist & Visual Coordinator explains. “If your work environment is relaxed or more casual all the time, that doesn’t mean you skimp on quality or neglect fit. You don’t want to be insulting by dressing over the top, or giving the impression you think you are better than everyone else, but it doesn’t mean that when you do follow the fashion “norms,” you lower your own standards by not caring and paying attention to those details that make everything come together,” Leah explains. Regarding denim going from a “Friday only piece” to an everyday staple, Cassie advises us on how to work it appropriately, “Dark denim is always better, never with frays or holes, pair it with a blazer or shirt with visual interest such as a blouse with a collar or buttons.” Leah adds, “I think you can still treat denim like you would clean black or khaki pants. We have talked about the classic Mary Tyler Moore look on the Dick Van Dick Show, or Audrey Hepburn’s look in Funny Face.  That beautiful simple stick pant leg and ballet flat. I think just because you change the fabric doesn’t mean it becomes sloppy, it still requires the appropriate fit just with a different fabric.”
Dressing for work should be fun and show your personality while still remaining professional. Leah offers, “If you are in a professional work setting and you have to wear a more uniform look, I think shoes are where you have fun. Today there are so many options of colors, textures, fabrics, silhouette, and patterns.” Janice adds, “For me it’s more about what to say no to; flip flops, thong sandals and shoes that you can’t actually work in. You need shoes that have coverage and compliment your look, while still being wearable and comfortable all day.”   Jewelry can also be a way to showcase your personality at work with some guidelines of course: avoid anything that would be difficult to do your job in, such as earrings that inhibited your ability to talk on the phone, or jewelry that gets caught in fabric or knocks your surroundings. Express your personality with the mixture sentimental and fashion jewelry. Keep in mind when selecting your work attire your goal should reflect your position, your style and your confidence in a work place.
The experienced stylists at Jophiel can assist you with putting together the correct “dress for success” wardrobe for any career woman.
Looking for more advice?  Read our How To Wear Sneakers To Work and shop the collection here.
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