Skip to Content

Business Casual for Women – Do’s and Don’ts, Definitive Guide

Business Casual for Women – Do’s and Don’ts, Definitive Guide

Sharing is caring!

Working from Monday to Friday at the office isn’t easy at all. Especially when you need to wear those classy costumes for a whole day. That’s when dress codes come in handy.

And today we are talking about the business casual dress code for women. Let me help you master this attire and make better work outfits more quickly in the morning.

What is considered business casual attire for women?

Business casual is the perfect example of an outfit with a mix of classy and casual pieces. It’s when you have to look professional and still feel comfy at the office.

The thing that you can’t wear flip flops at work makes sense.

Business casual attire is considered the line between formal and casual outfits.

Generally, business casual is required on a daily basis. And so it’s essential to know how to style outfits for it.

Business casual attire depends on the company you work for, the job you have to do during the day, and the city you live in as well.

In the easiest words, you can create a business casual look by pairing something formal (like a blazer, dress, or suit) with a more casual piece (printed top, casual shoes, denim jeans).

We will talk about this in detail here later today.

Business casual dress code – quick style formulas to follow

Use one structured piece in the outfit

It means as it sounds to mean.

When you are going to style a business casual outfit, first choose the one piece that is more structured.

What do I mean by structure?

Pencil skirts, blazers, wide leg cropped pants, blouses, and shirts – these are the perfect examples of structured, more polished pieces.

Once you have at least one of them for the whole outfit, you can now go easier. Pair more casual pieces with them.

You can make the outfit look more professional by adding the right accessories as well.

It will be even easier to make the business casual outfit look complete by adding a structured handbag, or a classy belt.

Layer the outfit with a blazer or a trench coat

I know it seems too obvious, but I had to mention this. Because I still know a lot of people who don’t know what the blazer can do for outfits.

It doesn’t need any other explanations.

Try creating one look right now and you will understand everything I mean.

Avoid bulky clothes

I said that you can and should wear at least one casual piece if you are creating a business casual outfit. But you have to find the right line between too casual and casual.

And bulky clothes are too casual.

So the next quick tip for the perfect business casual outfit will be to just forget baggy clothes.

Always use natural colors

Even when you are going to use one printed piece in the outfit, try to be with natural colors.

Dont try too hard!

Stay with natural colors. Because you won’t go wrong with them.

If you are not sure what natural colors mean, I can tell you that you can choose from white, brown, grey, back, and with colors under those tones.

Go monochromatic

Monochromatic outfits are great to look always polished, elegant, and professional.

And if you follow the previous tip I shared above, you will have the perfect business casual outfit with modern nuances.

We will talk about colors that you should and should not use for business casual later in this article. So, don’t leave yet.

Invest in high quality basics

Having a lot of things in the wardrobe is not necessary to make some good outfits.

But having enough basic clothes, that are good quality and last for a long time, is important.

Invest in (if you don’t have them yet) a comfy but still classy top, pants, skirt, etc.

They themselves look already very put together even if you don’t add something.

Having basic, very simple jewelry is also very important.

Not because business casual requires you to wear them. It’s because all outfits need to be accessorized. Without them, they just don’t look complete.

Before we move on to Do’s and Dont’s for business casual I want to invite you to the 7-day wardrobe challenge.

This is where you will have some fun! And also gonna have a chance to win my ultimate fashion book – “dress to Impress” for free.

7 day wardrobe
challenge
Sign up below and accept the challenge to win my “ultimate fashion book” for free! 
Type your custom success message here…

What to wear – what not to wear for business casual

Business casual tops for women

Do’s

business casual tops to wear

I won’t talk much about each of them but I want to separate some of them.

For example, I want you to pay attention to wrap and draped tops when you are using them for business casual.

Because there are so many of them which are too casual for this dress code (I’ve included one of them in “the can’t wear” image).

The same goes with sweaters (that’s why I inserted the star sign).

That means that there are some exceptions that you need to know about.

Sweaters are actually considered casual pieces (more often). But there definitely are some sweaters that are basic.

And they are perfect for business casual dress codes.

Don’ts

business casual tops that you don't have to wear

The only two exceptions here are draped tops and printed tops.

I mean you can wear those styles for business casual attire.

But…

Avoid wearing draped tops that look too casual.

And also avoid printed tops that are too busy.

There are some prints that look classy and elegant.

But not the flowers and others…

For example, you can style polka dot, plaid, and some striped prints for business casual.

Business casual pants for women

business casual pants to wear

For pants, it’s a lot easier to make a decision for making a perfect business casual outfit.

Because it’s more obvious, I mean it’s easier to choose pants that are classy and are not that perfect for this dress code.

You can see that jumpsuit (classy, more structured), straight-leg pants, and flared and classy jeans are great for business casual.

Unlike tops and shoes, it’s easier to find differences between casual and classy pants. So, I am not gonna explaining anything here.

