Many businesses allow somewhat casual attire at least once a week, but dress codes vary. Here are some guidelines for dressing business casual, which is a notch below business formal. Let comfort and professionalism guide you when you're dressing for business casual occasions.
It can be a challenge to approach professionalism while also expressing one’s identity. Students wishing to express their gender, sexual, or cultural identity in a Washington, D.C. workplace should find the balance that works for both their personal identity and for their internship organization.
It may be helpful to communicate with your supervisor before your internship begins, in order to find out what style of dress is appropriate for your office or organization. Many organizations will be accepting and open-minded, and others will anticipate professionalism in a more rigid, traditional sense.
- Ask your internship supervisor for official guidelines. Business casual means different things at different companies.
- Before you go casual, check your daily planner to make sure you do not have any meetings that require formal business attire.
- Select clean, wrinkle-free clothes.
- Check your company's policy before you decide to wear jeans to work.
- Wear shoes that are comfortable and appropriate for your outfit. Avoid worn-out shoes, sandals, or athletic shoes.
- Washington, D.C. has a highly professional atmosphere. Please be aware that within a conservative workplace, colorful hair, colorful clothing, piercings, tattoos, and other styles of identity presentation may be viewed as atypical.
- Limit visible body piercings to no more than two earrings per ear. When possible, cover any tattoos and other forms of body art with clothing.
- Wear mostly solid, neutral colors such as black, blue, brown, gray, tan, or white. Avoid wearing fabric that is brightly colored or patterned to a point of distraction.
- Hair and nails should be clean and neat at all times, and makeup should be minimal.
- Clothing should fit well. Consider wearing a combination of: blazers, button-down shirts, dress shirts, blouses, slacks, skirts (about knee-level), suits, closed-toed shoes, and up to three accessories (watches, belts, rings, etc).
- Aim for a polished, professional look that is true to who you are.
- For more information, consult Balance Careers or the Human Rights Campaign.
- If your company has no written guidelines, observe what others are wearing to get an idea of what is acceptable.
- Your casual-day outfit should be formal enough that you can meet a client.
- A basic pair of black slacks is a must for any work wardrobe.
- Business casual attire is more formal than weekend wear.
- Faded T-shirts, shorts, torn clothing, and risqué attire are not appropriate.