If you hear these two words, you can count on the classic polo (or button-down shirt) and khakis, if you’re a guy. Women can also wear khakis or dress pants, as well as casual dresses with flats. Business casual is the expectation for many jobs these days, along with company parties and similar events.
Black Tie Events
For black tie events, you need to look sharp. A dark suit or tux is perfect for guys, while women will want a floor-length gown. Weddings and charity fundraisers are good examples of black tie events. If the event is black tie optional, women can break out their cocktail dresses and accessories, while men can wear a solid colored tie and dark suit, as long as patterns are at a minimum.
When you prepare for a cocktail party, be a little more adventurous. Women can wear shorter dresses with whatever accessories fit their mood that particular day. For men, you can’t go wrong with a dark suit and tie. If you know your audience well, dark jeans and a jacket may work, too.
For a happy hour get-together or office party, women can go with the type of clothes they’d usually work in – a pencil skirt or dress pants are fine, along with high heels or nice flats. Men should go with trousers and a collared shirt. Shoes can be comfortable, such as loafers, but other dress shoes will work well at your discretion.
Dressy casual is located somewhere between smart casual and black tie. Think of what you’d wear to church or to a nice dinner with friends. For women, that means dress pants or a skirt along with a pair of nice flats. Avoid tennis shoes or t-shirts. Men should wear a favorite blazer with a dress shirt and trousers. For shoes, you can go with something comfortable, but again, no tennis shoes.
Dressing appropriately has more to do with knowing your audience and your environment than anything else. With that said, you’ll rarely feel upset with yourself for going a little above and beyond rather than being underdressed!