How to Dress ‘Business Casual’ for client Meetings

Disclaimer: there is no such thing as a “casual” client meeting. If you’re with a client then you’re on the job, and your ability to finesse situations outside of the boardroom will undoubtedly be called upon at some point in your career. Especially now that the weather is wonderful, more business interactions are structured around outings: impromptu patio lunches, rooftop terrace drinks, or courtyard coffee catch-ups. As the home base for your meetings shifts away from the boardroom and your rendezvous toe the line between business and pleasure, your wardrobe selection needs to be just as ‘chameleon’. What you wear says a lot about your personality and how it fits with your clients’, and more importantly, it can make or break the comfort levels shared between everyone at the meeting from the outset. Here are three tips to keep in mind when you’re trying to maintain professionalism while letting loose a little.


Know Who You’re Going to Meet

And by know who you’re going to meet, I don’t mean in the biographic sense (though that can never hurt). What you need to do is think, “Okay, who is this client? What are their values? In light of those things, how are they likely to want to portray themselves in a business setting?” If you can get inside the head of the person you’re sipping martinis with after work, then you have a great head start into forecasting how they are likely to dress. Are you meeting a Mad Man who’s leaving his office on casual Friday? Then you can bet he’s not likely to be in a tie. Is your appointment with the CEO of Bumble? Well, don’t assume she’ll be in a hoodie a la Silicon Valley, but do be aware that that’s where she came from, and perhaps forgo meeting her in your most austere power suit. Matching the vibe of the person you’re meeting sets the tone, shows that you have social prowess, and shows that you’re willing to cater to your counterpart. You wouldn’t wear a snowsuit to the beach, so along the same lines, know where you’re going, who you’re going to be with, and wear what’s likely to make them feel at ease and like you’re on their level.

silicon valley

The Denim Dilemma

I can’t help but let a huge sigh escape whenever this topic comes up. Knowing if denim is OK or not feels like wrapping my mind around how the universe started. A big bang? Probably. Am I absolutely sure? Hell no. As sectors diversify, and especially as more contractors (writers, graphic designers, etc.) sit in on one-off meetings, the concrete no I may have put forth at one point has shifted to a more reluctant, I don’t think so. Even though denim often looks awesome paired with a nice blazer and a collared shirt (On men or women!), in a vast majority of situations, denim is just not accepted. If you do suspect that the people you’re meeting with may be wearing jeans, you can still be just as casual without going past the point of no return by showing up in your Levis. Opt for khakis and a more casual shoe in events like these if you’re a man, and ladies, there are many choices of quick and easy dresses or casual cotton pants with a funky pattern that you can sport. Unless you’ve personally witnessed the people you’re meeting in jeans at their workplace, play it safe!


Hello Accessories, My Old Friends

casual women's outfit

The final golden rule is to remember your accessories. Perfect for personalising and also for dressing an outfit up or down, these tiny finishing touches will be an instrumental component to the outfit that you’ve chosen, and drive home the look that you’re going for. Small details like pocket squares in the absence of a tie, or a more noticeable pair of earrings and necklace when wearing a casual dress, can send the message that you’re relaxing at the moment more so than usual without seeming so laid back that you appear to have thrown yourself together last minute for a brief or unconventional meeting. Always carry your best briefcase, and be sure to be as groomed physically as you would be if you were at a formal meeting. Those small constants exude style without any outrageous expressions of fashion.

Nicole Edwards

Nicole Edwards is a fashion and lifestyle writer based in Toronto. She has worked as Associate Publisher of Private Islands magazine and Lifestyle Editor of Style Empire, and has contributed to NOW Magazine.