What to Wear to a Casual Job Interview and Work

What to Wear to a Casual Job Interview

Casual office staff
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As online companies and other innovative startups start to grow, a new definition of business attire has sprung forth, too: "casual" or "startup casual." Casual attire is a touch less dressy than traditional business casual attire.

Because working at a startup often involves long days and impromptu or unforeseen tasks, startup casual clothing should be comfortable and practical. Of course, when you're interviewing at a company where the dress code is casual, it can be difficult to get an idea of just what to wear for your interview.

If you have an interview at a casual company, nix the head-to-toe formal business attire. Rather than showing up in a black suit and dress shoes, opt for something that is relaxed but still presentable: khakis, dress pants and a nice top, for example. For the office, jeans in a variety of different styles work well.

Although the dress code at startup companies tends to be more casual than other offices, in an interview especially it's important to look professional and polished. Your goal is to make a good impression, so that means taking care to choose the right outfit even in a casual workplace setting.

Keep that in mind as you browse through these ideas for what to wear to an interview or work, when you don't need to choose formal corporate attire.

Sharp, but Easy-Going Casual Attire

Group of business people working on computer
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You might find it oxymoronic for an outfit to be both sharp and easy-going, but this group dressed in startup casual garb manages to pull it off.

With jeans, chinos and corduroys that are polished but relaxed, the men and woman are dressed in clothing this is comfortable but presentable. The mix of tops - from short-sleeve button downs, to a shirt with a tie - is a good representation of a startup casual workplace. Some people might opt for the dressier spectrum, others might go more casual, and some might place themselves somewhere in between, like the woman here who is wearing a unique blazer paired with jeans.

On the whole, the group looks well-dressed and pulled-together, but not stuffy or strained. The flexibility of a startup casual environment allows office workers to create their own look with clothing that they will look good in but still feel comfortable.

Jeans Dressed Up With a Blazer

Business woman in jeans and a blazer
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Here's a fun, trendy approach to startup casual attire. Although her jeans aren't dark-wash, their hue is fashion-forward and modern. Paired with a blazer, the denim becomes dressy enough for the office. When you're interviewing, up it a notch and wear a dressier pair of pants.

The collared shirt dresses it up a little, but adds a nice touch, contributing to the overall startup casual look that is modern, professional but relaxed. Remember that in a casual workplace you have more room to express your personality, and to create your own look.

Button Downs and Khakis

Man standing at office desk with laptop computer
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Despite the casual ambiance of a startup office, button down shirts and dark jeans or khaki pants do have a place in a startup casual workplace. While pleated chinos and pressed, tucked-in button downs are more in the arena of business casual attire, you can easily modify that look for a more casual environment.

The checkered button down is fun, but still professional. Worn over a pair of dress jeans or relaxed-fit khakis, the look is practical (and very comfortable!) but still appropriate for an office.

If you're heading to an interview at a company that strikes you as a bit more "established" than "startup," (e.g., if it has a formal office space and an organized structure with multiple employees), then you may want to add a tie to your ensemble. You could also add a jacket to dress it up a bit more.

Cotton Blouses and Skinny Jeans

Woman in office
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This is a great startup casual look for women. A pair of well-fitting, slim-fit dark-wash jeans is an essential in any woman's startup casual wardrobe. The tailored look of the jeans mirrors that of dress pants, and do wear the dress pants for an interview, but denim is more comfortable and also has a more relaxed look suitable for casual work environments.

A nice cotton blouse, like the one here, works well with jeans or khakis. With a cut that's slightly more dressy than your average t-shirt, the blouse looks polished but feels just as comfortable as your favorite cotton t-shirt.

A pair of tasteful heels would round out the look. Choose shoes that are simple enough to go with a whole array of pieces, and that are also comfortable enough to withstand long days on the job.

Dark-Wash Jeans and Flats

Female working on tablet in business office
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This is a great example of startup casual clothing for women. Her button down blouse fits well but looks relaxed and comfortable, with a relatively loose fit and rolled sleeves.

Although she is wearing jeans, they are exactly the type of jeans that would be permissible in a workplace: clean, polished and tailored. The dark-wash coloring lends a professional feel to an otherwise casual pant, and the skinny leg is modern (as startup casual clothing tends to be) but also easily wearable. For an interview, upgrade the jeans to a slightly more formal pair of slacks.

A touch of modest accessories works well with a startup casual look. Her shoes are cute and express some personality - which is completely acceptable in a startup casual workplace. But, as flats, they are also practical and comfortable for the long days and lots of running around (or, in some cases, hours of sitting down) that accompany startup work.

A Blazer and T-Shirt

CEO of a Start Up Company
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This is a look pretty popular among men at startup casual workplaces. While a t-shirt is comfortable and casual, the blazer adds a professional edge that makes the outfit office-appropriate.

Dress pants, jeans, or khakis are appropriate for a startup casual dress code when paired with a blazer.

While the look could be just a touch too casual for a job interview, it's a good place to start. To make it suitable for an interview, you could swap out the t-shirt for a more refined cotton shirt, or even add a button down.

Pants and Plaid

Young woman sitting against wall reading smartphone texts
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This woman's funky take on clothing actually works well in a startup casual environment. Swapping a traditional button down for a plaid one is a bold move, but her dressy black skinny jeans make the look modern and fashion-forward.

Ditching the sneakers, and adding a pair of dress flats or a solid pair of heels would dress the look a touch without compromising comfort, as flats and wedges are far more easy on the feet than traditional pumps.

The end result is a look that is smart and polished.

A Nice Top and Tailored Jeans

Business people in conference meeting
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This man's innovative combination of clothing creates a look that is perfectly in tune with a startup casual dress code. His jeans are medium-wash, well-fitted and have a tailored look. Although the fabric is denim, the jeans are designed with a cut similar to that of khaki pants or chinos.

Because his jeans are so dressy, his simple top relaxes the look. The shirt has a relaxed fit, making it comfortable for long days at the office, but it is wrinkle-free and made with a nice fabric. (A t-shirt that is pilled, stained or well-worn wouldn't work in any office environment.)

Choose shoes which lean towards the "dressy" end of the spectrum to complete the look, making it polished and professional without overdoing it.

Read More: How to Dress for an Interview | What to Wear to Work | Business Casual Attire | Tips for Attending a Startup Job Fair

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Smiling coworkers in meeting
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Need more tips on what to wear? Here's a selection of job interview attire for almost every type of job interview.