It’s the dress code that’s taking over our workplaces (and our screens), but what exactly is business casual? We get it: you want to dress to impress — without overdressing. But the dos and don’ts of business casual attire for both men and women can feel like a huge question mark. So to help you wow at your next Monday meeting, we’re breaking down everything you need to know about business casual attire, including a few examples and must-have pieces to nail the look!
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How is business casual defined?
Business casual is defined as a dress code that blends professional attire with a more relaxed style. It’s a step down from traditional formal attire, while still being appropriate for a workplace setting or dressy event.
With business casual attire, you can inject a bit of personality and flair into your wardrobe — without going into full-on casual Friday mode. Think of it as a polished, yet comfortable, version of professional dressing!
Is it ok to wear jeans for business casual?
These days, it is typically ok to wear jeans for a business casual dress code, as long as they are classic, tailored, and professional. To achieve the right balance, avoid wearing anything too distressed, ripped, or overly casual.
What shoes are best for a business casual look?
The best shoes for a business casual look walk the line between formal and laid-back. While you have the freedom to get a little creative with your footwear, you should always opt for shoes that elevate your ensemble and give your outfit a polished vibe.
For women, the best shoes to pair with your business casual attire include closed-toe pumps, dressy boots, and stylish flats. For men, trendy oxfords, classic loafers, and elevated boots are no brainers for a dapper look.
Ultimately, you should opt for shoes that exude sophistication, without sacrificing comfort. Trade stilettos for short block heels, and look for shoes with a leather or suede finish. While classic colors like black and brown are a fool-proof choice, business casual attire means you can also play around with brighter hues to showcase your personality — as long as they maintain a professional look.
Looking for a sophisticated pair of pumps that you can wear all day long? We’ve got you covered with our list of comfortable heels — including several work-appropriate options!
Is it ok to wear sneakers for business casual?
While it can sometimes be ok to wear sneakers for a business casual look, it’s best to evaluate the formality of the occasion before slipping on your favorite pair of Nikes. For a laid-back office environment or daytime work event, you can get away with rocking a sophisticated pair of sneakers with your business casual attire. But for dressier occasions and evening affairs, you may want to stick with loafers or heels instead.
If you do decide to rock a pair of kicks, choose sneakers with a sleek silhouette and minimalist design to match the corporate dress code. Avoid vibrant colors or any sneakers that resemble a running shoe — instead, aim for clean and neutral shoes that pair well with other business casual attire.
Does business casual include open-toed shoes?
For most traditional work environments and dressy corporate occasions, open-toed shoes are often considered too casual for business casual attire. This is especially true for shoes like sandals and flip-flops, but even polished peep-toe pumps may be off-limits. To put your best, ahem, foot forward, skip the open-toed styles and opt for more formal shoes to elevate your entire office ensemble!
The Best Places to Buy Business Casual Attire
To help you create your ultimate professional capsule wardrobe, here are our favorite places to buy business casual attire for both men and women!
- Banana Republic: With a polished and trendy edge, Banana Republic has a killer range of classic (and affordable) business casual attire for men and women. For the ladies, their collection of trousers, sweaters, and other wardrobe must-haves is simply to die for. And for men, they have the best button-down shirts and casual-meets-corporate pants for all your business casual attire needs!
- J.Crew: No one does office-ready style quite like J.Crew! They have some of our favorite examples of chic business casual attire for both men and women, with a mix of preppy staples and more modern pieces. And also prepare to fall in love with their cashmere collection — perfect work attire for the colder months!
- Express: If you’re searching for business casual staples that you can easily mix-and-match with your other attire, Express has you covered. We love their work wear collection for women, with business casual attire that also doubles as your new trendy closet essentials. And the same goes for their business casual attire for men….just wait until you see their range of modern suits!
- Anthropologie: For women, give your business casual attire a fashion-forward upgrade with Anthropologie! With their work appropriate options, you can turn the office into your own personal runway. From chic shirt dresses to bright blouses, they have a little bit of everything — and we’re also huge fans of their sophisticated accessories and shoes!
What is Business Casual Attire for Women?
For women, finding business casual attire that’s both appropriate and stylish can feel impossible. But with the right essentials, plus some fun pieces thrown in to show off your personal style, it’s totally achievable — and we have examples to prove it!
Below, we’re breaking down the absolute must-haves for business casual attire for women, as well as the styles you should avoid. We’ve also rounded up a few examples of our favorite business casual staples and accessories to help you find the attire that makes you want to get dressed for work every morning. Let’s get into it!
