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How to Pull Off Business Casual Outfits for Work

Theresa just got a new job as the head of Marketing at a creative agency. It was her dream 9-5: an environment that casually exuded professionalism. But she failed to realize something— her new workplace only welcomed business casual outfits and saw formal office wear as being overdressed.

She was ignorant of that because she failed to ask for the company’s dress code or at least, observe her colleagues. So, on her first day at work, she turned up like she was working in a bank with her well-tailored black suit skirt and jacket and a tie to complement.

Of course, her colleagues were taken aback. But they forgave her because she was a “novice” in the organization. And when Theresa discovered that almost everyone looked more relaxed with their workwear, she had a rethink.

smiling lady wearing yellow suit and pants for work

Her new workplace wasn’t a place to look suit and tie. It was a relaxed business environment and so, the appropriate dress code was business casual outfits. Then she set out to imbibe this type of outfit for work so no one would give her a quirky glance in the office.

Like Theresa, are you looking for the best, relaxed workwear to make you more productive at work? 

man wearing blazer with chinos

Are you bored of the stringency of formal office wear and can’t wait to update your wardrobe to reflect the relaxed mood of your office? 

Or did your boss tell you to adopt this dress code but you didn’t know how to go about it?

If you answered yes to any of those questions, permit me to congratulate you. You’ve finally found the perfect guide to building a wardrobe of business casual outfits.

lady wearing white top on midi skirt

And even though you can find these clothes online or offline in any clothing store around you, there’s more about what to wear to work than meets the eye. You have to know what they comprise before you start shopping.

So, relax your nerves already. I promise you’ll look great for work henceforth. You only have to read this piece to the end as I give you a straight dive into everything you should learn about these professional yet casual outfits for work.

Let’s go!

What are Business Casual Outfits?

man wearing suit business casual outfit

Business casual outfits are a more relaxed form of business formal outfits. They are less formal yet suitable for the professional work environment. In essence, they are a blend of elements of casual and formal office wear.

lady wearing yellow shirt and red skirt business casual outfit

This dress code isn’t the same in all organizations, countries, industries, and even gender. For instance, while most offices won’t permit jeans and blazers as business casual, others may. 

But once you’ve confirmed your organization’s definition of this type of outfits, you can wear them to attend interviews, luncheons, weddings, business meetings, and what have you.

What is the Difference Between a Business Casual Outfit and a Business Professional Outfit?

man wearing shirt tucked in in blue pants

While formal office wear refers to suit and tie outfits, business casual doesn’t. It’s a relaxed version of formal, remember?

So, you can wear a button-up shirt with a pair of chinos pants without a tie for relaxed business attire. You can also wear a modest top, cardigan or sweater, blazer, etc.

lady wearing top and black skirt for work

All these are never permitted with business professional outfits. It’s strictly suit and tie.

Moreover, you can opt for neutral and a few bright colors with a business casual but for business formal, you have to tone down those colors. It’s strictly muted tones or neutral colors.

What You Need to Pull Off a Business Casual Outfit

As a man, you need the following to dress business casual:

man wearing grey suit on white chinos
  • Slacks
  • Blazers
  • Sportcoat
  • Chinos
  • Turtlenecks
  • Plain-colored button-up shirts
  • Loafers and other dress shoes
  • Sweaters
  • Cufflinks
  • Other relaxed trousers
  • Wristwatch
  • Belts
  • Bag, etc.

For women, the following items will give you a casual look for work:

lady wearing wearing business casual outfit
  • Midi skirts
  • Knee-length skirts
  • Dresses with conservative details
  • Tops with patterns or conservative details
  • Bag
  • Button-up shirts
  • Sweaters
  • Closed-toe/ peep-toe/ open-toe heels depending on your organization
  • Tapered or wide-leg pants
  • Cover-toe flats
  • Pumps
  • Mild accessories
  • Simple makeup
  • Turtlenecks

You can also wear clothes with frills, multiple prints, pleats, etc. If your dress has a slit, ensure it doesn’t reveal so much skin when you walk or sit. 

man wearing white shirt and pants business casual outfit

Furthermore, experiment with bright colors but ensure the colors you go for aren’t shouty. For instance, a neon jacket would be too loud for the office.

