How to Follow a Casual Dress Code (With Clothing Examples)

Updated 13 April 2023

When starting a new job, dressing appropriately can help you make a good impression and settle into the workplace. Dress codes vary across different workplaces, and you may wish to clarify what your employer expects you to wear. Understanding what to wear to a workplace with a casual dress code can help you ensure your outfit meets the workplace requirements. In this article, we discuss casual wear and provide advice with examples to show you how to follow a casual dress code at work.

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What is a casual dress code?

A casual dress code is less formal than business wear, usually incorporating relaxed clothing items that are more comfortable. Many companies have a specific clothing preference for their workplace. Jeans rather than sweatpants may be acceptable and in line with what others wear in the workplace. You can consult the company dress code to understand a company's stance on clothing. You may need to dress more conservatively than usual, depending on the work environment.

Related: Guide to Smart Casual Attire

Casual dress tips

If you haven't received details about what to wear to a job, it may be challenging to decide what is appropriate for your new workplace. The following tips can help you choose a casual outfit that is both comfortable and work-appropriate:

Look at what your co-workers are wearing

One way to choose an appropriate outfit for work is to notice what other employees wear to work. If you see your colleagues wearing certain outfits, you can follow their lead. Rather than focusing on the individual pieces, take in the styles, coverage and formality of their outfits and try to match their general appearance.

Wear the right size

Wearing the right size of clothing can help you feel more comfortable and confident at work. Your clothes may look better if they are fitted without being tight. Even oversized clothes have specific sizes for accurate fits. Consult with clothing store employees if you have questions about fit or sizing, as these vary between brands.

Make sure your clothes are clean and not wrinkled

When dressing casually at work, you can ensure your clothes are clean and unwrinkled to promote a professional appearance. It's important to iron your casual clothes if you want to wear them to work. T-shirts and jeans may be acceptable attire as long as they're free of stains and wrinkles.

Invest in high-quality wardrobe staples

Inexpensive clothing may not last as long as high-quality staples. Some T-shirts can start becoming thin and pilled after a couple of washes. Investing in higher quality casual clothing can help you create outfits that appear professional long-term. You can focus on buying items that age well and can be mixed and matched with various outfits.

Keep designs subtle

Another way to dress professionally in casual clothing is to choose subtle designs and colours. While casual attire can be more colourful and fun than traditional business clothing, it's better to avoid wearing overly bright colours and prints. Subtle designs or a splash of colour can lift your outfit while still keeping it professional.

Related: How to Dress Business Casual for Women

Examples of casual attire items

Casual dress is more relaxed than typical business wear requirements. Having a specific, work-appropriate wardrobe is a great way to pick out a professional outfit from your casual wear quickly. The general expectation of tidy and appropriate is consistent across genders, so choose from the recommended items based on your preferences.

Here are examples of the best casual tops to wear at work:

  • button-up shirts

  • blouses

  • smart t-shirts

  • polo shirts

  • Henley tops

  • polo neck jumpers

  • jumpers

  • pullover jumpers.

Below is a list of appropriate casual bottoms for work:

  • jeans

  • chinos

  • tailored pants

  • mid-length skirts

  • cargo pants.

Here is some outerwear that can work well with your work outfits:

  • suit jacket

  • trench coat

  • sweater

  • cardigan

  • denim or leather jacket.

If you want to accessorise, try these work-appropriate options:

  • jewellery

  • belts

  • watches

  • scarves

  • earrings.

Some work-appropriate footwear includes the following:

  • flat shoes

  • boots

  • formal sneakers

  • boat shoes

  • kitten heels

  • oxfords.

Related: A Guide to Business Attire for Men (With Tips)

How do I know if my casual wear is appropriate for work?

Certain workplaces may be stricter than others when it comes to casual wear. The following are general items that you may want to reconsider, but some may not be applicable to your workplace's dress code.

Tops that you might want to double-check with your employer include:

  • sleeveless tops

  • tops with plunging necklines

  • midriff tops

  • slogan t-shirts

  • worn-out t-shirts

  • workout tops.

