Are Jeans Business Casual? And 10 Other Business Casual Questions For Women Answered

January 8, 2024
Woman dressed for business casual

These days it feels like the new dress code rules change from one day to the next. One minute you’d never dream of wearing anything but trousers and a button-up to work. The next you’re asking yourself, “Wait, are jeans business casual?”

(Spoiler Alert: They can be!)

That’s where a personal stylist comes in. We asked our style experts for their answers to the most common questions they get about business casual dress codes. 

Whether you’re doubting your denim or stressing about sandals, we’re setting the record straight.

1. Are Jeans Business Casual?

Woman dressed in business casual jeans

Yes, jeans are business casual…if your office allows them!

Sorry, we know it’s a half-answer, but the truth is every office is different. If you have any questions about what’s appropriate at your place of work, ask your HR department first.

(If they don’t have an answer, send them our way! Next Level Wardrobe can consult with businesses looking to establish effective, clear, and stylish dress codes.)

Once you get the stamp of approval from HR, here’s what to keep in mind when picking out what jeans to wear:

  1. Go for a dark wash. Dark colors read as more professional and polished so opt for a dark indigo, navy, or even black pair of jeans. 
  2. Wear a wide-leg. If you haven’t kissed skinny jeans goodbye yet, this is your sign. On top of looking dated, skinny jeans tend to have a less flattering fit than wide legs. Plus with a wide-leg, you won’t have to worry about wearing overly tight clothes to work
  3. Avoid distressing. Keep your denim timeless by selecting a solid pair without rips, tears, holes, or fading.

Once you have your perfect pair of jeans, you can create a power casual outfit by partnering them with a tucked-in blouse and boots. Or dress it up even more with a blazer and heels. 

2. Are Sneakers Business Casual?

Sneakers for business casual

Absolutely, sneakers can be business casual too.

Just like what we said about wearing denim to work, it all depends on your workplace rules. However, in general, the right set of sneakers is a business casual must in our book.

Here are a few Do’s and Don’ts to keep in mind if you’re wondering, “Are sneakers business casual?”:


  • Choose sneakers in neutral colors. Core colors like black, navy blue, grey, and white are always safe bets. If you ask us, white is the most versatile option. Plus, it brightens and lightens up any ensemble.
  • Opt for a low-profile shoe. Slim, sleek trainers or slip-ons look much more professional than chunky shoes. You want your sneakers to complement your outfit, not overpower it.
  • Take care of your sneakers. Do your best to keep your shoes clean. You can always give them a quick wipe-down before leaving home each morning. You can also pick up these handy Sneaker Erasers to remove scuffs and stains.


  • Use gym shoes as work shoes. Your workout shoes and your office sneakers should be completely separate. Why? For one, if you wear your work sneakers to the gym, they’re bound to get messed up quickly. Secondly, you need different features from an athletic shoe. 
  • Wear Allbirds. Seriously. They don’t look good, no matter how many people in Silicon Valley wear them. There are so many better options out there. Fly away, little Allbirds.
  • Go flashy. No matter what hype-beast article GQ’s throwing your way today, don’t give in to the tacky, over-the-top tech CEO sneaker craze. Timeless, paired-back sneakers will always be in style.

Follow these rules and you can match your sneakers with a pair of dressy joggers and a cashmere pullover. Or even a midi skirt, tank, and a cozy cardigan.

3. Are Leggings Business Casual?

Nope, leggings are not business casual. 

Unless you’re a fitness instructor, these are a hard no for 99% of all business casual settings. 

We get it, you want the comfort and ease of leggings. Don’t worry, there are plenty of stylish alternatives.

For one, don’t count out trousers. Go for a lightweight material with a bit of stretch. Since the concept of “work leisure” gained popularity in recent years, you can even find trousers that look polished but have hidden elastic waistbands. 

If you’re going for maximum comfort, seek out sleek drawstring styles or other flexible options.

Or, try a skirt. A-line styles are perfect for breathability and extra room around the stomach area. 

So are leggings business casual? No, but use one of these other options and we doubt you’ll miss them!

