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Three people in casual dress looking at monitor
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The invitation says “dress code: casual.” So, you’re supposed to, what—wear clothes?

Although dressing casual is easy in theory (most of us do it every day), decoding what “casual” means when it’s the dress code is a little bit different. “Casual” doesn’t necessarily mean “wear whatever you feel like.”

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 get it right. In this installment of our dress code guides, we’ll help you figure out how to navigate this deceptively simple dress code style.

Casual: A Definition

Casual basically means “whatever you’d like—as long as it’s event appropriate.” Like business casual, casual dress is dictated in part by the nature of the event. But casual attire offers a much wider range of possibilities than business casual attire.

You can wear anything that looks nice. This includes jeans, sweaters, t-shirts, sneakers, and much more. However, it usually excludes flip-flops, sweats or gym clothes, revealing clothes, stained clothes, heavily distressed or ripped items, and graphic shirts with offensive or controversial statements on them.

Your goal is to wear your regular clothes, but with just a little more attention to presentation.

RELATED: Dress Code Guide: What Does Business Casual Mean?

To make things even more confusing, some workplaces have a “casual” dress code. (Or participate in the slightly odd “casual Friday” tradition.) With a casual dress code at work, you have the opportunity to express lots of personality with your clothing—just avoid things that might make you look lazy (like sweats), or make someone uncomfortable (like certain political slogans).

When in doubt, opt for business casual at work instead.

When to Dress Casual

colleagues dining outdoors at casual restaurant
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