Essential Pieces for Women Business Casual Attire
The best business casual attire for women is a mix of timeless and trendy pieces that look professional, while still showing off your personal style. Keep scrolling for the wardrobe essentials you need to build your ultimate corporate closet!
- Tailored Trousers: A pair of well-tailored trousers is a must-have when it comes to business casual attire for women. You can’t go wrong with versatile colors like black, navy, or tan, as well as classic styles like a straight or slightly tapered leg (we’re also currently loving a trendy wide leg moment!). And of course, make sure your trousers fit impeccably for the ultimate sophisticated look.
- Stylish Blouses + Button-Down Shirts: Since you’re keeping your bottoms more neutral, your tops are where you can have some fun with your business casual ensemble. Add some personality to your look with blouses that feature a playful (but subtle) print, a flowy fabric, or a pop of color. Just make sure the neckline is modest and the sleeves go beyond your shoulders. Stylish button-down shirts are also a sleek and sophisticated option for business casual attire for women, especially if you’re dressing up a more casual ensemble!
- Sophisticated Dresses + Skirts: If your style is more feminine, swap your trousers for a knee-length dress or skirt instead! These are timeless essentials for business casual attire for women, and they’re especially great for the summer months. For your skirt, stick to classic colors like black or gray and fool-proof styles like a pencil skirt or a pleated midi. For dresses, you can mix it up with bright colors, prints, and fabrics — as long as they look professional and sophisticated.
- Versatile Blazers: Don’t overlook the power of a well-fitted blazer! While you don’t have to wear a blazer with every outfit to meet the dress code guidelines, it is a great staple to have on hand for dressier occasions or any time you want to look extra sophisticated. Again, neutral colors are your best bet, but we also love adding a fun pastel or patterned blazer into the mix for a pop of personality!
- Classic Shoes: As we mentioned above, classic and comfortable shoes are a staple for business casual attire for women. Invest in some closed-toe pumps with a moderate heel for a dressier look, as well as a pair of stylish flats or sophisticated loafers for day-to-day comfort.
- Chic Accessories: Finally, elevate your business casual attire with some fashion-forward accessories, like elegant earrings, a chic necklace, or a stylish belt. With these pieces, you can show off your personal style, while still nailing the corporate look. And don’t forget your bag! A structured bag or leather tote is not only a statement piece, but it’s also a functional accessory. Choose a neutral color that goes with everything and a style that can hold allllll of your essentials.
What Doesn’t Qualify as Business Casual Attire for Women – What Not to Wear
Sometimes, it’s easier to understand a business casual dress code with examples of what not to wear. While we’re all about embracing your personal style, there are a few fashion faux pas that should be avoided in a work or corporate setting. So, let’s dive into what not to wear when it comes to business casual attire for women!
- Athletic Wear: If you’re anything like us, you probably live in your yoga pants when you’re not at the office. But unfortunately, they don’t quite fit the bill for business casual attire for women. Anything you would wear to the gym or the yoga studio is a no-go for a corporate dress code, including running shoes, hoodies, and sweatpants. Luckily, a loose midi dress can be just as comfy — and way cuter!
- Casual T-Shirts: Save those casual graphic tees, tank tops, and slogan shirts for your weekend outings! For business casual attire for women, stick to more polished and structured tops, like trendy blouses, button-down shirts, and fitted sweaters instead.
- Laid-Back Denim: We mentioned earlier that jeans can be acceptable business casual attire for women — but not all denim applies to this rule. Stick to dark-wash or black jeans with a tailored fit versus anything distressed, super light-wash, or overly baggy. Denim tops and jackets are also usually off-limits for an office dress code….trade them for a cute blazer instead!
- Informal Footwear: There’s nothing better than throwing on your favorite flip-flops once summer hits, but unfortunately they’re not part of the business casual attire dress code for women. Avoid anything open-toed or overly informal, like sandals or athletic shoes. For the next best thing, opt for a chic pair of closed-toe mules or ballet flats!
- Revealing Clothing: Business casual attire for women typically calls for a more modest look, so it’s best to stay away from anything that could be considered too revealing when dressing for work. Avoid plunging v-necks, mini skirts, backless designs, or strapless/cropped tops — unless you’re pairing them with a more conservative blazer or cardigan (great for a day-to-night look!).