4. Are Sweaters Business Casual?

Sweaters dressed for business casual

Yes, sweaters are 100% business casual. We’d qualify them as an essential for just about every business casual wardrobe.

The only exception to this rule is if a sweater isn’t practical for your environment or lifestyle. 

For example, if you live in a hot climate like Phoenix or South Florida and your workspace never drops below 75 degrees, you can skip the sweater. Or if you overheat easily and you have other business attire that’s more functional.

When shopping for a business casual sweater, we recommend seeking out the following:

  • Elevated fabrics. Invest in yourself by scrolling past the fast-fashion poly-blend sweaters and focusing on natural, quality fabrics. Cashmere is a great option for soft yet breathable knits. You can also find sustainable wool alternatives like bamboo, organic cotton, Tencel, or hemp.
  • Core colors. Since a sweater is a foundational wardrobe piece, we recommend stocking up on options in black, white, navy blue, and grey. That way you have versatile neutrals for all occasions. 

Sweaters are especially useful during transitional seasons and winter. Tuck in a lightweight sweater into a pair of high-rise pants and finish the look with loafers or ankle boots. If temperatures drop, layer up with a cardigan and a thick wool coat to keep warm.

5. Is a Turtleneck Business Casual?

Woman dressed in turtleneck for business casual

While we’re answering the question of “Are sweaters business casual?” let’s touch on turtlenecks too. Yes, turtlenecks pass the dress code test too.

Just like a sweater, you can wear a sweater with any workwear staple. Trousers, jeans, joggers, skirts – they all go with the right sweater.

Again, keep an eye out for quality fabrics, brands, and versatile colors. 

6. Are Cardigans Business Casual?

Yep, Cardigans are business casual. Just like a turtleneck, a cardigan is another sweater that belongs in most wardrobes.

Cardigans are especially useful because they’re a layering piece. Layering pieces at variety and visual interest to your outfits. They also make a fantastic substitute for a blazer. 

If a blazer feels too formal for your day, a cardigan creates the same framing effect. You can use one to cover your shoulders if you’re wearing something sleeveless too.

As with turtlenecks and sweaters, we recommend going with something lightweight. That way it’s easier to layer. Additionally, many bulky knits tend to look messy since they add visual weight to your look.

Opt for thinner knits and you’ll be able to get more use out of your cardigan for years to come.

7. Is a Dress Business Casual?

Yes, a dress is business casual. 

A lot of style advice these days focuses on separates. We get it; for many women, separates feel more functional or even more “serious.”

But a dress can be just as powerful as a suit.

If you’re not sure what dress to pick out for the office, here are our stylist’s top tips:

  • Watch your hem length. Dress codes may be loosening across the board but mini skirts aren’t business casual. For practicality and professionalism, stick with hems around the knee or longer.
  • Check your neckline. In the same way, you want to keep your dress length in check, you also want to do the same with your neckline. Crew, bateau, cowl, turtleneck, and polo necklines are all safe bets. You can go with a square, wrap, or v-neck but make sure they don’t go further than two inches below your collarbone. 
  • Seek out the right silhouette. Generally, you want to avoid overly tight or baggy clothes and the same goes for dresses. To look put together, select a well-fitting dress in a flattering yet comfortable sheath, shirt, or a-line silhouette.

So is a dress business casual? If you pick the right one, without a doubt.

8. Are Linen Pants Business Casual?

Woman in linen pants for business casual

Yes, linen pants are business casual dress code-approved.

In fact, we’d just about call them a necessity for any summer capsule wardrobe. Linen pants offer you coverage and sophistication without overheating. Linen is just about the most breathable fiber out there. It’ll keep you feeling easy-breezy throughout your nine-to-five.

However, there are two things you need to keep in mind when it comes to linen pants. 

  1. They wrinkle VERY easily.
  2. You have to pick a pair with the right thickness.

If you’re looking for a pant you can wear on a four-hour flight and then straight to a speaking event, this isn’t it. But, if you have time to release wrinkles with a steamer or hot shower, these pants are for you.

Of course, you can get much of the same chic and airy vibes of a 100% linen pant with a cotton-linen mixture. This blend wrinkles much less so check your tags before purchasing. 