I will just make sure that you will understand why you shouldn’t wear pants that are on the right side of this column.

business casual pants you shouldn't wear

Let me don’t start talking about shorts here, we all know you don’t have to wear shorts to the office.

Unless you work in an office where the boss is your best friend, hehe

The same happens with cargo and sweatpants.

They MUST NOT have items for office outfits.

They are not for business casual dress code as well.

Now let’s talk about skinny jeans and wide leg pants.

As I already said above, business casual is the perfect example of finding the best line between casual and classy pieces.

I mean you can wear wide leg pants but they don’t have to be as wide as they seem or feels too comfy.

That’s why I contained flared pants in pants that you can wear for business casual outfits.

If you love that style, opt out for flared pants.

Skinny jeans are also OK for business casual attire (if your office rules allow them).

But wearing too skinny jeans looks and feels more sexy than professional.

That’s the reason I want you to avoid wearing them for the office.

Business casual shoes for women

Business casual shoes for women

Ballerina flats, mules, and pumps are styles of shoes that are easy to pair with office outfits.

High knee boots are also partly the same. But you have to make it work for business casual.

For example, if you are wearing jeans and you want to wear high boots that’s not gonna be a very good idea.

Because in this case, you are wearing more than one piece that looks and feels too comfortable.

So, what I mean to say here is to use one piece in a whole outfit that looks casual.

Other than that, you have pretty good options of what should you can wear for business casual outfits.

Business casual shoes for women you should not wear

Now let’s talk about shoes that are not very good for business casual attire.

You can see them by yourself but let me share the reason why you should avoid wearing them.

The main explanation for this is that sneakers, flip flops, and espadrilles look too relaxed, informal, and simple.

They are perfect for everyday wear but not for the office.

What about cowboy boots? They are just extra for the business casual dress code, without any word.

Business casual dress for women

Business casual dress for women

Dresses are perfect pieces to make business casual outfits.

But definitely, there are dresses that are not appropriate for this attire.

You will find the list of them in the next column but not let’s talk about dresses that you can use for styling business casual outfits.

If you properly look at those dresses, you will find the main thing you should consider before buying any dress.

The thing is the dress that you wanna use for business casual, needs to have some structure.

It doesn’t have to be very flared, opened, draped, and so on.

The best examples for this would be a line, peplum, and fit and flare dresses.

They have structured silhouettes and so they will make a business casual outfit look put together.

Business casual dress for women

Now let’s talk about dresses that you shouldn’t wear for the business casual dress code.

You can see all of the above.

Let me share the main thing you can guess whether you can or can’t use the dress for this attire.

If the dress has some structure and it doesn’t feel like a night party dress, you can use it for the business casual dress code.

Did you get it?

So, on another side of this, you can’t wear dresses that look like cocktail party dresses.

Here I should mention two exceptions that you need to foresee.

Wrap dress and jumper (sweater) dress…

There are types of them when they look fantastic with classy outfits.

For example, a simple sweater dress with a blazer and ankle boots will be a good combination of professional looking business casual outfit.

So, you have to understand and feel the look of the dress.

If they look polished with the outfit and you are still comfortable in it, you are good to go.

What colors should you not wear for business casual?

Choosing the right shape, size, style, print, and other things is as important as choosing the color of the pieces you use for the outfit.

I think I already mentioned above that the more natural colors you use the more put together you will look.

That doesn’t mean that you can wear brown flip flops to the office… just saying.

But it’s better to stay with natural colors than with colored outfits.

Here we are with other exceptions.

Let me list them down.

Yellow

Yellow is a color that is hard to get serious about in outfits.

That’s maybe a “solid proposal” but that’s what it feels like to most people.

Now, what do I mean by that?!

I mean that it’s hard to take a person seriously while she/he wears yellow clothes. If you don’t agree, I get it.

Let me know if you think differently.

You can contact me for any reason here on Pinterest, Facebook, and Instagram.

Red

I love red suits. Red blazer, ugh…

But I definitely wouldn’t wear them at the office.

Red is considered a very aggressive and passionate color.

Do we need any of them at work? I don’t…

If you want to be an aggressive boss, then go for it. Your employees will hate you for this, lol.

Light blue

I mentioned “light” because navy (darker blue color) is a perfect color to wear for the business casual dress code.

There are some pastel colors that you can play with for business casual…

But these colors should not be too funny, glowing, or bright.

What colors should you wear for business casual?

The best colors that you can wear for business casual are white, navy, grey, black and brown.

All of these colors are easy to pair with other pieces,

They look very polished and elegant together.

And most importantly, you will look professional with outfits made in those colors.

Smart Casual vs Business Casual

That seems pretty difficult to answer in my own words. So, let me borrow some words from the Oxford Dictionary, and then I’ll explain how you can find a difference between these two.

