Unless you’re a fashionista or a sucker for fashionable clothes, business casuals are tough to crack. Period. Don’t you agree? It’s pretty vague, and lines can get blurry here. And, if you’re a working woman or preparing to join your first job, chances are you’ve heard about it and are confused like most of us. But, let’s not be “most people.” Let’s work our way around things—with stuff in our wardrobe; upgrade our closet; mix and match or whatever it takes to ace the business casual look.
If you stick around and read through, I promise to answer all your questions, define basics, list out Dos And Don’ts! So let’s do this—Scroll away!
Everything around is changing rapidly. We feel that way because we do not stop to notice what’s happening around and before we know there is a radical change. That’s just the case with how the office attire moved to “Business Casuals” from “Formal Work Wear.” Wondering Why? Why not! Especially when we are living in a world of millennials. According to a survey released last year, a majority of the senior managers have quoted that just handsome paychecks do not cut it anymore. Employees need perks in one way or the other. And, changes to the company’s dress code is a tempting one they quoted. Letting employees know that they can dress more casually makes a lot of difference. Because absolute formals are not preferred anymore. It can sometimes come across as dated work culture. It’s mundane and boring. The need for people to be stylish and chic is increasing by the day, and this adds excitement to your work life. It is quite an inspiring sight to see more and more women making smart yet professional dress choices.
Some companies just state that business casuals are acceptable, while others who are just moving into this casual culture have stipulations on what is acceptable and what is not. Give or take a few, most of them are usually around the same lines. Unleash your creativity, and you’re well on your way towards a smart/business casual wardrobe.
Here are some of your options when it comes to business casual for women. Feel free to mix and match!
The first thing that comes to our mind when we think about formals is trousers. A crisp formal pant with a white shirt has been synonymous with work attire for the longest time now. However, with fashion evolving your options here are aplenty. When I say pants, I do not mean the old school interview pants—they are now out of fashion and replaced by cigarette pants, ankle length trousers, culottes, etc. Also, the norm of wearing only a collared shirt is passe. You can team up the trouser with a tank and layer it with a linen blazer or a chiffon/georgette top with collar. Like I said, there’s a lot you can do here. While at it, explore some color options too, but don’t go overboard.
Just like formal pants, skirts have come a long way too. The natural gray, black and small checkered are not the only skirts that are considered official. Pencil skirts are the next big thing, which makes it quite an interesting choice for formal wear. That in unique colors like burgundy, brown and pastels, with a self-design top or shirt will make you look ravishing.
Blouses and tops preferably with high necklines go well as formal attires. Turtle, boat, bateau or regular V-necks are quite good actually. Stay away from plunging necklines and leave no scope for a revealing cleavage. More often than not, keep your tops tucked in and it adds to the aesthetic.
Cardigans, shrugs, and sweaters can very well be used to layer your tank or sleeveless tops. A contrast colored sweater over a well-fitted pair of trousers or skirt will look great on anyone. Just make sure that it’s not too loud, and coordinate the colors with your top and bottoms. Let the sweater not be too tight neither too loose. You can pop out the colors with accessories like fine jewelry, handbags, or shoes.
Blazers are the perfect business attire for women. They have been an inherent part of formal clothing, and it’s by no means a surprise. However, fabrics like linen and corduroy are catching up. They are stylish, fashionable yet formal. But, do not take them for granted and wear the same blazer on every outfit. Have a few in your collection and rotate to match them with the outfit without making it look like you are forcing it. It is imperative that your blazer should be crisp, subtle and professional looking. Navy blues, checkered, stripes, gray and blacks will never fail you. And now we are also moving towards powder pinks, blues, pastels, and reds. Haven’t you seen suit dresses worn by Hillary Clinton, Duchess Of Cambridge? You should get your hands on one of them, soon!
Formal dresses are rather easy to choose, and that is why they are go-to for a lot of women. It does not need too much of coordination or brainstorming, unlike the other sets. Longer dresses in linen and bohemian designs are also acceptable. Pay attention to the length and ensure that it is not very short, unlike party dresses.
