HEALTHY LIVING
04/26/2008 05:12 am ET Updated Nov 17, 2011

Is Business Casual Ever Casual?

Business casual: It's one of the most dreaded word combinations in the office.

What was supposed to be simple has turned out to be wildly complex. Are short-sleeved shirts permitted? Denim skirts? Capri pants? And if a golf shirt is OK, why not a collared soccer jersey?

The business-casual trend has created entire companies of people who are unsure of what to put on in the morning. Too often, they make the wrong choice. People think "it's OK to wear a tank top with bra straps showing because the tank's Dolce & Gabbana," says Alicia Kan, global head of communications for Synovate, a market-research unit of London's Aegis Group PLC.

Little wonder that Rachel Donaldson, a Denver image consultant whose clients pay her for work-wear advice, calls business casual "the black hole of style."

If you work in a corporate environment, it's just as important to get business casual right as it is to nail traditional business dress. Maybe more important: Savvy corporate politicians know that casual days are the times when their appearance will be most closely watched.

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