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Susan M. Heathfield

See Casual Dress for Work

By October 26, 2013

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Questions abound about casual dress at work. So, my work dress code and image collection galleries are popular on the site.

This photo gallery shows appropriate attire for a casual work setting. In a casual work setting, the dress code allows just about any choice of outfit as long as it is appropriate for work.

Clothing employees would wear to the beach, a dance club, to change the oil in their car, or to exercise, won't cut it, even in a casual workplace. But most jeans, casual tops, sneakers, athletic shoes, and sweaters are appropriate. The goal, in a workplace with a casual dress code, is employee comfort.

Casual dress code environments are most frequently found in high tech workplaces and in organizations that rarely have clients or customers visit such as those that sell online like Zappos.

In our company, a business casual dress code was in place for a number of years because clients did visit and several employees dressed more like they were going to the beach than to work. So, guidelines were needed. But, over the next years, the company gradually transitioned into product development and customers rarely visit.

One day, an employee asked why we had a business casual dress code. We could no longer think of a reason, so casual became the new dress code. The attire of the executives and managers models appropriate casual workplace dress for employees and helps set the direction for a casual workplace environment.

It's difficult to imagine that workplaces with formal dress codes still exist, but I imagine that a large number of site visitors still wear suits to work every day. I am so sorry.

Image Copyright Christopher Robbins / Getty Images

March 5, 2013 at 6:37 am
(1) Denny says:

What is the appropriate skirt length for a professional dress code?

March 5, 2013 at 5:33 pm
(2) Susan Heathfield says:


There is no standard skirt length. If you want to be that specific, which I don’t recommend, it depends on your location, industry, region, etc. Do you really wanted to measure skirt length? Or police skirt length?

March 6, 2013 at 8:07 am
(3) MGM says:

There isn’t a skirt length but some people do not understand that a mini-skirt or micro-mini skirt is not for the office, even a business casual office.
Just an FYI, wearing a suit of variation of a suit does not require an apology. It is an easy way to always look professional. I roll out of bed an d throw on a suit and have fun with accessories.

The challenge with business casual is how do you define business casual or just casual? Some people, in particular women, feel it is ok to come to work like 1) you are going to a nightclub or 2) going to the beach? (I am a woman and would never wear a halter or micro mini to work)

October 28, 2013 at 8:59 am
(4) John D. Stone, Ph.D. says:

Susan. While I understand the changing nature of worksite attire, I am a bit taken aback by your “I am so sorry” comment referring to those of us who still choose to dress in suits and ties in what we deem to be a professional setting.

October 29, 2013 at 12:06 am
(5) Susan Heathfield says:

Hi John,

After almost 30 years of having to dress up in a business suit every day for consulting, and so forth, I am totally happy that where I spend most of my time these days is in a casual environment that is entirely happy with me in a sweater and pants. Yes, sometimes I wear a casual jacket, but people work equally as hard when dressed casually, I have found. And they are happier. But then, I am not in a competitive environment such as New York. Thank you for commenting.


October 28, 2013 at 9:28 am
(6) Lisa says:

We’ve had many employees who will “push the envelope” on the business casual dress code we have in place. We’ve had to make the policy more specific, such as skirts must be no more than 2″ above the knee and leggings must be worn with a top down to mid thigh. We don’t walk around with a ruler but the policy helps when you can clearly see that a woman is wearing a mini skirt or leggings as just pants – unacceptable in a professional environment.

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