Guidelines for Dressing Business Casual for Women

Now that summer is in full-swing, we have a tendency to want to dress more casually. This is true in all facets of life whether they be play, travel, or work. While no one really cares how you dress when you are playing or traveling, aside from dressing appropriately, people do care how you dress at work. There is a difference between business casual and just plain casual. In fact, dressing too casually can even cause some bosses to think that you are not serious about your job and therefore not promote you. On top of that, the more casually you dress, the more casually people will treat you in the office. This is bound to cause some, completely avoidable, tension in the workspace.

Unfortunately, there is a bit of a double standard about business casual for men and women. Business casual for women needs to be a little more business and a little less casual. Here are some tips to maneuver the murky waters of what business casual for women means.

First of all, do not even consider those really comfortable but ripped jeans (you should actually avoid jeans altogether unless they are a dark wash and high-waisted). All seams should be finished, all holes patched, and all frays cut. Also, avoid clothing with writing on it, unless the writing is the company logo. Keeping this in mind, let’s consider what is considered appropriate such as slacks, skirts, dresses, blouses, and shoes/accessories.

Clothing: The fabric of your clothes can be anywhere from luxurious to linen or cotton. Make sure that your clothing fits appropriately, meaning not too tight, too short, or too low-cut. Under no circumstances should you wear something see-through unless you intend upon wearing a camisole underneath it. The best way to dress business casual is to wear only half of a suit. This does not suggest that you should walk around half-naked, but rather only wear the slacks or skirt of a suit and not the blazer. Another alternative is to wear the blazer over a simple cotton dress.

Shoes and Accessories: First of all, stockings are not necessary in the summer and it is way too hot for them anyhow. Your shoes should, however, still be nice. Sandals, especially flip-flops, should only make appearances at the company picnic or outing. If you don’t want to be stuck in your work stilettos every day of the summer, try wearing some wedges or strappy heels. They are more comfortable anyway and infinitely much more summery. Your other accessories should be tasteful. The general rule is to wear one statement piece and keep everything else small.

This means that if you choose to wear huge, dangling earrings, don’t wear a chunky necklace as well. This is true of your make-up too; if you want to focus on your eyes then wear a nude lipstick and vice versa. A great way to make an outfit more casual is to switch up your laptop bag. Try bringing one in a fun color instead of just a black protective case. Remember, your laptop bag and other accessories, do not have to match what you’re wearing. 100%

Business Casual Examples

In today’s modern world, there are no longer many work settings where one must wear a suit and tie to work every single day. Some work places have, in the last 25 years or so, been deemed “business casual” or many have a business casual day each Friday. But what exactly does this somewhat subjective term mean? What should you wear to a business casual office?

When determining what to wear to work, you will want to put a little more focus on the word “business” and a little less on the word “casual.” This term was created in order to prompt people to be more comfortable in the workplace. But you still need to look professional every day. So if the term were slightly more accurate, it would perhaps be called “business comfort” instead. Key pieces for this type of wardrobe are:

Flat front pants in cotton or wool, in black, gray and khaki.
Button down shirts in pastels, pinstripes, and dark/brights such as aubergine and teal.
Lightweight knits such as cotton, wool and cashmere.
Patterned ties.
Sport jackets.
“Non-sneaker” shoes such as boat shoes, penny loafers, or derby shoes.

One of the keys to creating a stylish and appropriate business casual wardrobe is look for staple pieces that you can mix and match. For example, a pair of charcoal gray wool pants can be worn with a lightweight knit, a button down shirt and tie, or a button down shirt with a sport jacket. A solid colored cashmere v-neck sweater can be worn over a button down shirt and tie, layered over a ribbed cotton crewneck, or worn underneath a sport jacket. A button down shirt with a light pin stripe can be worn by itself with the sleeves rolled up (on a hot day), worn with a tie, layered underneath a sweater vest, or worn with a suit.

Wait… a suit, you ask? In a business casual setting? Yes, there are times when a suit is definitely still appropriate and even warranted. If you are going to be meeting with clients or if you have a business meeting, it’s time to suit up. Earth toned suits such as those in brown, khaki and olive green are generally regarded as more casual than those in black or navy. You can also look for a suit with an interesting pattern, such as light plaid or pinstripe. A key to appearing a little more relaxed and casual in a suit is also definitely in what you wear under it. You should avoid character or novelty ties. But this is a good time and place to experiment with different tie styles. Try wearing a tie in a lively color such as purple, mauve, orange or yellow. This is a great way to add a touch of personality to your outfit, and it appears much less conservative than, say, a traditional navy and red diagonally striped tie.

The bottom line to building an appropriate business casual wardrobe is that while it is supposed to be “business comfort,” you are still in a work place. It is a great idea to wear ties with a bit of color in them, to casually roll up the sleeves of your button down shirt to your elbows, or to wear a sport jacket with a pair of khakis or wool pants instead of a suit. However, it is not a good idea to wear tee shirts with written slogans or sports teams on them, faded denim, plastic sandals, or anything with holes in it. Remain conservative and professional with your wardrobe, but inject some comfort and creativity into it.