Casual dress can have different meanings, depending on the environment. Business casual, for instance, can be a much different wardrobe than weekend casual. If dressing for the workplace or an event with the dress code of casual dress, it’s best to still forgo denim or too-revealing outfits. A casual outfit worn to the beach is going to an entirely different type of look.
The 1920s was a decade when women started to look for alternatives to the constricting clothing they had been wearing for centuries past. This included pants, to-the-knee hems on skirts, lower waistlines (or no waistband at all in regards to the flapper dress). In the 1930s expensive fabrics such as silks became an immense luxury for men’s and women’s clothing, and people made clothing out of items they already had on hand, such as feed bags. The rationing of nylon during World War II meant women started to make do without hosiery. In the 1950s denim jeans became a more popular look, particularly for men, with influence from movie stars such as Marlon Brando and James Dean. The look quickly caught on for women as well. More casual clothing items continued to appear and gain acceptance from the 1960s through the present day.
Khaki and dark-hued pressed pants are appropriate for both men and women, and skirts of a similar palette can also be worn on women. Sweaters, button-downs, polo shirts and blouses for women make good pairings. For accessories, you can add leather or faux belts and shoes, provided they are not too-casual sandals or athletic sneakers. Ties and hosiery are not necessary.
Dress casual is the social equivalent of business casual, perhaps worn to brunch or a baby shower. This means casual trousers or khaki slacks paired with a button-down, polo or sweater for men, and a blouse paired with a slacks or a semi-dressy skirt for women. Loafers will work for the men’s’ footwear, and women can choose pumps, kitten heels, flats or dress sandals.
Also known as weekend casual, this style of dress includes almost anything that is not allowed in the business casual setting. Jeans, T-shirts, shorts, short skirts and dresses, beachwear, sneakers, flip-flops sweats, and tank and tube tops are all examples of California casual. This style of dressing is seldom appropriate for a work environment, but can make comfortable weekend or errand-running wear.
Benefits in the workplace
On days that workers don’t have to interact with clients, a casual day can keep them comfortable and give them something to anticipate. It signifies that management can be flexible on the desires of its employees, is willing to be modern, isn’t seeking to have all-encompassing control and that social status is not necessary for promotions. If you look at companies such as Microsoft or Google, which have casual dress codes, you can see that dress can have little impact on a business’ success. A meeting that carefully spells out what will be expected for casual dress, however, can prevent misunderstandings and sloppily-dressed employees once implemented.
Misty Witenberg has been a magazine and freelance writer (including "Shape," "Fit Pregnancy," "Natural Health" and "Mom & Baby") since 2004. Her experience is in fashion, beauty, travel, fitness and culture writing.