Now what do we mean by picking a pair with the right thickness? What we mean is make sure you pick a linen pant that isn’t so light that it’s see-through. Not all linen pants are created equal, so make sure you take them for a test run in different lighting before debuting them at the office.

Once you find your holy grail linen pants, try them out with a tucked-in sleeveless blouse and sunglasses. Or keep things simple with a core-color tank top.

But what shoes will you wear with your new summer ensemble? Are sandals business casual?

9. Are Sandals Business Casual?

Sorry, sandals aren’t business casual. In fact, we wouldn’t say they qualify as office shoes for women in any setting.

Whether it’s the heel-smacking sound of flip-flops or seeing a co-worker’s toes on full display, Sandals don’t make the cut. 

They’re too casual for a corporate, formal, or business casual setting.

Instead of sandals, try slide-on mules, ballet flats, or loafers. These feel more casual than heels, but dressier than beachwear. 

10. Are Open-Toe Heels Business Casual?

Speaking of heels, yes, open-toe heels can be business casual.

We know what some of you are thinking: “Hey wait a minute. Why do open-toe heels get a pass and sandals don’t?”

Well, technically, only some open-toe heels make the grade. Have you noticed a theme yet? A lot of items can be business casual…if done right. 

Sky-high, flashy, or over-the-top open-toe heels don’t work at the office. 

Remember how we told you that the sneakers you wear to the gym should be different from the ones you wear to work? The same principle applies here.

If a heel would look right at home at a club, on a stage, or at a prom, it’s a no.

For work, go with classic, subtle styles in core colors. Think peep-toe pumps or simple block heels with thick straps. 

Last but not least, make sure your toes look clean and well-groomed. You don’t have to splurge on a luxurious pedicure. Just scrub, wash, and trim. Maybe even add a coat of polish (clear works just fine!) for good measure.

11. Are Boots Business Casual?

Woman dressed in boots for business casual

Absolutely. Boots are without a doubt business casual. 

Boots are our number one work shoe for winter and fall. Why?

They’re practical. These bad boys keep your feet insulated, warm, and comfortable. You don’t have to sacrifice comfort (or quite frankly, safety) for fashion during winter. 

Just find a pair that you love in a sturdy yet sleek material.

For most closets, we suggest having one black and one brown pair of boots. That way you have options to go with anything and everything in your cold-weather wardrobe. 

We also recommend picking out either a flat boot or one with a stable block heel. This is especially essential if you live anywhere with snow, rain, or icy weather. The last thing you want to do is slip and fall on your way to work.

Need some outfit inspiration? Pull on a Chelsea ankle boot with wide-leg jeans, a tucked-in turtleneck, and a mid-length trench coat. Or winterize your favorite dress by pairing it with tights and knee-high leather boots.

There you have it, all your burning business casual questions answered. Now you know exactly what to wear to work

Looking for someone to help transform your closet and style? Whether you want to level up your business casual go-tos or dress like a successful entrepreneur, our experts are ready to help. Apply for Next Level Wardrobe’s women’s styling services and experience luxury style made simple.

About the Author - Cassandra Sethi
About the Author - Cassandra Sethi

Personal Stylist & Image Consultant

Cassandra Sethi is a Personal Stylist and Founder of Next Level Wardrobe, a luxury Personal Styling and Shopping Service that helps successful professionals of all ages and sizes. After working in the fashion industry for over 25 years, she used her expert knowledge to create a proprietary styling system called ‘The Next Level Wardrobe Style System' which guarantees clients more outfits with less items in their closet. NLW has been featured in The Wall Street Journal, The Tamron Hall Show, NY Mag, Huffington Post and more.

*Disclosure: Next Level Wardrobe only recommends products that we’d suggest to our clients or personally wear ourselves. All opinions expressed here are our own. This post may contain affiliate links that at no additional cost to you, Next Level Wardrobe may earn a small commission. Read the full privacy policy here.

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Cassandra Sethi

is a NYC Personal Stylist and Image Consultant. She is the Founder of Next Level Wardrobe and 'The NLW Style System' that guarantees clients more outfits with less items.

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