Breaking Down the Business Casual Dress Code

For the second post in our Wear to Work Series, we’re tackling the ambiguous and challenging business casual dress code.

Business casual is the most popular and widely interpreted workplace dress code. You think that would make it easy to figure out what to wear to work, but that’s actually the opposite. Most people struggle with what to wear in a business casual setting due to the wide variety of options available. What is considered appropriate in one setting or industry may not be in another. Business casual environments really require you to take a look around the office and see what is being worn before making your decision.

Business casual is not dressing up your casual clothes, it’s dressing down your business attire.


Ditching the tie was the beginning of business casual for men. Now there are more options.

  • Suit sans tie
  • Trousers with a coordinating jacket
  • Dressed up sweater with a shirt and/or tie
  • Dress shirt and slacks


  • Long sleeved oxfords are the norm. Pattern and color are a great way to show personality and dress down a more formal suit or blazer.
  • Polo shirts are a more casual option that are good for casual Fridays and during the warm summer months.
  • Chinos and khaki pants will be your go-to for daily wear.
  • Loafers and oxfords in leather and suede are a safe bet regardless of setting.
  • Dark wash, non-ripped jeans only if they are explicitly allowed by your company.


One of the most important things for women to remember is that in the workplace if you want to be taken seriously, you have to dress the part. That means keeping necklines modest and hemlines closer to the knee.


  • Blouses and sweaters are pretty standard. They can be either short sleeved or longer. Some companies still don’t allow sleeveless tops, so even if your handbook doesn’t say anything, check with your manager.
  • Cropped pants, full-length slacks, and skirts in solids or muted patterns.
  • Statement jackets are a great option for meetings and conferences to dress up a more casual look.
  • Say no to the athleisure trend. Leggings are not pants and are not appropriate for the workplace.
  • Nice looking flats or heels. Colors and patterns are acceptable here and a great way to inject some color and personality.
  • Have fun with accessories like jewelry and scarves to break up a simpler outfit.

Regardless of what you end up wearing to work, remember your clothes should fit you well, be clean, and wrinkle free so you don’t look sloppy and a mess. \

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