While what counts as “business casual” for men is pretty obvious for men (enjoy your collared button-downs and shoes, guys), the definition of business casual for women is still pretty murky. It really depends on your workplace.
Read on to discover how to navigate what business casual means for women in your workplace, and figure out what to wear to work!
1. Look around you
Take a cue from what you see during the interview. How is your interviewer dressed, and how is everyone else dressed in the office? This can clue you into the expected dress code.
If you’re attending a business conference, you can get some hints from the brochure. How are the people dressed in the photos?
(Feel like extra credit? Look up the conference hashtag on Instagram to see what last year’s attendees wore.)
2. Choose modest tops in classic colors
For business casual tops, we recommend blouses, button-down shirts, sweaters, and turtlenecks. Office-friendly fabrics include cotton, linen, or silk.
It’s always a safe bet to cover your shoulders, but other than that, you can choose whatever sleeve length makes you comfortable. Short sleeves and wide-strapped tanks make good summer business tops. We also love a three-quarter sleeve. They’re flattering on everybody!
You can wear solids or patterned tops, but opt for colors that are easy on the eye vs. something bold and wacky. You won’t go wrong with pastels, jewel tones, or classic black and white.
Pro tip: Undershirts are a lifesaver for those surprisingly sweaty happy hours and nerve-wracking performance reviews. Wick away moisture and scare off sweat stains with one of our NUMI Undershirts, available in several nude shades and styles.
3. Stick to reliable slacks and skirts
Knee-length skirts and slacks are business casual favorites. For your slacks, opt for classic business shades like blues, grays, blacks, and khakis. Skirts should follow suit.
You can branch out with patterns, but use discretion. Some patterns can feel loud in a business environment. Stick to pinstripe, houndstooth, windowpane, and plaid (or floral, for skirts).
If your workplace is a bit more casual, a nice pair of dark wash jeans will work. Just make sure there are no holes!
4. Make life easy with casual dresses
Hate having to piece work outfits together? Let business casual dresses come to the rescue.
Like your business skirts, these should be knee-length. And like your business tops, they should cover your shoulders. A-line and wrap dresses always look sophisticated, and pair well with a blazer and flats or pumps.
5. Closed-toe shoes are essential
Business casual shoes are straightforward: either closed-toe heels and flats. Leave your flip-flops and sneakers at home.
Power pumps can boost your confidence during a meeting. Shorter heels (less than 3 inches) look more professional.
If you feel more comfortable closer to the ground, wear loafers, ballet shoes, or boots.
6. Keep makeup and jewelry minimal
Your main goal with makeup and jewelry is to blend in, rather than distract. A pair of small hoops or studs, paired with a thin pendant necklace and fashion watch, can last you your whole career.
If you want to accessorize a bit more, a silk scarf can add some pizazz while still looking completely professional.
Keep makeup natural and avoid going heavy on the mascara, eyeliner, or lipstick. Any hairstyle that feels tidy and lets you focus on your work is ideal, whether that’s a ponytail, bun, or styled and dried.
7. Invest in basics
Basics make it easy for you to mix and match. Get yourself a blazer that you can throw on over your blouse and jeans to instantly upgrade the professionalism of your outfit. A cardigan is a great backup for chilly days in the office or more casual meetings.
One last tip: When in doubt, dress up. You’ll feel more confident being a bit overdressed than under.