BUSINESS CASUAL JACKETS OR BLAZERS
Jackets or blazers are more of a requirement during colder months for warmth going to and from home, not necessarily to wear in the office since this is business casual attire. But don’t think that means you can throw on that denim jacket and get away with it. You still need your outerwear to be professional-looking. (You never know when you might need to go to lunch with the boss or a client!)
To get the most bang for your buck, stick with neutral colors; black, charcoal, brown, and navy work best. If you want something a bit different, try a jewel tone, small pinstripe or herringbone pattern, very classic. The fit is a big issue with jackets and blazers. Nix the boxy blazer and stick to something that nips in at the waist. Make sure that the jacket doesn’t pull or gape when buttoned. As an alternative to a blazer, you can try a wool moto jacket.
I love to layer blazers over all my business casual outfits because you never know how cold an office or location will be. So instead of being cold, you are prepared and also look stylish. In the outfit below I cuffed my blazer sleeve to soften the look and show off the cute striped lining. In the business casual outfit below I layered the blazer over a forest green dress. Added a skinny belt to the dress to create some definition and added a pretty silk neck scarf to brighten up the outfit and also soften it.
BUSINESS CASUAL SKIRTS OR DRESSES
While pants might be your go-to business casual attire, don’t forget about skirts and dresses. The blouses that you wear with your pants will most likely pair well with a skirt. Try a pencil, A-line, or pleated skirt in a solid color or a pinstripe or herringbone pattern. If the skirt has a slit, make sure it is a modest one and appropriate when sitting. Try a variety of colors and prints to see which style you like best. Ann Taylor always has so many nice options to choose from.
Dresses are a natural choice for business casual attire. It’s one item on and off you go to work. With dresses, you don’t have to worry about what pants match which top or vice versa. They also work well with cardigans and blazers when the weather is chillier. Necklines and sleeves should follow the rules noted above for blouses. Hemlines for both skirts and dresses can range from a few inches above the knee to just below the knee. Minis, high-low, and asymmetrical hemlines are best left in the closet during the week.
To accessorize a simple dress think about adding a silk scarf in a pretty print and color. If you need styling ideas on wearing a scarf with various outfits check out, Ways to Wear a Scarf & How to Tie a Scarf: The Definitive Guide.
5 BUSINESS CASUAL DRESS SHOPPING TIPS
The length of a dress or skirt should not be so short that you feel uncomfortable. Look for a skirt length that ends right above the knee or, if you are tall, a mid-thigh length. This length will make it easy to get up and down out of chairs and appropriately cover you if you are walking up stairs or on an escalator.
Necklines of both dresses and blouses need to be somewhat modest and not show too much—if any—cleavage. Leave the plunging V-necks and halters at home. Try a happy medium, wearing modest v-neck, round or scoop neck, boat neck, square, keyhole, or collared style. And also consider your body shape. If you have a larger chest avoid, high necklines, boat neck or keyhole, and opt for a v-neck or scoop neck. If you have a smaller chest, you can get away with wearing a boat neck and necklines such as the dress I’m wearing.
Usually, offices are on the cold side, so for dresses opt for longer sleeves. You can go full-length with a cuff or try a three-quarter-length sleeve, which is said to be the most flattering. A three-quarter sleeve ends between your wrist and your elbow.
The lower the sleeve is on your forearm; the thinner your arm will appear. So a three-quarter sleeve length has many positives. It’s office-appropriate, it’s the most flattering, it hides your arms if you’re self-conscious about them, and you won’t be as cold. Layer with a cardigan or jacket like I did in this outfit if your office is on the colder side and you can easily remove the layer as needed.
The fit of your dress is probably paramount. Fit = Appropriateness. Too tight is certainly frowned upon and looks unprofessional, while at the other end of the spectrum, baggy and ill-fitting clothes won’t do your figure any justice and tend to look sloppy. Look for dresses that are loose but accentuate the waist. You want the dress to be figure-flattering, but not just figure-focused. A-line, shift, sheath, and classic wrap dresses are all good choices.