Examples of Business Casual Attire for Women
Now that you know the essentials of business casual attire for women, it’s time to put them all together! The best part about corporate dressing is mixing and matching your different pieces to create something chic and stylish. Here are a few examples of how to wear business casual attire for women in a way that’s trendy, professional, and boss babe-approved!
1. Women’s Sweater + Trousers Work Wear
We LOVE a good pair of black trousers — you can easily dress them up with a chic button-down shirt or tone them down with a more casual sweater, as pictured above! Choose a style that’s both trendy and timeless (like these high-waisted wide leg trousers), and opt for a lightweight sweater that’s equal parts comfy and cute.
This is one of our favorite examples of business casual attire for women, because it perfectly balances the corporate vibes of trousers with the laid-back style of a cozy sweater. Complete the look with sleek and stylish accessories like white sneakers and a black leather belt, and you’re pretty much golden!
2. Midi Dress Corporate Outfit for Women
Talk about dressing to impress! If you’re looking for examples of how to rock a dress as business casual attire, this one is SO GOOD. It blends a professional silhouette (peep the sophisticated collar!) with a funky pattern. The result? An outfit that ensures you’re the most stylish person at the morning meeting.
To take this dress to the ultimate business casual level, style it with some chic closed-toe pumps and a stylish leather tote bag. It would also look super cute for fall paired with suede knee-high boots!
3. Blazer + Jeans Work Wear for Women
Introducing: one of the best examples of how to dress up a pair of jeans with your business casual attire! These dark-wash Levi’s look just as chic as a pair of trousers, but with a more laid-back (and comfortable) vibe. Styled with a button-down shirt and a tan blazer, they’re definitely office approved.
Want to add a more stylish flair to your office uniform? This outfit looks super fashion-forward with a strapless corset top layered over the classic white shirt. And with kitten heels as a finishing touch, it’s the type of outfit you can wear straight from your desk to after-work drinks!
What is Business Casual Attire for Men?
When it comes to business casual attire for men, the challenge is finding the balance between too casual and too formal. Is a blazer too much? Can you style a t-shirt with your trousers? Are you supposed to wear a tie?
With corporate dress codes changing so much in the past few years, we understand your struggle. That’s why we’re breaking down all the do’s and don’ts of business casual attire for men, including some examples to help you put the rules to practice. So sit back, relax, undo that top button on your dress shirt, and let’s dive in!
Essential Pieces for Mens Business Casual Attire
It seems like every successful business man has a work “uniform” to help him look polished and professional on the daily. So, to help you create your own personal uniform, here are the essential pieces of business attire for men to add to your work wardrobe!
- Button-Down and Collared Shirts: No business casual attire for men is complete without a few high-quality button-down shirts. Opt for well-fitted styles in classic colors like white, light blue, and subtle patterns (like gingham or stripes). And for something more casual, collared shirts like polos are also business casual approved, as long as you keep the rest of your attire sleek and professional!
- Tailored Trousers: A pair of well-tailored trousers is an absolute must in your business casual arsenal. Choose versatile colors like navy, gray, or tan, as well as universally flattering styles like a straight or tapered leg. When it comes to business casual attire for men, this is the piece you’ll be reaching for most often, so it’s worth investing in a pair you truly love!
- Classic Blazers: Instantly elevate your office outfits with a sophisticated tailored blazer. While it’s not a requirement for business casual attire for men, a modern suit jacket is perfect for the days you want to take your ‘fit to the next level. Pair it with more casual pieces like dark-wash jeans or sneakers to achieve the ultimate business casual balance, or style it with a button-down shirt and trousers for dressier occasions.
- Neutral Chinos: If you’re going for a more relaxed business casual look, chinos are the perfect alternative to tailored trousers. Keep them classic with colors like khaki, beige, or navy, and easily dress them up or down, depending on the occasion. As a modern staple for business casual attire for men, chinos will keep you comfy all day, without sacrificing style. Talk about a win-win!
- Sophisticated Sweaters: Sweaters are one of our favorite pieces of business casual attire for men — they’re sophisticated, without feeling formal, and are perfect for adding layers to your ensemble. Skip the super chunky styles and instead aim for high-quality fabrics like merino wool or cashmere in classic colors such as navy, gray, or burgundy. We especially love them styled over button-down shirts for an ultra sophisticated look!
- Dress Shoes: Classic-meets-casual dress shoes like oxfords and loafers are a sleek finishing touch for business casual attire for men. You can’t go wrong with timeless colors like black or brown, as well as high-quality materials like leather and suede. (P.S. If you choose to rock sneakers instead, make sure they’re extra dapper, like these classy leather ones!)