These bottoms may not be work-appropriate, and you can seek clarification before wearing:

  • jean shorts

  • ripped jeans

  • mini-skirts

  • light-coloured jeans

  • sport shorts

  • leggings.

These outerwear options may not be appropriate for work:

  • sports jackets

  • fur or Borg coats.

You might like to reconsider wearing these accessories at work:

  • jewellery that makes noise when you move

  • studded belts

  • facial piercings, if prohibited

  • strong perfume

  • hats.

These footwear options might not be appropriate for work:

  • athletic shoes

  • open-toe shoes

  • noisy heels.

Related: Your Guide to Business Casual Attire (With Examples)

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Scenarios and examples

The following job scenarios present their own dress requirements:

Casual dress for manufacturing roles

Manufacturing jobs often don't involve talking to customers, so you can usually dress casually for these roles. However, if you are working with dangerous equipment, you may have a stricter dress code or uniform for safety reasons. These can allow for comfort and protection, involving fitted and breathable designs. Here are some casual outfits that would be suitable for a manufacturing job:

Work-appropriate tops

This is the most common uniform item for manufacturing companies. Employers may give you polo shirts with their company logo on the front. If you don't have a uniform shirt or specific safety wear, any T-shirt, button-up or sweater can be appropriate. Consider how much physical movement your role requires before choosing a shirt.

Bottoms options

Most employers let you choose the bottoms you wear, but pants are often required for safety reasons. It is recommended that they are at least knee-length, fitted and made from breathable materials such as cotton. You may need to get protective pants if you are working with dangerous machinery.

Footwear for manufacturing jobs

It is standard to wear closed-toe and low-heeled shoes when doing manufacturing jobs. You may need to be able to move around or stand for hours at a time. Some companies require you to wear more protective footwear, such as steel-toed boots, depending on the workplace hazards you encounter.

Casual dress for job interviews

You can usually learn about the company's dress code at the job interview. You can dress more formally for interviews, closer to business casual wear than regular casual attire. This demonstrates respect for the employer and your commitment to the job. Make sure you are comfortable in the outfit, as nonrestrictive clothing can make you feel more confident and thus help you perform better in the interview. Here are some business casual outfits that would be suitable for a job interview:

Job interview-appropriate tops

A button-up top is a great choice since they look smart and you typically won't do a lot of physical exercise at an interview. Fitted polo shirts or nice blouses are also a good choice. A blazer makes a plain T-shirt more formal and is another professional option.

Options for bottoms

Avoid wearing jeans or shorts to a job interview. Going for a pair of khakis or slacks can help to give you a professional silhouette. It is also appropriate to wear a mid-length skirt for job interviews, and wearing tights can make a casual skirt look a bit smarter.

Footwear for job interviews

Regular dress shoes, loafers or flats are standard for job interviews. If you know the company has a casual dress code, a pair of smart sneakers may also be appropriate. High heels can make an outfit seem more polished if you feel comfortable wearing them.

Related: What to Wear to a Job Interview

Casual dress for meeting clients

Client-facing jobs usually require more formal wear, as you're representing the company in front of important customers. Even if you can dress casually in the office, on days that you have a client meeting, dressing professionally can help you to make a good impression.

Ask your co-workers or boss for advice before your first meeting to get insight into how formally the clients dress. This also includes meeting with investors or attending industry events. If your company has a uniform or branded clothing, this may also be appropriate to represent your employer. Here are some business casual outfits that would be suitable for meeting clients:

Work meeting-appropriate tops

When you have an important meeting, choosing a more formal top than usual may reflect your professionalism. Wearing a fancy blouse or button-up shirt may make you seem professional and make a good impression. As this is still somewhat casual, you may not need a suit jacket or tie, though a sports coat can also lift the outfit.

Bottoms options to wear when meeting with clients

Suit pants, slacks or a mid-length skirt are appropriate for meetings with clients. Jeans and shorts would not be appropriate for most meetings. You can wear plain dark-coloured pants to appear more formal than usual.

Footwear for meetings

Choosing more formal footwear for important meetings can help you present yourself more professionally. Replace your sneakers with loafers, flats or oxfords when meeting with clients. A nice pair of leather shoes or high heels can make a casual outfit seem more sophisticated.

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