Casual Dress Code: Definition, Tips and Examples

By Indeed Editorial Team

March 7, 2021

When choosing an outfit for work, you must stay mindful of the dress code enforced by your employer. However, the idea of what a casual dress code looks like can sometimes vary from workplace to workplace. When faced with this scenario, you have an array of clothing options to choose from to ensure you dress appropriately for work. In this article, we discuss casual dress codes and offer tips and examples for guidance on what to wear.

Related: Dress Code Policy: What to Include, How to Write One and Sample to Use

What is a casual dress code?

A casual dress code is generally considered less formal than business casual. Employees may wear more relaxed, informal clothing but not necessarily what they wear on the street or lounging at home. For example, a casual dress code may let employees wear jeans every day but still discourages sweatpants. Companies can set specific guidelines within their dress code policy to ensure employees wear appropriate attire. While they can wear more casual clothing items, they still need to look professional. Under the company's policy, this may mean avoiding revealing, torn or dirty clothing or items with offensive messages or images.

Related: What Does "Business Casual" Mean? (With Example Outfits)

Tips for casual dress codes

As mentioned, the casual dress code can look different in every workplace. However, you can use the following tips as general guidance on the appropriate clothing to wear in workplaces with casual dress codes:

Look at your colleagues' attire

During your first week on the job, you may dress more formally to ensure you do not appear underdressed compared to your colleagues. When you are not sure about the casual dress code, use this time to observe what your colleagues and supervisors wear. These observations can help you assess the appropriateness of certain clothing items or their acceptability in the office. While some casual workplaces allow T-shirts and hoodies, you may not want to wear them unless you see them on others. If you still need more advice, you can reach out to the human resources department for clarification.

Related: What To Wear on Your First Day of Work

Pick appropriate outfit options

A casual dress code offers more freedom than a business casual dress code, though it does not necessarily mean you can wear the clothing you would wear in your personal life. Because of the additional freedom provided by a casual dress code, you have several options to choose from when creating outfits for the workplace. These options include:

  • Tops: Casual dress codes offer numerous options, including button-up shirts, blouses, sweaters, pullovers and turtlenecks. This environment may provide more freedom to wear colorful clothing or items with subtle patterns. Some casual dress codes also allow employees to wear sleeveless tops or T-shirts, though these options should not be too revealing or look like clothing you would wear in your personal time, such as lounging at home or going to a workout.

  • Bottoms: You can also choose from several pants options, such as chinos, slacks, khakis in varying colors. Casual dress code offices also typically allow employees to wear jeans any day of the week, but you should aim for dark-washed or black jeans in a more tailored fit. You can also wear skirts that are at least knee-length, and a more casual office can enable you to wear patterned or more colorful styles than a formal office.

  • Outerwear: You can incorporate cardigans, sweaters or light jackets over your outfit as needed. Some casual workplaces also allow employees to wear sweatshirts but try to choose more professional styles than what you would wear to the gym.

  • Dresses: You can wear casual dresses that, similar to skirts, are at least knee-length. Depending on your workplace, you may choose to wear patterned or colorful styles or choose more traditional solid or neutral colors.

Related: Guide To Business Attire (With Examples)

Choose appropriate footwear and accessories

Even in companies with casual dress codes, closed-toed shoes represent the most appropriate footwear option. These shoes may include pumps, flats, kitten heels, loafers and oxfords. You may also find formal sneakers that are office appropriate. These sneakers sometimes look like more formal footwear options, such as oxfords, and come in more neutral shades.

In terms of accessories, your options include jewelry, watches, belts and lightweight scarves. Try to choose accessories that will not distract or disrupt anyone else. For example, if you have a bracelet that makes a lot of noise when you type, you may want to leave it at home. Perfumes or colognes may also fall under this category. Some coworkers may be allergic or sensitive to scents, so it is a good idea to avoid anything too strong.

Tips for different dress code scenarios

Here are some casual dress code tips that you can use for specific professional scenarios:

Casual dress code for manufacturing roles

Many of the same casual dress code practices apply for manufacturing roles. You should wear clothing that is fitted and clean. These details help you create and maintain a professional appearance in the workplace. Here are some suggestions on what to wear in manufacturing areas:

  • Tops: Some manufacturing companies or settings provide uniforms to employees, such as a polo shirt with the company logo. Other appropriate shirt choices include sweaters, button-up shirts, solid-colored T-shirts and sweatshirts.

