Business casual may sound like an oxymoron, but it’s actually a popular dress code for workplaces around the country. While guidelines can get blurred depending on industry and the boss’s personal preference, some rules hold true no matter where you are. Building a wardrobe of closet staples like a black blazer and chinos will give you go-to options that anchor your ensemble. Add items like color and print to show your personal style while maintaining a professional look.
Business Casual Guidelines
Before you even think about choosing specific pieces, all workplace apparel should be clean, pressed and tailored to fit. Dirty, wrinkled or ill-fitting clothing never looks sharp.
Some rules, like no jeans allowed apply to business casual dress code for both men and women. No flip-flop sandals, logo T-shirts, shorts and exposed undergarments are other gender-neutral guidelines. Woven slacks or khaki chinos with a collared button-down shirt are staples for guys. A knee-length pencil skirt, blazer or cardigan and collared blouse are versatile and appropriate pieces for ladies. Footwear should also be clean and preferably leather, but guys can forego oxfords for loafers, and ladies don’t need heels.
Variations on Business Casual
Certain situations can present variations on basic business casual attire. If you’re going into a big meeting but your boss says it’s still “business casual”, add to your look without being overdressed. Guys can wear separates like navy slacks and a gray tweed sport coat with a plaid buttoned shirt and brown loafers. Gals can add a black blazer over a pencil skirt and chiffon blouse with a statement necklace and pumps. These ensembles are still business casual, yet have that extra-polished look. Events like a birthday or themed party make showing personal style more appropriate; sport a western-style collared shirt with cowboy boots under your chinos if that’s your taste.
Business Casual Looks for Him
Get more versatility out of your suits by breaking them up into separates for business casual attire. Pair the black or navy pants from your suit with a striped button-down shirt and loafers. A light tan suede loafer makes a more comfortable choice in hot summer months. For colder winter weather, team the blazer from your favorite suit with wool trousers. Layer a button-down shirt under a V-neck sweater for added warmth. Leather ankle boots or oxfords keep feet warmer for the season. Add accessories like a quality leather or metal watch to polish your look, but a tie is not necessary.
Business Casual Looks for Her
Closet staples like a black blazer, pencil skirt, tailored pair of slacks and classic pump save time when dressing for work. Wear your black blazer with gray slacks, a red silk shell and white leather pump for a smart look. A sheath dress with wide shoulder coverage and just above-the-knee length hemline will keep you cool for summer. Add polish with a slim belt at the natural waist and a peep-toed pump. Wear sheer black tights under your pencil skirt for more warmth in winter. Opt for a cozy cashmere cardigan over a tailored button-down shirt and a heeled ankle bootie to complete the cold-weather look.
References and ResourcesBusiness Insider: Here's What Business Casual Really Means
Forbes: What Is Business Casual?
GQ: The New Business Casual
Emily Post: Attire Guide: Dress Codes From Casual to White Tie
Washington Post: Career Coach: How to Avoid Confusion Over Dressing "Business Casual"