6 Tips to Perfecting Business Casual: A Style Guide for Women

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With the semester coming to a start or for some nearing the time when you have to start working your first big girl job, I have decided to put together this little guide to make the world of “Business Casual” a little more navigable. After years of attending professional events--whether it be conferences, mixers, interviews, business meetings or just working in the realm of business casual, I have amassed some knowledge as well as tips and tricks to mastering this oxymoron of a dress code.

Fun Fact: I actually created this guide a year ago right before my sorority’s national conference and never really intended to publish it for the world to see--I mean other than my sorority sisters. However, lately, I have been getting a lot more questions than usual about how to dress business casual, yet still look fashionable, so I figured why not just publish this for the world to see?

So here we go…

First things first: What exactly is Business Casual?

Let’s face it BUSINESS CASUAL CAN BE TRICKY. It is a complete Oxymoron and a little difficult to define. Since there is no exact definition of what constitutes as business casual, it can be a little difficult to determine what is appropriate to wear. I mean seriously, who came up with this?!

In a nutshell, “Business Casual” is essentially a mix between formal professional attire and your regular weekend attire (e.g., everyday clothing items) while still ensuring that you look professional and pulled together.

Still lost on what exactly this constitutes?

Here are

6 Tips to Perfecting Business Casual:

In this guide, I have included a couple tips and outfit ideas that may help you in deciding on what to wear the next time you see the words Business Casual under dress code

1. Steer clear of denim.

Yes there are instances where your workplace might consider denim, “business casual”, but in most instances it is a bit too casual. Instead, opt for bottoms in cotton, silk or blends.

2. Closed-toe shoes are the way to go.

Your little toes peeking out of your wedges or a strappy sandal isn’t exactly the most professional thing. Avoid sandals and flip-flops at all costs!

Instead, try flats (rounded or pointed toe), closed toe heels or pumps (try to stick to 3 inches and below), or loafers.

3. Clothing should be clean and pressed.

This is pretty much a given right? Right. But you’d be surprised at the amount of people that still show up to work or professional events with wrinkled clothing. If you can’t bother to clean and press your clothes, then people can’t bother to take you seriously either. The more put together, the better--goodbye wrinkles!

4. Avoid neon or shiny.

Yes, we get it, you like letting color speak about your personality--but save it for after work or during your free time! Disco style was left in the 70's for a reason ;)

Instead, try small or statement accessory (notice it’s singular--so just one if it’s already a statement). The daintier and more elegant, the better!

5. If you could wear it to the club, then it is not Business Casual!  

This is probably the biggest Business Casual faux pas I see girls commit All. The. Time. Just because your top is "dressy" doesn't mean it's business friendly. Now is not the time to show off how hard you have been working to get those 6 pack abs. 

Modesty is Key.

6. NO RIPS, TEARS OR LOUNGE WEAR.

If you can wear it to the gym or the beach, it's not for business! Need I say more?

Do’s and Don'ts

Tops

INAPPROPRIATE ATTIRE:

-Tank Tops, Midriff Tops, Shirts with Potentially Offensive Words, Terms, Logos, Pictures, Cartoon, or Slogans, Halter Tops, Tops with Bare Shoulders, Sweatshirts, T-Shirts

TIP: Keep your Neckline somewhat modest with a collared, boat neck, square neck or turtleneck

APPROPRIATE ATTIRE:

-Dress Shirts, Dressy Tops, Blouse, Polo's, Turtlenecks, Suit Jackets, (Tailored) Blazer, Knit Shirt or Sweater, Cardigan, Dresses (with an appropriate length)

TIP: Add a Pop of Color to a dull outfit with your Blouses and Tops! Think Pastels, Jewel Tones, Plaids, Muted Florals and Prints (Paisley, Geometric, Polka Dot, Ikat).

Bottoms

INAPPROPRIATE ATTIRE:

-Mini-skirts, Skorts, jeans, sweatpants, exercise pants, bermuda shorts, short shorts, overalls, leggings, and any spandex or other form-fitting pants.

APPROPRIATE ATTIRE:

-Slacks, Pants, Suit Pants, Khakis, Trousers, Skirts (at or below the knee), Cotton or Synthetic Material Pants, Wool Pants, Dressy Capris, Linen Pants, Gabardine Pants.

Tip: Dress and skirt length should be at a length at which you can sit comfortably in public. A good test is if you raise your hand or bend over, no one should be able to see your midriff or behind

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Footwear and Accessories

INAPPROPRIATE ATTIRE:

Footwear

-Sneakers, Flashy Athletic Shoes, Thongs, Flip Flops/Slippers, Sandals, Stilettos, High-Platform Shoes, Basically Any Shoe With An Open Toe.

Accessories

-Hats/Headwear (unless for religious purposes), Over-The-Top Jewelry, Sunglasses

APPROPRIATE ATTIRE:

Footwear

-Flats, Loafers, Boots, Dress Heels (at a conservative heel height), Oxfords

Accessories

-Use Your Judgement, should be in good taste. Think: would you wear it to an interview?

When in Doubt…

KEEP IT 50% FORMAL (as in business formal attire)

For Example: If you are going to wear a more casual looking dress throw on a sharp blazer over it and pair it with a pair of pointed toe flats.

One Of The Best, Most Simple Business Casual Outfits?

A simple pair of trousers or slacks paired with a nice blouse (I always go for Floral or some time of print) with a Cardigan layered over it. Top it off with Ballet Flats or Oxfords and you are set with your "Business Casual" Attire!

Hope this helps with your next Business Casual feat!

Til’ Next Time,

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