Business casual women clothing is one of these phrases that sound pretty good, but you’re not exactly sure what it means.
Is it business? Is it casual? And what happens when you combine the two? Does it then become something else entirely?
Another issue with the phrase business casual is that it means different things in different industries, companies, and even parts of the world.
One thing is for sure: as opposed to business formal, business casual refers to work clothes that are less formal than business formal, but that still has an air of being professional.
Ok, but what does that mean, then?
It seems the more we dig around in the phrase business casual, the more confused we get…
We feel you, which is why we decided to go all in and give you this ultimate guide for business casual women. Because where there’s a will, there’s a way.
What is business casual not?
The best way to begin to understand the elusive phrase business casual is to understand what it is not.
Business casual is definitely not sandals and a t-shirt. Business casual is not a plunging neckline, bare midriff, or outfits with words or pictures that could possibly be perceived as offensive.
Denim, sweatpants/sweatshirts, and spandex are also not business casual. Ok, we know that’s not what you wanted to hear but please continue to hear us out.
Business casual is not anything you feel might be inappropriate. The rule of thumb is that if it feels inappropriate for work, it probably is.
The next most important thing for business casual women to remember is that they have the best information about what clothing is or is not appropriate for their company, job, and industry. Follow your intuition here!
“Avoid wearing flip-flops, sandals, slippers, open-toed shoes, or eye-catching, blingy footwear to the office. Even though business casual guidelines may seem to be a bit lax, appearing professional and conservative at all times is important,” explains The Balance Careers.
Luckily, on the other end of the scale, wearing a full-on suit is not business casual, either.
So then what is business casual for women?
Ok, now that we got that out of the way (phew!), we can start talking about what business casual for women actually is.
“In a business casual office, athletic shoes and sneakers, loafers, clogs, leather boat shoes, and dress heels or flats are acceptable and may be worn with or without tights or stockings as the weather dictates,” writes The Balance Careers.
“Know your audience,” New York City celebrity stylist Samantha Brown told Ladders earlier this month. “Are you trying to get promoted? It’s important to look like you’re there to work. There are things that are always off-limits, even for business casual, like flip-flops, athleisure, and athletic wear. It’s important to stay within the parameters of a professional appearance.”
“In fact, this dress code guideline is a frequent source of confusion for workers. And it’s not their fault — there really isn’t a clear, standardized definition. Business casual may mean different things in different companies, cities, and industries. And on top of that, understanding the subtle differences between “business” and “business casual” isn’t easy,” the article says.
Business casual women examples
The great thing about business casual clothing is that there are so many examples that fit it and endless outfit options.
One of the most helpful things to do to actually discover the infinite options is to begin with the basics. “A worthy example of a business casual outfit is a well-fitted, attractive blouse worn with pants and finished with stylish black shoes. This trio effectively conveys the idea of business casual without compromising professionalism,” writes The Balance Careers.
Now that we have this basic outfit framework down, we can continue.
Skirts, dresses, and pants are all appropriate for business casual women, as long as they hold to a basic length, according to this poll from Corporette. According to the poll, 31% of readers said just above the knee is fine.
“Formal still rules the day in many client-facing, trust-engendering industries such as law firms, banking, and investment advising. But, employees in offices, department stores, manufacturing, and retail industries dress in business casual clothing,” writes The Balance Careers.
It turns out all business casual clothing was not created equal.
What does seem to be equal is that both business casual women and formal women both seem to prefer more relaxed dress codes. In a recent survey by OfficeTeam, 56% of employees surveyed chose this preference.
In the same survey, 41% of employees admitted they were at least “sometimes” unsure about whether a piece of clothing was office-appropriate or not.
“As work attire skews more casual, the rules about acceptable office wear aren’t always clear-cut,” OfficeTeam’s district president Brandi Britton told The Balance Careers.
How to proceed, then?
“Besides following official company policies, employees should pay attention to the wardrobes of managers and colleagues. If you’re uncertain about whether it’s okay to wear something to work, it’s best to play it safe by skipping it,” Britton continued.
Another survey, which was also by OfficeTeam, found “dressing up for work” continues to go out of style. Half (50%) of senior managers interviewed said employees wear less formal clothing than they did five years ago. In addition, nearly one-third (31%) of office workers stated they would prefer to be at a company with a business casual dress code; 27% favor a casual dress code or no dress code at all. ”
We found this guideline from Connecteam, and we think it’s great: “Many times, women should be wearing a combination of the following in the office: skirt, dress slacks, sweater, blouse, jacket, hosiery, and closed-toe shoes. Some offices might even allow sandals or peep-toe shoes, but double-check before you show up in the office wearing such footwear.”
The article then went on to give an actual list with examples of business casual women clothing examples:
● Top: blouses, elegant sleeveless shirts, vests, blazers, turtle necks, dressy tops, neutral or solid colored sheath dresses, casual dresses and skirts that split at or below the knee.
● Bottom: pencil-cut skirts, knee-length skirts, dress pants (khaki, corduroy, twill, or cotton).
● Shoes: flats, pumps, stilettos, open-toed heels, and closed kitten heels.
● Avoid: strappy sandals, denim, ripped pants or pants with bold prints, bright colors, spaghetti straps, crop tops, sportswear, leggings, off-the-shoulder shirts or dresses, T-shirts, tennis shoes and hooded sweatshirts.
According to SimplyHired, less than half of American workplaces have a dress code, so it looks like business casual is here to stay.
What about interviews, though?
This guide would not be complete without business casual women examples for interviews…
“If you are applying for a job where the work environment boasts of a business casual dress code, you still need to dress appropriately for the job interview. Try to go for a look that is more formal and less business casual. If the interviewer is wearing shorts and a crop top, you shouldn’t do the same! After all, you need to dress to impress during a job interview and that includes showing yourself as a professional,” according to Connecteam.
“Under no circumstance should you be wearing the following to a job interview, whether it’s a casual setting or not!” Connecteam exclaimed, giving this not-to guide as a resource:
● Flip-flops or tennis shoes.
● Undergarments that are exposed.
● Shorts or jeans.
● Short skirts.
● Anything low rise or too tight.
● Anything showing profanity or an offensive saying.
“When choosing an outfit for the interview, remember, when you look good, you feel good. Use your wardrobe choices to give an extra boost of self-confidence,” etiquette expert Diane Gottsman told Connecteam.
“There are times when we all feel less confident about ourselves or our abilities, but dressing well, especially within a professional environment, elevates our confidence and often opens opportunities to work with more colleagues and to take on more projects. Our confidence and self-esteem often come from the reflection we see of ourselves in others,” writes non-profit America’s Future Foundation.
Business casual women should choose a blouse paired with dress pants and try to avoid bright, flashy colors, the Connecteam article went on to say. As our rapidly shifting work culture continues to shift toward an emphasis on company culture and keeping employees happy, business casual women examples have undoubtedly accelerated in quantity.
And for specific business casual women examples showing how business casual women dress for work today, go here.
Business casual clothing is something that, contrary to popular belief, can be figured out, with some effort.
Before you know it, you’ll be using your knowledge of business casual women examples to dress completely like yourself at work, which is the ultimate (and only) goal.