- Elevated Accessories: While often overlooked, stylish accessories are definitely an essential when it comes to business casual attire for men. A quality belt will instantly tie your entire outfit together — just match it to the color of your shoes, and you’re pretty much golden! Similarly, a sleek and sophisticated watch adds a touch of elegance to your business casual look and is a great way to show off your personal style.
The ultimate finishing touch to your business casual attire? A sleek watch. Here are our favorite styles for men, from designer picks to sporty faves!
What Doesn’t Qualify as Business Casual Attire for Men – What Not to Wear
So, what about the don’ts? To help you avoid any sartorial missteps at the office, here’s a quick list of what not to wear when it comes to business casual attire for men!
- Basic T-Shirts: We get it — if we could rock our favorite t-shirt on the daily, we would. But when it comes to business casual attire for men, even the nicest t-shirt is typically too casual. If you still want the same comfort, swap your band tee for an elevated polo shirt or sweater instead!
- Athletic Clothing: Even if you’re going straight from the office to the gym, athletic wear is off-limits for business casual attire for men. Avoid wearing athletic shorts, track pants, sweatpants, hoodies, or running sneakers in a corporate setting. It’s all about dressing to impress!
- Informal Jeans: Always tread carefully when wearing jeans for a business casual dress code. While dark-wash denim can be acceptable business casual attire for men, anything too informal (like light-wash, distressed, faded, or baggy jeans) will come across as unprofessional.
- Shorts: Showing a little leg is typically a no-go when it comes to business casual attire for men. Leave the shorts for the weekend, and instead opt for full-length trousers and chinos. For those hot summer days, we recommend pants with a linen blend to keep you feeling and looking cool!
- Ties: Here’s the good news — it’s typically not necessary to wear a tie with business casual attire for men! Save your ties for more formal occasions that call for traditional business attire or formal dress codes.
- Casual Accessories: Accessories can be a hit or miss with your corporate uniform. While belts, watches, and subtle accessories like a simple chain are fine, baseball caps, excessive jewelry, and super bright socks should typically be left at home. For business casual attire for men, less is always more!
Examples of Business Casual Attire for Men
Once you have a closet of office approved staples, styling your business casual attire should feel way easier. Stick to a collection of neutral pieces that are easy to mix and match, and go from there! To help you get started, here are a few examples of sleek and stylish business casual attire for men that you can recreate starting Monday morning.
1. Men’s Button-Down Shirt + Trousers Work Wear
It’s the corporate uniform that will never steer you wrong: a classic button-down shirt paired with some sleek modern trousers. If you’re looking for examples of business casual attire for men that you can repeat over and over again, this is it!
Just stock up on a few different colors of shirts and trousers, and mix and match to your heart’s content. Getting dressed in the morning has truly never been easier!
2. Polo + Trousers Corporate Outfit for Men
For more laid-back examples of business casual attire for men, we love this polo + trousers combo! Kind of like a corporate version of your favorite t-shirt, a polo is the perfect in-between of business and casual — especially in classic colors like black, navy blue, or grey.
Wear it to work with tailored trousers and sophisticated loafers (as pictured above), then repurpose it for the weekend with a pair of jeans. You can also stock up on some long-sleeved options for the colder months, or layer a sweater on top for a trendy look!
3. Men’s Blazer + Jeans Work Wear
Who can pass up the chance to wear jeans to work?! This is one of the best examples of how to pair jeans with your other business casual attire — without it looking too informal.
First, find a pair of dark-wash jeans that fit great and don’t have any wear and tear. Then, style them with classic work wear, like a navy blazer and a white polo. Finish the look with a dapper belt and either dressy sneakers or classic loafers, and you’re ready to take on any meeting that comes your way!
Nail Your Business Casual Look With Our Most Popular Fashion Guides
To help you take your business casual attire to the next level, we’ve created some must-have accessory guides for both men and women!
For women, check out this list of the most stylish birthstone necklaces for every month. And if rings are more your style, we also have a round-up of those! To complete your look, don’t miss our curated list of the most comfortable heels for every occasion, including some trendy office-approved options.
For men, achieve an ultra dapper look by pairing your business casual attire with one of these stylish watches. And for the ultimate finishing touch, stock up on one of our top colognes for men, as rated by our GWS readers!
Need any more advice for nailing an office dress code? Let us know in the comments below!