Monday, October 3, 2011

Business Casual in Boston

Recently I attended a business meeting for my real job in Boston.  I decided to collide my two worlds & bring you a few business casual basics.  I work for the medical device division of Johnson & Johnson, so we are about as conservative as they come.  Despite the conservative nature of my company, I feel it is always important to be yourself, which for me, strictly prohibits sweater sets & panty hoes.  Here is one outfit I wore (& managed to photograph) during the 3 days of meetings and events.  This is an attempt to encourage you to think a bit outside the Banana Republic box with your work duds (nothing wrong with the BR basics, just don't be afraid to add your personal style).

Top- Beyond Vintage / Pants- BCBG / Belt- Steve Madden / Shoes- Marcos Santi via Sole Society / Bracelets- Banana, Bee Charming / Lips- MAC Ruby Woo / Shades- Tom Ford / Watch- Michele

<Covet Corner>
Similar or Same:  Top / Pants / Belt / Shoes / Lips

And now for a few tips:
Definition.  Casual does not = frumpy, throw some flare into your casual ensemble, maybe a leopard print belt or a bright colored pencil skirt. ("flare" always makes me think of the scene in the movie Office Space when Jennifer Aniston refuses to wear the minimum 13 pieces of flare... Ha! Maybe skip the buttons & "express yourself" with some red patent leather flats).

Coverage.  Skin coverage is good, nothing low cut or too short, but above the knee is OK, it's OK to show your arms, & peep toes are OK (not the case with business attire), but avoid shoes that are too high or strappy.

Accessorize.  There's nothing wrong with a statement jewelry piece, or a bold belt, work can be fun!

Tailor.  Steer clear of the body clinging extremes: skin tight --> baggy.  You can never go wrong with a clean tailored look.

Comfort.  There's nothing worse than tugging at your skirt, fidgeting with your bra straps, or limping around a conference center, so make sure you feel your best in your business casual ensemble.  First impressions are important, if you are comfortable you will be more confident & confidence is the key with any business look.

Denim.  This is a gray area & it really depends on your company.  In general the older & more conservative the company the less likely denim is acceptable.  Check with your HR department or just error on the safe side & skip the denim.  If your company does allow denim as part of it's business casual code, avoid heavily distressed or holey jeans.

Makeup.  In general a nice, natural look is great.  If you are woman in business, awesome, if you are a Mom in business, more power to you, but don't be mistaken for a soccer Mom while at work.  Cover the (inevitable) bags below your eyes, put on a little lid liner, some blush, & dab some gloss on your smile.  Mostly, it all comes down to being yourself.  I am a red lipstick gal (as you are well aware) so I don't shy away from red lipstick at corporate functions.  If you are a chapstick gal, go chapstick, but maybe choose one with a nice tint.  You don't have to look like a man to be successful in a man's world, yet you don't want to look like you are trying to "pick up" the man.

Hair.  Make sure your trim & color are up to date.  Ask your colorist for a natural look whether it be blonde, brunette, or auburn.  The skunk thing is not good for biz nor are the hot pink or feather extensions.   A neat ponytail is perfectly acceptable as is a down do, just make sure you do the do & avoid anything that can be perceived as sloppy.

Avoid.  Golf shirts & shorts are not my fave.  It is "business casual," not "resort casual" so stick with slacks & a long sleeve button down even if you DO conduct your business on a golf course.  If you are actually golfing, golf attire is appropriate, of course.

Match.  Match your leathers.  Make sure your pants & shirt compliment.

Shave.  If you sport tasteful facial hair just make sure it is kept.

Press.  Have the hotel press your shirt if you don't want to do so yourself, but a crinkled up 'I've-been-at-the-bottom-of-a-suitcase-for-3-layovers' shirt is no good.  One of my Dad's best friends & long time road warrior had his dry cleaner individually hang each shirt in plastic.  He then folded each shirt in the plastic & neatly packed it in his suitcase.  He swears & declares it is the best way to keep a pressed shirt pressed & he would be one to listen to!

Be Yourself.  If lavender shirts & pin-stripped pants are your bag, go for it, if you are blue shirt navy blazer guy, go for it.

Makeup.  Unless you are a news anchor, I don't recommend makeup (that was to make sure you are paying attention).

Sportcoat.  Optional for business casual attire.

Tie.  Business casual means no tie, so enjoy it & leave the tie at home.  If you are giving a presentation a blazer is appropriate, but you can still skip the tie.  It is certainly better to be overdressed than underdressed, but a tie in a business casual environment sends the message that you are either stuffy or you take yourself a bit too seriously.  Stick with the attire that is requested.

I would certainly not declare myself the Emily Post of business dress code, but I have been a participant & observer of corporate duds for the past 12+ years.  So go climb that ladder and don't be afraid to do so ever so stylishly!

Stylishly yours,


  1. I just worried about the weather in summer and if we wear in black i am afraid that we will feel more hot than before, i love this dress, just puzzled about its color! I think you can choose one from Men's Hooded Leather Jacket or top design fashion fox fur collar leather jacket and both of them are stay at