The question of whether overalls qualify as business casual made me laugh. No, overalls do not qualify as business casual unless you work as a farmer or a construction worker.
Designers developed this garment specifically as protective clothing for those employed in jobs that entail getting dirty and handling dangerous items. The design of the garment covers other, thinner clothing and keeps it from getting dirty or adds a layer of protection.
A pair of overalls consists of trousers with an attached bib that covers the person’s shirt. Straps that attach over the shoulders hold the bib or front flap of the overalls in place. Typically, this type of garment uses denim or another sturdy fabric.
Overalls as a Fashion Item
As time passed and fashion borrowed from world cultures, the workplace, and military uniforms, overalls became a casual fashion item. They’re more casual than blue jeans, so not appropriate for the office.
Wearing them on the weekends as a coverup for your bathing suit or paired with a t-shirt for running errands provides the ideal time to wear this super casual fashion item.
Similar Clothing that Does Qualify as Business Casual
Do you love the idea of wearing a one-piece outfit to the office?
Women: Wear a Jumpsuit
While overalls prove too casual, you could wear a dressier jumpsuit. A jumpsuit pairs trousers of varying lengths from mid-calf to ankle length and a top together in one piece. The top features either short sleeves or long sleeves. This completely covers your upper body as well as your legs.
These jumpsuits use lightweight materials like silk or cotton. I’m not referring to the thick heavy duty-style jumpsuits from brands like Dickies or Levi’s. Think ASOS. Pair a one-piece jumpsuit with a pair of heels and a matching purse. You’re ready for work.
Women: Wear a Pantsuit
To obtain the monochromatic look of overalls or a jumpsuit, but two separate garments to make going to the restroom easier, choose a pantsuit. A pantsuit includes matching pants and a suitcoat. Like overalls, you only add a suitable top beneath the suitcoat to finish the outfit. Slip into flats or heels and grab a matching purse. You’re dressed for the office.
Men: Jeans and a Collared Polo Shirt
Sorry, guys, but your onesies fall into the category of loungewear. They’re only appropriate for wearing around your house. You do have some terrific business casual options though that can make use of most of your casual wardrobe.
Pair nice, clean, un-ripped, solid color blue jeans or black jeans with a solid or striped collared polo-style shirt. Instead of dress shoes and dark socks, you can wear slip-on penny loafers or docksiders with socks that match your shirt or pants.
Khakis and a Short-sleeved Oxford Cloth Shirt
Pair khaki trousers with a short-sleeved Oxford cloth shirt for a business casual look that you can wear after work, too. You’ll be date ready in this pairing whether you wear it with slip-on penny loafers or docksiders with socks that match your shirt or pants.
Define Office Casual or Business Casual
Let’s start with normal business office clothing. Typically and traditionally, office clothing or business wear refers to a business suit for a man paired with a long-sleeved, button-down dress shirt, conservative tie, leather dress shoes, a belt, and dark socks. For a woman, it refers to a business suit of pants or skirt and a dress shirt or top, or a business dress paired with hose and high heels.
Both genders traditionally wear little jewelry at the office. The pieces that do get worn consist of small and unobtrusive jewelry. For women, this means stud earrings, a simple, thin chain necklace.
Business casual, then, refers to a less formal outfit that still provides a clean, neat, well-groomed appearance. Some industries offer a more relaxed definition of business casual, but few do.
If you work in fashion, for instance, you work for a designer, then you might get away with a male wearing a skirt. This won’t fly in a stockbroker’s office or a law office though. Those professional environments require a traditional and suitable mode of dress.
For a man, business casual means a collared knit shirt, polo-style shirt, or sweater paired with khakis or jeans with no holes, rips, or tears. The belt and tie become optional. The look still requires leather shoes.
For a woman, business casual means skirts or pants made of twill or cotton paired with a solid color knit top or collared polo-style shirt. You can skip the pantyhose, but you still need to wear leather shoes. Whether you choose flats or heels remains up to you.
Both genders must adhere to a neat, well-groomed hairstyle. The jewelry rules don’t change.
How do you know what’s right for your office?
When you’re hired by any company, they typically provide an onboarding experience. This includes a trip to human resources to fill out copious amounts of paperwork.
The Employee Handbook
It also includes training sessions on proprietary software and a meeting with your new manager. Your office manager or business manager will provide you with the business’s operating guidelines. Most businesses refer to this as the employee manual or employee handbook. Read it.
Many companies require you to not only read the manual but to initial each page after you’ve read it. Some require a quiz or test, so you cannot blow it off. These employee handbooks typically tell you what attire the company deems appropriate. The manual may even include illustrations or photos to provide you with a clear idea of what you can and cannot wear to the office.
The More Casually Organized Company
Some businesses don’t author employee handbooks. They simply say, “We dress in business attire Monday through Thursday, but Friday we allow business casual.”
Ah! That’s not much to go on, is it?
This provides you with the ideal opportunity though. You ask your manager, “What does [insert company name here] consider business casual? Could you provide me with an example of an appropriate outfit for me to wear on Friday, please?”
In business, your boss will consider this smart and savvy. You’ve just ensured that you will have a foolproof outfit for your first business casual Friday because you’re asking your boss. You can’t get in trouble unless you don’t follow her or his advice.
Gauging the Office By What Others Wear
Once you make it gamely through the first business casual day allowed, you’ll have seen how the rest of the office dress for it. That provides you with a range.
Watch your boss for cues to what’s pushing the limits though. Read the manager’s body language and reaction to each employee’s outfit. Some folks might get away with something because they have a different manager, but you need to know what your supervisor likes and dislikes.
Welcome to the wonderful world of business! It’s not really that casual.