Style & Beauty
Business Dress Decoded: What Your Holiday Party Invitation Really Means
12/6/2016 9:36:02 AM

Ever gotten the email or invitation for a work party that seemed to invent a new type of "casual”? The list seems endless: business casual, smart casual, festive casual. If you’re feeling like deciphering your office dress code during the holidays requires a degree in a second language, don’t worry. We’ve got you covered. Here are some clarifications to common businesswear terminology along with a few tips from etiquette experts for dressing to impress.

Smart Casual

This might just be the trickiest term on the list because it’s completely possible to be too casual. The best guide for what to wear is to look at the day-to-day dress code in your office. If you work in a jeans and tee shirt setting, think of a casual holiday party as the best possible version of this. Wear freshly pressed jeans, slacks, skirts or dresses with no holes or stains and comfortable shoes that aren’t scuffed or in a state of disrepair. Even tee shirts are acceptable, though Emily Post recommends they not have any slogans.

Business Casual

A business casual office party usually means slightly more conservative office clothes. Men should wear slacks, a belt, and a tucked in, collared shirt. Women are free to wear the same or a knee-length dress or skirt. Sleeveless tops for women aren’t completely out of the question, but most business etiquette experts recommend leaving spaghetti straps at home and, depending on how conservative the office is, keeping shoulders covered by a cardigan or other sweater.


If your work invite to the holiday party specifies festive dress, it’s generally a sign that the company really wants employees to get into the holiday spirit. Wearing holiday colors, like a red button down shirt or a green sweater with everyday work slacks is a very easy way to get in the spirit without veering too far into costume territory. But holiday pins or even festive sweaters from fast fashion outlets like Forever 21 are a great way to set the party mood around the office. There’s no need to go for a full Santa suit but dressing a little out of the norm is a nice way to acknowledge your company has gone out of its way to make the holidays a bit brighter.

Business Formal

If your holiday invitation requires you to dress more formal, perhaps for a party at a country club or upscale restaurant, there’s no need to fret over finding a bow tie. Business formal means to dress like you would for a job interview, or for women, a special night out. For men, a neatly pressed suit and tie with freshly shined shoes works fine. Women can wear their best little black dress or a dress that might also work for a less formal wedding, along with accessories that are a little louder than they might wear to the office, like sparkly evening bags or large statement earrings.

Most of all, office parties are intended to be a bright spot on the yearly calendar. So if you’re unsure about the dress code for the event, don’t waste too much time worrying. Ask a supervisor or your best-dressed co-worker what’s appropriate, and with wardrobe decisions out of the way, you can focus on filling up on free canapés.

Posted by: Emily Alford | Submit comment | Tell a friend


Share and enjoy:   Google Bookmarks   Reddit   Stumble Upon   Technorati


© Copyright 2020, Thrive Magazine. All rights reserved.