Business Casual is a style of clothing that is less formal than traditional business wear, but is still intended to give a professional and businesslike impression.”

Smart Casual is a “neat, conventional, yet relatively informal in style, especially as worn to conform to a particular dress code“.

Both definitions are from the Oxford Dictionary as I already said. Yeah, we have actual meanings of them, but it`s still hard to understand.

So, here’s the answer. It’s true they have “casual” in the title, but none of them means informal clothing style. In fact, both of them offer a casual way to wear formal outfits at the office. What about differences?

business casual

The thing is, smart casual is more flexible than business casual.

While business casual allows you to showcase your personality, by adding accessories and more details to the formal outfit. If you are still struggling to find out the differences between them, check out the table below.

What To WearBusiness CasualSmart Casual
Formal Outfits
Flexible
Colors grey, brown, white, light-blue Dark: red, green, navy
Patterned✔ very simple
Textured
Suit
Blazer
Cardigan
Accessories
Jewelry
Backpack
High Heels

If you want to find a complete guide to the smart casual dress code, check out those articles.

You can find articles about smart casual summer outfits, smart casual outfits for 50 year old woman, and smart casual plus size women’s outfits.

You will get an idea of what a smart casual dress code is after reading all of these articles.

You will get good inspiration as well.

Does Business Casual Include Jeans

Now you need to be more careful before getting the right answer. I am saying this, because, there are many possible answers to this topic. You can believe me or not, but here is what I personally think.

Yes, it does. You can wear the right pair of jeans in business casual.

I mean, of course, if your work office allows you to do that. Let me share some tips to stay in that exact line. Don`t go too formal and also don`t go too casual.

So, I think, I don`t need to explain that you have to avoid wearing ripped jeans in the office. But also, here are some things you need to consider if you have a meeting or go to work.

Jeans Color

For sure. If you are going to wear jeans to work in a business casual dress code, try to choose very simple colors.

Like, white, black, blue, or grey. As you already have seen in the table above, colorful clothes are not for that exact attire.

Texture

Since ripped jeans are a big NO here, you need to have more classy textured jeans.

In texture, I mean the print on your jeans, not a material. So, just make it simple, go for the darkest colors without any stripes or wipes on them.

Style

There are various types of denim jeans you can usually wear.

But for the office business casual, straight, skinny, bootcut, and flared jeans are the perfect options.

Also, consider the rise of your jeans. I mean, you need to wear mid-rise or high waisted jeans. Others, which stay below your belly button, are not just for the office. Keep that in mind!

Follow these tips and believe me, everyone will look at you as a professional and a person who is willing to be serious in what you do.

Are Leggings Appropriate For Business Casual?

That`s another quite debatable question since people have different opinions about them. But it depends on many things as well.

You may think about wearing leggings at work if your office lets you do so. Another way, stop looking for a solution. It may lead you to get unemployed. I don’t really wanna happen that to you.

But for those, who can wear leggings for business casual, (according to official rules), I have some tips you can follow.

Leggings are not pants, that’s right.

But you can wear them as pants with long tops or tunics. Or you can wear a jacket and blazer over leggings to hide parts that are not right to be shown. However, I didn`t answer the actual question.

And here it is. No, I don’t recommend you wear leggings at work. Especially since it has nothing to do with the business casual dress code.

Yes, there are some ways you can still manage to go to the office with leggings, but consider the thing that leggings are more than casual. So, it doesn’t actually fit the line we mentioned above.

But if you are looking for leather outfits to wear outside of your office, check out my post about it.

Business Casual For Women – Do’s And Don’ts

Do’s

  • Pencil or Midi Skirts
  • Shirts, Blouses
  • Sweaters
  • Jeans, Tailored Pants
  • Dresses
  • Blazer
  • Trench Coat (Winter)
  • Solid Colors
  • Classy Patterns
  • Quilted Jacket
  • Suit
  • Pumps, High Heels, Flats, Oxfords, Ankle Boots, Sandals
  • Statement Jewelry, Watch
  • Handbag
  • Natural Makeup

Don’ts

  • Short Skirts
  • Huge Print Tops
  • Tank Tops, Sheer Tops
  • Leggings, Boyfriend jeans, Ripped Jeans…Shorts
  • Floral Print Maxi Dresses
  • Cardigan
  • Colorful Outfits
  • Off-Shoulder Tops
  • Sneakers, Tennis Shoes, Flip Flops, Open Toe Sandals
  • Bangle Bracelet, Huge Earrings
  • Backpack
  • Sunglasses
  • No Makeup
  • Huge Cuts

What Does Business Casual Look Like

So, after getting so much information let me show you some examples, of what does business casual dress code looks like. It`s easier to understand when you have a visual imagination in your mind.

Image source: Pinterest

business casual
business casual
business casual
business casual
business casual
business casual
business casual
business casual
business casual
business casual
business casual
business casual

Sharing is caring!

Leave a comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *