Business casual is a common dress code for professional settings and is a good option if you are unsure about what to wear to an interview, networking event or on your first day at a new company.
When trying to put together a business casual outfit for a professional setting, revisiting the basics can help. This article will provide guidelines and examples of business casual outfit to help you feel comfortable and confident at your next event.
Related: Guide to Business Attire (With Examples)
What is business casual?
Business casual attire is semi-formal professional clothing typically found in office settings. Common business casual clothing items include dress pants, khakis, blouses and tailored blazers that achieve a balance between professional and relaxed.
Different companies, industries and career levels often have their own definitions as to what constitutes business casual. Women's business casual, in particular, can vary by office, profession, location and even season.
There are a few staples, however, that are reliable standards for the business casual dress code. These include:
- Tailored pants, chinos or wide-leg dress pants
- Dark, well-fitting jeans with no rips or holes
- Blouses and button-down tops
- Knee-length (or longer) skirts and dresses
- Jackest and blazers
- Closed-toe heels, loafers or flats
A similar dress code that's often confused with business casual is smart casual. Smart casual and business casual are now two distinct types of business attire. While business casual includes classic business staples such as khakis and button shirts, smart casual adds trendy clothing pieces such as leather sneakers, bold prints and statement accessories. When in doubt, err on the side of business casual until you're familiar with the company's dress code.
Suitable business casual colors for women's attire
The idea of business casual workplace attire is to provide comfortable clothing options while still maintaing a professional appearahce. When planning the perfect business casual wardrobe, think of it as a hybrid between casual and professional wear.
Choose neutral colors such as tan, gray, black, navy, white, brown and beige. Bold colors can add interest to an outfit, but opt for small pieces of color instead of entire outfits. For instance, you might choose a pair of black dress pants and a subtle, pink blouse with black accessories. You can also try an all-neutral outfit with a colorful handbag or shoes and matching belt.
Finding balance with business casual
Above all, try to achieve a balance between casual and formal. Get to know your office and company culture. Tech startup offices, for example, migual than a financial corporation. Look for people who you respect or hold a position you aspire to and mimic their level of formality.
Keep in mind that creating a professional look is more about how you present yourself than what you wear. When in doubt, err on the more professional side during your first week of work and start dressing down if the office seems more laid-back.
Dressing for your job interview
When going on an interview, opt for a more conservative, polished look. A good example of a business casual interview outfit is a pair of loafers, slacks and a pressed, white button-down shirt.
If you prefer, researching the company can sometimes help you determine what to wear. Many organizations feature photos of their employees at work—you should dress one level more formal than what they are wearing. You might also simply ask the HR professional or recruiter you are in contact with.
When wearing a blouse or dress, choose a modest neckline that allows you to comfortable throughout the day. You should be able to move around without checking your neckline constantly to make sure you are covered.
Opt for long sleeves or layered looks if you tend to be cold around the office. Three-quarter-length sleeves are flattering on everyone, while full-length sleeves always look professional and polished. Short sleeves are also a good option during warmer months. Check your office dress code regarding sleeveless tops.
Any dress or skirt you wear to work should be long enough to feel comfortable as you perform activities throughout the day. The best lengths hit at or just above the knee, enabling you to move around with coverage throughout the day.
Business casual shoes
Shoes give you the flexibility to dress outfits up or down. When you invest in a quality pair of comfortable closed-toe flats or heels, you can elevate even the most basic items in your wardrobe.
Flats are the commonly the most comfortable shoe option that looks great with any outfit. If you do not like ballerina flats, you might also consider an Oxford, loafer or pointed flats for more variety.
Pumps, T-straps, slingbacks and wedge heels each offer their own aesthetic to help you create a personalized wardrobe. Consider your office dress code, however, before wearing peep-toe heels, as many employers prefer closed-toed shoes. In general, keep your heels around 3 inches or lower to achieve both comfort and professionalism.
Boots are a good gender-neutral shoe option that can be dressed up or down depending on your needs. You can pair them with dark jeans for a more casual look or skirts, dresses and slacks for formal events. There are also many different types of boots you can choose from such as knee-length, chukka, Chelsea boots and flat or heeled booties.
Whether you're a recent graduate attending an interview or a seasoned professional considering a career change, the right outfit goes a long way toward leaving a lasting impression.