  • Bottoms: Pants are generally the most appropriate choice for manufacturing settings and should be at least knee-length. Examples of options include pants made of cotton, denim, synthetic materials, wool or flannel. These pants should be tailored or fitted rather than loose or too tight, such as leggings.

  • Footwear: Most manufacturing settings require visitors or employees to wear closed-toed and low-heeled shoes for safety purposes. Other appropriate footwear choices include loafers, boots and athletic shoes.

Casual dress code for job interviews

When invited to a job interview, you may learn that the company has a casual dress code. However, to ensure you dress appropriately, it is a good idea to lean toward more formal attire. Even if you arrive more dressed up than the interviewer, this appearance can help demonstrate respect for the employer. On a more personal note, try to wear something professional while still comfortable. When you feel comfortable in your clothing, it can help boost your confidence. Here are some suggestions on what to wear:

  • When choosing your outfit for a job interview, generally avoid clothing with bold prints or bright colors. However, sometimes adding a hint or element of color can help express your personality or add interest to an outfit.

  • Appropriate tops include button-down shirts, sweaters or blouses. You can also add a blazer, jacket or cardigan on top.

  • For the bottom of your outfit, wear a pencil skirt, dress pants or slacks in a neutral color. If you wear a skirt, aim for one that is at least knee-length.

  • To go slightly more formal, you may consider wearing a tailored dress in a neutral color with a matching jacket or sweater.

  • Choose closed-toed shoes such as flats, heels, loafers or oxfords.

  • Make sure your clothing fits well, rather than too tight or too loose, and is free of any stains or marks. Good-fitting, clean clothing can help you feel more comfortable and gives you a more put-together appearance.

Related: What to Wear: The Best Job Interview Attire

Casual dress code when meeting with clients

Like job interviews, situations that involve meeting with clients may require you to dress more formally than your typical casual dress code attire. Even if your workplace allows T-shirts, dressing up for clients can help set a professional tone for the conversation. If they arrive wearing more formal clothes, avoiding wearing casual outfits can also help them feel more comfortable rather than overdressed. For suggestions on what to wear, you can utilize the advice offered for job interviews.

If you are attending an industry event, such as a conference or trade show, these rules may also apply. Your organization likely wants to put forth a professional appearance when meeting peers or potential clients. However, some companies create logo apparel, such as T-shirts or polo shirts, and encourage employees to wear them. This type of clothing is acceptable in such situations because it can help promote the business.

What to avoid

What your employer deems appropriate may vary based on your organization, industry or your role. However, it is generally better to appear overdressed rather than underdressed. For example, you should avoid looking like you are going to the beach, a workout or a casual outing with friends. Here are some specific examples of clothing items to avoid:

  • Ripped, torn or frayed clothing

  • Clothing with non-work-related logos

  • Low-cut or revealing clothing

  • Sandals or open-toed shoes

  • Cropped shirts

  • Shorts

  • Skirts or dresses with high hemlines (above the knee)

  • Leggings

  • Athletic clothing

  • Sweatshirts or sweatpants

  • Off-the-shoulder shirts or dresses

  • Excessive or noisy jewelry

  • Athletic shoes

  • Hats

Examples

You can use the following examples as guidance on the types of outfits you can wear with casual dress codes:

Example 1

Marcus and Mabel work in an office with a casual dress code policy. A typical outfit for Marcus may include dark-washed jeans with no tears or holes and a simple, navy blue pullover sweater. He also wears a pair of dark brown oxford sneakers. Mabel may also wear dark-washed jeans to work, along with a simple sleeveless blouse layered with a cardigan. Mabel typically wears a pair of black, simple flats as footwear.

Example 2

Marcus and Mabel are meeting with a potential client at work. As a result, they dress a bit more formally than usual. Marcus wears a button-up shirt with a subtle plaid pattern and dark, tailored slacks. He also decides to trade his usual oxford sneakers for a pair of loafers. Mabel also wears a button-up shirt, but in a solid blue color. She wears tailored navy-blue dress pants and decides to trade her usual flats for low-heeled black pumps.

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