What Not to Wear as Business Casual

lady in sleeveless top on midi skirt

This style of dressing for business activities involves projecting a professional image that exudes comfort. So, when you think business casual, never include:

  • Shorts or skorts
  •  Too tight or too loose clothes
  • Low-rise pants
  • Leggings
  • Ripped jeans
  • Tees
  • Activewear 
  • Sheer dresses
  • Flip-flops
  • Palms
  • Heavy makeup
  • Sandals
  • Sneakers
  • Denim
  • Leggings
  • Off-shoulder neckline
  • Miniskirts
  • Clothes with plunging neckline, etc.

How to Pull Off Business Casual Outfits

lady wearing white top and black pants for work

Still here? Seems you really don’t wanna be like Theresa. Nobody wants that. You can’t be the only one who looks different in a gathering of people.

man wearing shirt and white trousers

Don’t get me wrong. I don’t mean you shouldn’t look different. I mean it should be for the right reasons. Theresa looked different for the wrong reason: she didn’t know the dress code and ended up dressing inappropriately.

lady wearing light blue suit and pants

You’ll look different for the right reasons because you won’t only learn how to adopt a business casual wardrobe in this post, you’ll also learn how to make a fashion statement with them too.

How’s that done? Here you go:

1. Find out the Dress Code of Your Organization

smiling lady wearing business casual outfit at work

What better way to learn about a horse than to hear it from the horse’s mouth? When you assume your job responsibilities, ask your boss or HR manager their official dress code. You must know what you should and shouldn’t wear to the office to avoid queries.

As said earlier, this differs in different organizations and industries. 

While some organizations accept formal office wear as what to wear to work, some industries settle for business casual or smart casual. And some reserve the casual feel for Fridays. Even at that, they still have different interpretations of each work outfit.

So, you have to get clarification before you begin to dress for work. Know what they expect from employees as workwear and go for it.

2. Observe Your Colleagues

man wearing blazer on white shirt on black pants

This is another way to pull off these types of outfits for work. It’s simple. While you can go extremely formal on your first day, use that opportunity to observe your colleagues and make the necessary adjustments subsequently.

For instance, if you notice nobody wears a tie, you don’t have to be the first to wear one. Observe and learn.

3. Shop for Quality Pieces

lady wearing red shirt with brown pants

To build a standard business casual wardrobe, quality is key otherwise you’d be spending more than you bargained for.

Don’t go for trends; go for timeless pieces that serve you. You want to make a classy statement every day at work and you can only do that with your outfits.

What’s more? When you wear quality pieces you feel better about yourself and become more productive at work. But don’t take my word for it.

Stormline Gear conducted a study and discovered that more than 61% of employees are more productive when their dress code is more relaxed. To back up that claim, TALiNT International also carried out a study that revealed that employees are more productive when the dress code is relaxed.

So, you see? A business casual mode of dressing for work doesn’t only make you more relaxed. It enhances your productivity too.

4. Don’t Forget Your Personal Style

guy wearing blazer on a white shirt and black pants

When dressing for the office, your personal style is secondary while your company’s style remains primary. This doesn’t mean you should wear clothes you aren’t comfortable in just because you want to please your boss.

lady wearing brown top with brown skirt

It means that pleasing your organization when dressing for the office should be a priority but you must consider your personal style while at it. Let your style guide how you combine the items mentioned above to suit your workplace.

lady wearing black turtleneck with skirt

The key to rocking business casual outfits is by looking polished. Wear your fashion-forward pieces but ensure they suit your work environment. Wear your accessories to magnify your look. And don’t be afraid to add a pop of color here and there.

lady wearing shirt and skirt at work

There you have it! Now, go ahead and imbibe this mode of dressing for work. Do you also have an interview coming up? Read our guide on what to wear to an interview for women and what to wear to an interview for men. It’ll ensure you make a good first impression and get your dream job.

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Victoria B. Willie

Writing has always been a part of me. From writing stories as a young child to studying Communication Arts in the university, it has always been more than a medium of expression to me.

And then one day, I found myself toeing the path of an entrepreneur and becoming a fashion enthusiast. This made me develop an interest in content marketing and copywriting which I've been chasing alongside my fashion career.

That aside, when I'm not sharing style articles, selling with stories, or creating fashion-forward pieces for Ria Kosher, you'll find me telling wild stories that always come with a twist.

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