California business trip - suit or casual?

Old Jul 14th, 2002, 03:07 PM
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California business trip - suit or casual?

I'm heading to Orange County, CA in 10 days to meet with a client for the first time (a state agency). I have heard that the business attire is fairly casual out there, so I have a feeling that my all-black suit would be too much. What type of clothing would be appropriate?
Old Jul 14th, 2002, 05:13 PM
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I agree that a black 'interview suit' would be kind of stuffy in most situations, but you never know - I used to work for a firm in LA that was all dry-clean. Your best bet is to call the receptionist and ask her anonymously (when I was in college I answered a few questions like this for the above-mentioned firm, so it's not going to seem too unusual to her.)

A government agency could be totally casual or totally formal - it really depends on the personality of the person who heads it up.
Old Jul 14th, 2002, 05:30 PM
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I agree with the previous post.

Also I think since they know you are from the northeast (I am assuming from your email you're from NY) they won't be surprised to see you more "formally" dressed.

Since it is summer, maybe a business suit in a color other than black?
Old Jul 14th, 2002, 05:37 PM
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Can you tell us the name of the agency? Some agencies like the Coastal Commission or Fish and Game are very casual and you'll see the environmentalist uniform of shorts or slacks with hiking boots. Many agencies aren't that casual but you'll see sandals and summer dresses for women and slacks and sport jackets for men. If you're a professional meeting a new client, it's always best to wear a suit but I think you could wear something in pastel colors, white or even a dark skirt with heels and a white blouse with a scarf and no jacket.
Old Jul 14th, 2002, 07:02 PM
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I recently retired from a very large CA State agency and worked with many others. A lot depends on the agency and classification(s) of the people you are meeting.

If it is the CEA level (civil service-exempt exec management types and department heads) or upper managers is one thing. Lower level mgrs or analyst staff may be another.

Your sefest bet is a nice jacket/dress or well tailored trowser suit with a nice silk blouse.

That way you can remove the jacket if you find they are casually dressed.

Knowing how most state offices are organized, I wouldn't rely on the receptionist. They are often simply office assistants who answer phones for many unrelated offices.

If you are meeting w/ a CEA or high level manager he/she will have an executive sec or admin asst. That is who you should talk to . . .

But the jacket dress or pants suit will be just fine.
Old Jul 14th, 2002, 10:00 PM
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All the above being said, I think that when in doubt, it's better to be overdressed than underdressed. Wear the suit. You can always take off the blazer for a more casual appearance.
Old Jul 15th, 2002, 05:12 AM
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Thanks for the suggestions! Duh...silly me...didn't even think about removing my jacket for a more casual look. A very simple idea. I think I'll wear a short-sleeve silk sweater (it's very lightweight) under the jacket...that should suffice.
Old Jul 17th, 2002, 08:18 PM
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I find that most big businesses, management consultants, etc., have a concept of "business casual" out here. However, this is more for the office. When we go out to meet with clients and gov't officials, the women switch to suits and the men to jackets with ties.

I deal w/ the health dept. and other state agencies on behalf of a large insurance co. and I would wear a suit or pantsuit, but take off the jacket if my client were dressed down. Civil servants don't usually have extravagant wardrobes, Willy Brown, mayor of SF being a major exception!
Old Jul 24th, 2002, 10:09 AM
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Just got an email from the client - "Don't wear a suit or you'll stand out". It would have been GREAT if they had sent this to me YESTERDAY. It's too late, I'm leaving the office for the airport in 1/2 hour.
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