The word “casual” has many meanings. A definition I found reads,
“clothes or shoes suitable for everyday wear rather than formal occasions”
So the real question is, what should be considered “everyday wear”? Again, that depends on a lot: your lifestyle, what you find comfortable, or even how much you care. With “Casual Fridays” becoming common in the workplace, there is more and more confusion about what this means.
Whether you work in an office, own your own business, or are just out in the world in general (so, that should cover just about everyone), keep these things in mind when going “casual”.
1. Does this outfit correctly portray the image I want to express to the world? It’s difficult to say “I’m a real go-getter” when you’re lounging in sweats. Sorry, but it’s true. If you want people to take you seriously and think of you as a leader, you have to dress the part.
2. Does this outfit fit the event/occasion I am attending? Choosing your outfit not only says something about your personality, it also speaks to how you view and treat others. Think that’s a long stretch? Putting some effort into how you dress shows a level of respect for the people around you. Does this mean heels and dresses for grocery shopping? No. The key is not being “dressy”, but being appropriate for the setting. Fitted blazer and heels for volunteering at your local food bank? No. Your ratty favorite sports team t-shirt and sneakers to a wedding shower? No.
3. Your comfort is not everything. Let’s be honest, if dressing for comfort was all that was involved we’d all be running around naked or in Snuggies depending on the season. And while both are unacceptable outfit choices for outside of your home, many times we don’t give it much more thought than that. In Tim Gunn’s Gunn’s Golden Rules, he has a chapter entitled, “Physical Comfort is Overrated”. Before you balk too much at that idea, hear him out.
I also question people’s definition of “comfort.” Sure, oversize T-shirts feel soft on your body, but you know what’s genuinely comfortable? Being dressed appropriately for your surroundings…it also feels good to know that all day you looked good and smelled good and that the people you encountered had a positive impression of you and enjoyed having you around.
He goes on to say that, yes, your pajamas are more comfortable than your work clothes, but that’s not a bad thing!
You’re navigating a world where you need to have your wits about you. If you’re in a lackadaisical comfort haze, you can’t be engaged in the world the way you need to be.
4. If you don’t put in any effort in how you dress, you’re basically saying “I don’t care”. Say you’re a photographer and you’re shooting a wedding. If you show up in jeans, or sweats (I’ve seen it), what are you saying to the bride? That not only are you going to stick out like a sore thumb, but that you didn’t care that much about her event to even think about what you wore. Is that good business practice? No.
Notice that I haven’t told you that you can’t wear sneakers to the grocery store. Just THINK about where you are headed and what would be APPROPRIATE. You don’t have to be dressed up all the time (though I wouldn’t object), just THINK.
And when in doubt, overdress!