JUST WHAT EXACTLY IS BUSINESS CASUAL? It's a question that meeting planners are often asked by their attendees. But planners can quell attendees' concerns with some simple guidelines on what is acceptable as business casual and what is not, says Debra Lindquist, an image consultant with Lindquist Associates, Denver.

Golf shirts, cotton trousers, and dress shirts are fine for business casual for men, as long as the clothes are not ill-fitting or old. The key factor is the quality of the clothes. Slacks should be well-tailored and not run over the heels. Sport coats and ties are not required for business casual, but they should be packed as they represent “a badge of authority.” The tie should be the dominant feature of the ensemble.

For women, suits, trouser outfits, and skirts are all acceptable for business casual wear, but the ensemble should be coordinated, upbeat, and appropriate for the culture of the organization. Clothes should not send the “wrong message,” such as too sexy, frumpy, outdated, or downtrodden. “Avoid the too-toos,” she says. Skirt length is variable, depending on the meeting or organization. If it's a business meeting, pantyhose are recommended.

And for the feet, no sneakers or sandals, but any type of clean, black or brown leather shoes are acceptable.

“March to the beat of the authority person,” says Lindquist. In other words, don't upstage the boss.

She offers one final fashion nugget: “Dress for where you want to go — not where you are.”