Business casual is a common dress code for offices around the country. Basically, it is meant to be a hybrid between formal business wear and casual attire. So a full business suit is not usually necessary, but your basic jeans-and-t-shirt weekend look isn’t appropriate either. So what exactly is appropriate?
Business casual styles for women can vary depending on your office. If you work in a very traditional industry or regularly meet with clients who tend to be a bit old fashioned, you may want to dress a bit more formal than someone working at a tech startup.
If you’re looking for a more specific outline of what that means, here are some guidelines for business casual women’s wear.
Business Casual Shirts for Women
Understated blouses, sweaters and button-up shirts are all usually acceptable in a business casual environment. In general, it’s a good idea to go with a fairly modest silhouette, and nothing too tight. Neutral or dark colors are also fairly common in professional environments, though a shirt can be a good opportunity to add a pop of color, as long as the rest of your outfit is fairly neutral. You can also layer a blazer or cardigan over your top for a look with more depth. A blazer can also help to dress up an outfit if you have a more formal office or are meeting with clients.
Generally, it’s best to stay away from basic t-shirts. But in some more casual environments they may be okay when paired with a blazer or cardigan. You should also steer clear of tank tops, halters, plunging necklines and any shirts with text or prominent images on them.
A classic oxford shirt like this one from the Gap is always a safe bet.
For something a bit more feminine, go with this floral blouse from Modcloth.
For a comfortable look that’s still fairly professional, this Liz Claiborne blouse could work.
A basic sweater like this cable knit option from St. John’s Bay can also work in a business casual office.
You could also go with a turtleneck sweater that’s a bit more chunky, like this one from J. Jill.
If you want to cover up a basic blouse with a cardigan, go with something like this one from LLBean.
This cardigan from Eddie Bauer can also keep you warm in the office.
If you want to opt for a blazer instead, this one is from Duluth Trading Co.
Or you could go with this classic blazer from Everlane.
This Express blouse is another great option that could work with a blazer or sweater.
Business Casual Pants for Women
When it comes to business casual pants, standard trousers are usually a safe bet. You can choose the silhouette that works best with your body style, whether they’re slim fit, wide leg or cropped. With most pants, you’ll probably want to go with a neutral shade like black, brown, navy or tan. However, a brighter color or simple pattern like herringbone may work as long as the rest of your outfit is fairly understated.
A snug fit is fine when it comes to your pants, but they should not be extra tight or low-rise. Also, steer clear of jeans or shorts of any kind.
These Liz Claiborne trousers are a classic option for the office.
Another classic pant, these Worthington trousers simply offer a different fit.
If you want to go with something a bit more eye catching, choose wide leg pants like these from Express.
These pants from Eddie Bauer are a bit more durable for women who travel or move around a lot at work.
These Coldwater Creek trousers come in a variety of colors and a classic silhouette.
You can also go with a slim fit in these Express pants.
For those who want a more curvy fit, opt for these from Lee.
If you prefer the look and feel of cords, go with these from LLBean.
These Alfred Dunner pants can also work for women of various sizes and body types.
For a comfortable and casual look, go with khaki chinos like these from Target.
Business Casual Skirts and Dresses
If you’d prefer, you could also go with a skirt or a dress for your business casual attire. Length is one of the main concerns with this type of outfit. So try to keep the hemline close to your knees. Additionally, opt for a classic cut like a pencil skirt, a-line or pleated.
Steer clear of anything too poofy or bright. Simple patterns like pinstripes or herringbone are fine, but save the loud patterns or neon colors for the weekend. Additionally, if you’re going with a dress, opt for one with sleeves or pair it with a cardigan or blazer so your shoulders are not exposed.
This classic pencil skirt is from Worthington.
This INC pencil skirt is another option that simply provides a different silhouette.
A khaki skirt like this one from Express is another great option.
A classic wrap dress is another perfect option for work. This one is from Modcloth.
This Brooks Brothers option is another wrap dress.
You can also go with a cozy sweater dress like this one from LLBean.
Here’s another sweater dress option from Target.
If you want to go with a patterned skirt, this one from Brooks Brothers could be perfect.
This pleated skirt from Modcloth can also work.
Or you could go with a classic a line skirt like this one from Mark Tasmin.
Business Casual Shoes for Women
Business casual shoes should be modest and provide a fair amount of coverage. Basic pumps, oxfords, loafers, flats and ankle boots are all great options. Again, understated colors are usually your best bet. Black and brown are classic choices that tend to go with most business casual outfits. Comfort should also be a high priority, especially if you tend to travel a lot or stand while leading meetings throughout the day.
Overall, just stay away from super high heels, bright colors, large buckles or embellishments, and anything open-toed. And though you probably could have guessed, sneakers and tennis shoes are also not appropriate in offices where employees are directed to dress business casual.
A classic black pump like these from Clarks are always a safe bet.
You could also mix in some neutrals with these Liz Claiborne heels.
A truly timeless silhouette, these shoes from Rockport are a bit more formal than flats or low heels.
If you prefer flats, you can’t go wrong with classic black ballet shoes like these from Rothy’s.
For casual offices, you could also go with some slip-on loafers like these Eastland ones.
If you want something a bit more interesting, go for colorful flats like these from Clarks.
Classic oxford shoes can also work in business casual offices. These are from Modcloth.
In the winter, you could opt for a heeled boot like these from Rockport.
These Aerosoles boots can also work.
If you want more coverage, these dress boots are from Zappos.
Business Casual Accessories for Women
Jewelry and accessories can be a great way to add interest to any outfit. However, when you’re dressing for a business casual environment, you should try to keep the extras to a minimum. Gold or silver studs or small dangly earrings are fine, along with simple pendant necklaces, charm bracelets and watches.
However, you should avoid any loud costume jewelry, hats or large hair accessories, and anything that might get in the way of your daily work. Overall, the business casual dress code is made to encourage team members to dress in a professional manner. If something looks especially weird or like it wouldn’t represent your company well, it’s best to leave it in your closet during the week.
For a simple stud earring, these from Kendra Scott are perfect.
You could also go with a classic pearl like these from JC Penney.
If you want something a bit dangly, go with a small pair like these from Kendra Scott.
A simple pendant necklace like this Swarovski one can also dress up an outfit.
For something a bit more interesting, this Kate Spade necklace is still fairly understated.
This pearl necklace from JC Penney can also work for the office.
A simple chain bracelet may also be appropriate. This one is from Olivia Burton.
This Swarovski bracelet can also work.
A simple watch like this one from Relic Payton is also appropriate for the office.
Or you could go with a more trendy option like this one from Olivia Burton.
Photo via Shutterstock