As the saying goes, first impressions can make or break you.
Entering my first year in SFU, I had a lot of difficulty differentiating between business casual and business formal. However, after a year of attending events and observing how my fellow peers and industry professionals present themselves, I can say I’ve somewhat simplified the formula on power dressing.
Power dressing was originally a fashion style that allowed women to establish authority in professional and political environment traditionally dominated by men in the 1970’s. Regardless of its origin I believe power dressing can be applied to both men and women, hence this ‘How To’ post on what to wear for business events.
1. Business Casual
The trickiest of them all, business casual has always been something I’ve dreaded because it entails a challenging medium of landing between underdressed and overdressed. Whether your event is marketing or finance related, the classic female BCO (business casual outfit) consists of a blouse that pairs with either a skirt or slacks. While the male BCO has a blazer, a white dress shirt, slacks and dress shoes. And whenever in doubt, feel free to adjust accordingly.
Adding That Flair
For males: add a touch of your own personality to your outfit. Start by narrowing it down to the neutral colour palette: blacks, whites, greys, navys, and creams. Add some pizzazz by selecting patterns or brighter tones that coordinate with what you hope people to remember you for, whether it be red, a quirky plaid, or accessorize with cuff links and pocket squares.
For the ladies: try accentuating and highlighting your features, in fashion there are no rules. Start by finding what part of your outfit you want to highlight. It could be a new midi skirt you picked up last week, or a unique printed top or blazer. From there use neutral pieces to complete the look. Accessory wise, earrings are one of the most subtle ways to add some elegance without trying too hard. Also the shoe possibilities are endless.
Here are several outfits for your reference.
2. Business Formal
Business casual can be summed up in a formula.
Simply add a blazer to your business casual outfit, and voila!
Instant business formal.
For guys, try finding a well fitted suit that pairs well with a clean dress shirt and tie. To add some jazz, I would suggest finding a unique printed dress shirt or blazer.
For females, sticking with a palette and building around that leads to a well coordinated outfit. To me, there is no difference when it comes to business casual and formal. However I do know that in formal scenarios the dress code tends to be slightly more strict. So when in doubt, do dress conservatively to keep things professional.