It always makes me laugh when dress code discussions come up because they are always so vague. Last time we talked about what was appropriate, which was at my job’s orientation, a man tried to explain what was appropriate and what wasn’t. He did wonderfully for the other boys; business professional is pressed suit with shirt tucked in, buttoned up all the way, and a tie. Business casual was no jacket and the top button unbuttoned. Always have a tie ready if you need to throw it on (I have friends who carry ties in their jacket pocket just in case- it doesn’t get any easier than that!). However, the girls kept getting: “you know what that means.” Well, sir, no I really don’t!
I have found that everybody’s idea of b-pro and b-cas are very different, but there are some guidelines I have found that have saved me! It is important to understand the difference so that you are never the most underdressed person in the room. That’s when things get bad; it is always a good thing to be a little over dressed than a little under dressed. Companies are moving more away from ultra professional, but there are still some good times to pull out the dress suit. Honestly, it mostly depends on personal style, but there are some pretty straight forward rules of thumb.
Business professional is a little less colorful and a little more tailored. This is where a nice blazer, a tailored skirt, and blouse will be perfect. Pair them all together, throw on a modest necklace and earrings, and you’re set for your mega ultra professional meeting. This is good for job interviews or job fairs, professional business meetings (you should know when it is professional and when it can be more casual- if not, ask), and when you’re trying to super impress someone.
If I am going to wear panty hose, b-pro would be the time for me to do it. I don’t think it is mandatory and absolutely necessary, but if my legs could use a little extra help, I am not above slipping into some to make me look that much more professional. Heels are always nice, but not a make or break situation. Also, it is alwayyyssss appropriate to bring a change of shoes with heels, as long as you’re discreet about them! I have been known to change my shoes a time or two because my heels just weren’t cutting it.
B-pro, in my opinion, is not the time to show off your personal style and try to stand out. Now, for interviews, I do think it is good to wear something memorable: a nice necklace or beautiful earrings. But nothing gaudy or anything that will make you stand out in a negative way. Just something that when the interviewer goes through the conversations of the day and trying to remember everyone they talked to, you have that little touch to make you stand out. Remember: modest is hottest for b-pro!
Business casual gives you a little more room to express yourself and your personal style. You can dress a cute skirt up with a nice blouse, or dress a dress down with a loose cardigan. Colors are totally ok and preferred by lots! This is typically the more comfortable work attire, but not always. This, ladies, is where cheeta print thrives!! Wear those cheeta flats, or that “loud” and vibrant necklace! Strut your stuff!!
Depending on your company and the culture inside the office, it is appropriate to dress up a nice pair of jeans for the office. Now, this is not the time to pull out your old, ratty jeggings and decide to stop trying. But a nice jean, paired with some wedged and a cute blouse is totally acceptable. The goal is to still look professional and put together. Shoot, even a cute bag could make an outfit look polished and put together!
Some rules of thumb whether you are going for b-pro or b-cas: make sure your skirt/dress is not too tight or too short. I know pencil skirts are in and I wear them too, and I also see that as the exception to the rule as those are made to be tight. But definitely not too short! Also, make sure your blouse is not see through or wear a camisole underneath. There should never be a show when you walk in the room! It is just a good rule of thumb to live by; party dresses and work dresses are not interchangeable. That’s why they make women’s closets so big!
I am also never too concerned with my nails being painted or my makeup, but I have had people tell me that professional women don’t wear bright nail polish. I’m gonna call bs on that and keep my red nails if I want to. I also think that my makeup is my opinion, although I am not going to try and look like I am going out on the town as I walk in the office. Mainly because I don’t have time for that in the mornings but also because I want to be respectful to my office culture. However, I wear the makeup that I want and if I want my red lips to match my red nails, I am going to. Now, if you know me, that will never happen because I’m practically scared of color and don’t veer away from my neutrals and nudes. But, if I wanted to, I totally would rock them on my b-cas days and not think twice! There is only so much that a girl can regulate.
I can’t say it enough: don’t be the most under dressed in a room! But be comfortable. Show your style all while being appropriate. And if there is ever any question, it is ok to ask someone what is a good outfit to wear or what the attire of the meeting/office/conference is.