What Is Casual Dress Code Even

It looks like I’ve been getting a lot of traffic on my “Should I Think Less About FIRE?” post. It seems like it came from someone’s email newsletter, but I can’t tell from whom? In any case, thanks internet stranger! And welcome new readers!

I know I’m on break, but I had a couple quick things I wanted to talk about with regard to my new company’s casual dress code.

First of all, “casual” pretends it is not a dress code, but it totally is. It mirrors what I think a lot of us had as school dress codes. As far as I can tell, casual means that one can wear jeans and T shirts, but that things that are more skin-revealing (even tank tops or off-the-shoulder looks which are trendy right now) or bodycon are really out of place.

Even within the realm of T shirts and jeans, some tees are normal and others are out of place. Lightly patterned tees (stripes, dots, little dog prints, etc.) are fine, but emblazoned words and three wolf moon-esque shirts are not. Also, fit is extremely important. Especially if one is literally wearing tees and sweats, the right fit is the one thing keeping wearers from being seen as truly unkempt.

Second of all, my business casual-leaning wardrobe is really close to feeling out of place at my current work place. I’ve been defaulting to my silk shirts and jeans and I’m worried it’s causing people to see me as too dressy to be technical? Like sometimes people don’t bother telling me things I can completely understand because they are “subtle”, but like I would really appreciate people to just tell me in order to perform my job thank you very much. Maybe this is just in my head? A projection of imposter syndrome, perhaps?

In any case, I think I’d be well-served to add a couple more pairs of jeans to my rotation and some non-silk shirts. I don’t really want to just wear tees, personally. Feels too informal. Some minimalist cotton or linen blouses, I reckon, but no button-ups because even as a bust size B, those tend to pucker like whoa. Recommendations welcome!

Third of all, I have a $50 credit to Saks through a new Amex partnership via my Platinum card. I can burn the credit between now and the end of the calendar year. It’s enough to buy maybe a third of a garment? Not really sure how and whether I’ll end up using this.

Alright, back to my exponentially increasing to do list!

Does your workplace have a “casual” dress code? What does that even mean? Any minimalist cotton or linen tops you’d recommend?


6 thoughts on “What Is Casual Dress Code Even

  1. We are quite casual, to the point where the guys (and maybe some women?) wear shorts, and it isn’t out of place. I’ve seen tank tops and “cold shoulder” tops for women, but I personally don’t wear them.

    I don’t have many recommendations. I do now wear t-shirts. When I travel for one project, I usually wear a rotation of basic non-cotton tops. Things like this: https://shop.nordstrom.com/s/perfect-roll-tab-sleeve-tunic/4014220. But maybe that is still not casual enough for you. Silk tops would probably not be out-of-place for me, but definitely on the dressier side. I don’t have any in good condition at the moment and it doesn’t seem worth replacing the older ones I have. I also have all these business casual pants / clothes from my LA job that I don’t really need at this point, so they are in storage.


  2. I don’t know what kind of jeans you normally wear, but I used to cheap out on them and now I mostly stick to designer denim (on sale of course). I feel like they fit better, have better stretch recovery, and are usually thicker with more cotton content. I’ve found some pretty good deals on Amazon actually, including my favorite Hudson pair for $62. I don’t really have any recommendations for blouses, because I mostly wear t-shirts and button-downs. Maybe a cotton tunic or a linen sweater would be nice too?


  3. My sister is a software engineer and her description of the “casual” workplace dress code she adheres to honestly feels less flexible than what I find my business casual dress codes to be like. (She considers quite a few things that have a more feminine business casual look as being off the table for women programmers, as opposed to HR or marketing types.) I think that means she feels a bit of what you’re describing, that certain kinds of clothes (that are a bit dressier than tees) don’t really… help one come across as having the technical skill (ugh). There’s one biglaw firm with an “anything goes” dress code, and I’ve heard people take it seriously (so there are flip flops and shorts in the office sometimes). I’d assume that women don’t embrace it quite as much as men though.

    Looking to cotton and linen tops sounds right to me for something that’s not a tee but more casual than silk or a more traditional button down. I feel like the more relaxed-fit button downs (similar to the Madewell Courier shirts) can also have that vibe.


    1. I don’t know if it’s the clothes or the fact that I’m not actually a developer or my imposter syndrome acting up, but man the “not a real techie” thing is hitting me so hard right now. I feel like I am too late at this point to change anyone’s mind, short of jumping in and doing bugfixes. I really shouldn’t feel this way but I do…


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