5. Color or Print
Your style will help dictate the color or print of your garment. When it comes to solid-colored dresses, you’ll want to wear colors that look best with your skin tone. Of course, you can also go with basic black or navy which will make everyone look nice, but dare to try a color like burgundy, midnight blue, red, or forest green. In addition to wearing colors that look good with your skin tone look for colors that go with the seasons.
And don’t be afraid of prints. Florals, pinstripe, windowpane, plaid, or houndstooth prints are all great.
BUSINESS CASUAL SHOES
When it comes to shoes, you’ve got a lot of great options. Flats, wedges, heels, boots, and certain sandals can be worn with your business casual outfits. Flats are a comfortable option, worn primarily with pants. Try a loafer or driving moc, round or pointed toe ballerina style, or even an oxford. Heels are more typical in a work environment, but keep them around 4 inches or less, to be both appropriate and more comfortable. You can slip your feet into pumps, slingbacks, T-straps, peep-toe or wedged heels. And if you are going to be walking around a lot or on your feet for most of the day either opt for flats or a very thick block heel. Skinny heels will get you tired quicker.
Color is excellent for both flats and heels, as is a subtle animal print. During the colder months, pull on a pair of booties or knee-high boots, either flat, heeled, or with a wedge. Boots should be leather (or vegan alternative) and in a neutral color without over-embellishment (multiple buckles, say). While nylons and stockings are not required with your shoes, they certainly can be worn, as can tights and socks with boots.
Summer presents some challenges for women when choosing business casual outfits. The heat or humidity in many locations warrants wearing as little as possible, which isn’t appropriate for the office. Instead, wear clothing made from breathable material (cotton, silk, linen) and lighter in color.
If pants are your average daily attire, go for lightweight cotton or linen in white, cream, or beige. Pair your pants with a wide-strapped tank in a pretty color or wear a slightly sheer blouse with a camisole that will help to wick away the moisture.
Better yet, switch to skirts and dresses. Both of these items allow air to circulate below the knee and, yes, up the skirt. Wear skirts and dresses that have some movement, rather than a pencil skirt that hugs the body. Pair skirts with tops that have short or cap sleeves or that wide-strap tank or semi-sheer blouse with a camisole, so you stay fresh throughout the day.
You can also opt for heeled sandals, rather than close-toed shoes. As with general casual shoes, the height should be around 4 inches or lower and can include a wedge. Try to avoid dressier sandals that have embellishments, lots of straps, or look like they belong at a club. And, sadly, flat sandals are really not appropriate for most business casual work environments.
WHAT IS NOT BUSINESS CASUAL FOR WOMEN?
While the business casual dress code for women isn’t written in stone, there are some hard and fast rules on what not to wear. Here is what you should avoid when the dress code for women is business casual. Remember you want to keep it classy.
- No jeans or denim
- No low-rise pants
- No capri pants
- No shorts or skorts
- No sweatpants or yoga pants
- No overalls
- No leather pants or skirts
- No short/mini skirts or dresses
- No body-con dresses
- No ankle- or full-length dresses
- No tops or dresses with a plunging neckline
- No tops or dresses with skinny straps
- No crop tops/halters/razorback/strapless
- No sandals/flip flops
- No baggy clothes
- No super tight clothes
- No sundresses
- No sequins
- No neon
- No bra showing
- No clogs/stilettos/high-platform shoes
- Nothing that looks like you’re hanging out with friends, going to a picnic, going to a party/club, or going on a date.
This “what not to wear” is not a comprehensive list, but it does give some key points on what you should not wear.
Article by What is Business Casual for Women? [Your Definitive Guide] (stylishlyme.com)
Link to Part 1 of this story: WHAT IS BUSINESS CASUAL FOR WOMEN? [YOUR DEFINITIVE GUIDE] – TUTORING YOU