Dress Code Guide: What Does Casual Mean?

Three people in casual clothes looking at the monitorMonkey Business Images / Shutterstock

The invitation states "Dress code: casual dress". So you're supposed to, what … to wear clothes?

While casual dressing is theoretically easy (most of us do it everyday), decoding what "casual" means when the dress code is a little different. "Casual" does not necessarily mean "wear what you want".

It's harder to go wrong with a casual dress code than with most others, but there are still some guidelines that can help you do things right. In this article of our dress code guides, we will help you understand how to navigate this style of dress code of deceptive simplicity.

Casual: a definition

Casual means basically "whatever you want – as long as the event allows it." As for casual business, casual dress is dictated in part by the nature of the event. But casual outfits offer a much wider range of possibilities than casual business attire.

You can wear everything that is beautiful. This includes jeans, sweaters, t-shirts, sneakers and more. However, it generally excludes flip flops, sweats or sportswear, revealing clothing, stained clothing, items that are very distressed or torn, and graphic shirts with offensive or controversial statements.

Your goal is to wear your usual clothes, but with a little more attention for the presentation.

To make things even more confusing, some workplaces have a "casual" dress code. (Or take part in the odd tradition of "laid-back Friday.") With a casual dress code at work, you have the opportunity to express a lot of personality with your clothes – just avoid things that could make you lazy ( like sweats) put some harm at ease (like some political slogans).

If in doubt, opt for casual wear at work instead.

When to dress up casual

colleagues eating outdoors at the casual restaurantgoodluz / Shutterstock

If the dress style for an event is not specified, you will want to consider whether the casual choice is good.

Here are some examples of casual clothes:


You should wear casual clothes in places that call for nothing more sophisticated, but in which you may want to impress people around you.

Of course, wearing sweat in a casual restaurant or on a plane is not a problem. But if it's a specific event, such as a friend's birthday dinner, or a bridal party wedding, you can honor this occasion with a carefully chosen casual outfit.

There are some exceptions to this list: for example, casual clothes will not fly if the restaurant is doing fine dining, and casual clothes will be better suited for a work party. Authentic casual wear is better for events involving friends and family, not colleagues, unless it's a casual place to work.

Casual ideas for women

Women can create a casual look with these ideas:

Skirts and dresses

For shoes, you can choose sneakers, boots, pretty sandals (avoid flip flops) or even heels.

Your accessories and makeup, if you choose to wear them, must follow the same rules as your clothes: practically anything is allowed, as long as it is not offensive or excessively lazy. For example, the old shabby backpack that you have from college is not a good choice, but a well-maintained and beautiful backpack is acceptable.

Men's Casual Ideas

Men can make a casual outfit with items like these:

Flannels and other casual buttons

For men, closed-toed shoes are a good choice, like sneakers, moccasins or boat shoes. Accessories such as belts are optional (unless your pants fall without pants).

Even in the most casual places, such as beach parties, hygiene is also important for both men and women. If you are well cared for and your clothes are clean and free of stains, most of what you have in your wardrobe will probably work as a casual outfit.

Just do not push the "casual" concept to the extreme. In case of doubt, it is always better to be a little too dressed than the other.

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