Business Professional vs. Business Casual, A Guide

When it comes to discerning the differences between business casual dress and business professional, one might be tempted to cry out in confusion and dismay.  Fear not though, I will save your teeth from a gnashing.  

Business Professional
Business professional attire is a staple of the interview room and more traditional workplace settings. You should assume, unless otherwise stated, that business professional is the go to attire for your interview. With that being said, you will want to begin your investment in the clothes early. Simply stated, business professional is expensive and you will want to invest in quality clothes to get the maximum wear and use.

For gentlemen we suggest dark colored suits (i.e. matching pants and jacket, not blazer and khakis. There is a time to look fresh out of the J. Crew® Sum­mer Catalogue, this is not it), charcoal, dark grey, black, etc. The shirt should be white or light blue of a solid color, avoid patterns. Your tie should comple­ment your shirt and not be overtly garish or flamboyant. As well it should be a regular straight tie, not a bow tie. Shoes should match your belt and socks should be of an appropriately dark and matching color. Remember the goal is to be remembered for what you said, not what you wore to the interview.


For ladies we suggest dark colored suits as well (pant or skirt suit being equally fine, but be sure the skirt is of an appropriate length.) The accompa­nying blouse should be conservative and modest in nature. Recall you want to be remembered for your salient and on-point responses, not your plunging neckline. Shoes should have a low heel and be conservative in color, black and nude are fine. Keep accessories to a minimum, you should not jingle as you move about. 

Business Casual
Business casual is the go to clothing standard for many offices and pro­fessional events. However, unlike business professional, with its very clear guidelines for dress, business casual is a varying and highly particular to the specific culture present. You can look for more opportunity to express per­sonal style and preferences, within reason. Remember it is, after all, dressing for professional engagement not leisure. Business casual can fluctuate from situation to situation and office to office, when in doubt ask someone familiar with the office or event, but to the left you will find some general assistance and advice.

For gentleman business casual can consist of a standard oxford button down, with top button unbuttoned, khakis and appropriate shoes with matching belt. The prohibition on patterns and colors present in professional dress is no longer present. In some instances, a simple golf shirt could be sufficient, but in all instances collar should be worn down, not up.


For ladies the task of defining business casual is harder still. Women’s cloth­ing provides a great deal of variety and opportunity for showcasing personal taste and preferences. Be sure that you read company policy concerning dress as a solid resource for getting started in selecting your wardrobe. In general trousers with an appropriately styled blouse are standard. Matching accessories and shoes complete the ensemble.

Closing Thoughts
For all interviews do NOT wear cologne or perfume. Antiperspirant is suffi­cient for odor control. You should not presume your signature scent is pleas­ing to all noses. If you must wear it, spritz once, wait for it to dissipate then walk through. In general, the later in the evening an engagement is, the more formal dress is typically expected to be. The more formal an event the darker the clothing selection should be. For additional inspiration see our Pinterest board,

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