What exactly “business casual” means can vary from office to office (and city to city), but there are some general guidelines you can keep in mind to help you navigate your office dress code.
Read on for answers to business casual questions for women and examples of what to wear.
Are Leggings Business Casual?
One of the most common questions I see around dressing for the office is “Are leggings business casual?”
Put simply, no: Unless you’re a fitness instructor, avoid wearing leggings to work.
There are plenty of alternative options to leggings that are just as easy to wear and look much more professional.
Instead of leggings, I recommend trousers that aren’t made of denim.
If comfort is your top concern, look for something in a lightweight material with a bit of stretch to it, so they move with you (without looking like yoga pants!).
There are even professional-looking drawstring waist trousers, like the ones I’m wearing in this photo.
Are Jeans Business Casual?
“Are jeans business casual?” is another one of the most common questions I hear around office style.
Jeans are only business casual if your office explicitly allows them, such as on “Casual Friday” (if you aren’t sure, ask your manager or HR department).
When it comes to styling jeans for Casual Friday, it’s really less about the jeans themselves and more about what you pair them with.
For instance, here are three looks I put together with the same pair of jeans:
The far left and middle pictures are great outfits for business casual, but the far right picture feels much more casual due to the choice of top and footwear.
Here I dressed up jeans with a nice sweater in a luxe material, and the additional structure of the blazer makes it feel appropriate for the office.
You can make jeans feel more appropriate for a business casual setting by pairing them with more “dressed up” items.
In the photo below, I paired them with loafers and a blouse, which lends a much more professional feel than if I was wearing flip flops and a sweatshirt.
Are Black Jeans Business Casual?
Are black jeans business casual? Black jeans aren’t typically considered business casual because they’re made of denim.
Instead of wearing black jeans, opt for trousers made of cotton, wool, or a poly blend.
They’re just as versatile and will look more professional for an office setting.
Is a Sweater Business Casual?
What about tops — is a sweater business casual?
Yes! Sweaters are an essential for most business casual wardrobes.
Look for sweaters in beautiful luxurious fabrics like cashmere or wool, and in core colors instead of bold prints (like a Fair Isle sweater, which reads much more casual).
This will ensure you can get lots of mileage out of it for both business casual and more casual weekend looks.
Here I layered a gray cashmere turtleneck in a couple different ways that would be perfect for a business casual setting. Paired with comfortable drawstring trousers, this is a great outfit formula to keep in mind.
Here’s another outfit where I pair a core color sweater with trousers. When a sweater is the right color and fits you well, you’ll be able to wear it on its own, too.
Need help assembling the perfect business casual wardrobe? Check out my women’s personal styling services.
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Cassandra Sethi is a NYC Personal Stylist and Image Consultant. After working over 15 years in the Fashion Industry, most recently as a Senior Buyer for Equinox, she created her business, Next Level Wardrobe – a luxury personal shopping service for successful professionals.
Next Level Wardrobe has been featured in Wall Street Journal, Today and CNN. See here.