Whenever I talk about office- and work-appropriate attire – especially in the wiggly “business casual” category – I am reminded that the formal-casual gradient is relative. And, in fact, here in the U.S. it seems to change regionally. What would be perfectly acceptable in many Midwestern office environments shocks some East Coasters with its informality. What is totally normal work attire in Denver might seem outlandishly casual here in Minneapolis. And there seem to be marked differences between the California definition of “casual” and the New York definition of “casual.”
Of course, there are some universals: I can’t think of anywhere in the nation where it would be appropriate to show up to work in truly filthy clothes, in clothes that show major erogenous zones like butt cheeks or midriffs, or in clothes that are specific to other professions (like a mechanic’s jumpsuit or nurse’s scrubs in an accountant’s office). MOST regions deem jeans to be casual, but they blur lines in many places and are completely acceptable in others. Open-toed footwear is a no-no in many places, but many others allow it year-round.
I consider myself to be fairly well-traveled, but cannot speak to casual/formal dressing norms in countries outside the U.S. I imagine that they, too, vary widely by country and region. This makes discussions of casual wear and work wear more complex, but also more interesting! And I’d love to hear your take:
Do you consider your region to skew casual or formal? Why? What is typical business casual attire where you live? What is typical casual attire where you live? How does denim play in? Do you feel the formal-casual gradient has shifted in your region? Are you aware of the regional definitions of casual and formal?
Images courtesy Nordstrom
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