Polka dots, geometric and digital patterns are all considered business casuals for women. But, you should be a better judge of the size of the print and the patterns. The prints should be proportionate, subtle and small (unless the theme of your meeting is retro) or it can leave a bad aftertaste. So tread carefully here. Let the other details of the outfit like the trousers, shoes or accessories be muted and calm.
The general rule of thumb, even though unsaid is that office wear cannot be gaudy. Go ahead and explore the hot pink skirt and a plain white shirt with pumps, but let the colors balance out. There can only be one intense color in the entire outfit. Another way to incorporate colors into your outfit is to let them pop through the accessories. Color blocking is a big thing we know, but when in doubt—stick to cliches. It’s better than feeling embarrassed at an important meeting.
Accessories are a major part of any woman’s outfit any given day. In fact gone are the days where dresses were gaudy and loud. Now it is all about classy outerwear amped up with accessories like neckpieces, watch, handbags, bracelet, belts, shoes or even scarves. One trick that will never fail you and if you’re smart enough you could use the same skirt or trouser and style it differently with different accessories each time to get a refreshing new look every single time.
Even though it’s not external, we thought it’s worth mentioning and giving it a shout out. You have to be extra careful with your inners as this can be a deal breaker. Seamless bra and underpants should be a part of your closet. Also, match light colored outerwear with light colored underwear only and vice versa for dark colors as well. You cannot afford any malfunctions, silhouettes or see-throughs at any cost.
Summers can sometimes get tricky for women because in tropical climates it gets unbearably hot. And all you want is minimum clothing. But, that is not a great idea, is it? Not for work at least. So go for mega-sleeves, half-sleeves or broad sleeveless tops. Or fabrics that are light and comfortable on the skin. Linens, chiffon, lace and georgette are great options.
Go with small floral prints dresses and regular skirts instead of pencil skirts as they are airy. Anything tight and body hugging might not be a good idea anyway.
Cashmere sweaters, shrugs, jackets, blazers and stockings are all your saviors in winters. Depending on how cold or warm the weather is, you could layer your outfit. The best part about layering is that you can dress up or down at any given time. It’s a smart way of planning your outfits in winters, because of the fluctuation in temperatures indoors and outdoors.
Stocking comes handy for dresses and skirts, especially the fleeced ones. I know shimmer and sheer ones are exciting but thick and opaque is what you need.
Tank tops, noodle straps and strapless are all good for layering and let’s keep it to that. Thick-sleeveless are totally cool, but the rest need to be put at bay.
Plunging necklines either at the front or back, are totally not going to work. So keep this in mind while shopping next time around. No matter how vague your company’s dress code policy is, this definitely will be in the not-acceptable zone.
This is a given, but we are going to say it anyway. Shorts, mini, short-shorts or anything else you call it—AVOID (totally)!
Let’s leave these for everything else except work. You might be a sucker for T-shirts with cool and cute captions, but let’s not rile up anything at work.
They are so in right now and makes us look chic. But, sorry you cannot get to work in these. Most companies allow casuals on Fridays, but showing up in distressed jeans is just stretching it. Friday casuals usually mean round or collar neck T-shirts, skirts, dresses, and tops—all in acceptable lengths.
It might sound like a really cool idea in the head, but it’s not. Unless you’re a physical trainer or into that space. Athleisure is absolutely comfortable, and we hate for you to get out of those yoga pants, but I wish we had a choice here. Sorry!
If you are anything like me, you invest more on flip flops than fancy shoes because you practically live on them. But, here’s what we need to do. Start investing in footwear that is acceptable at workplace too. Sandals, peep-toes, stilettos or ballerinas. You’re a better judge!
What to wear to a business conference?
Suiting up to a conference will never fail you. So every time you think of preparing for a conference it means you’re in your best formal wear. Suit dresses or one piece dresses are also great options. It is important to stay on point head to toe. Also, keep it minimal with a few accessories that amp up the look in just the right proportions.
What is formal dress code?
Formal dress code in general means everything that we just discussed. Formal code usually is the end-to-end of an outfit—the end result. And, this code differs with every industry and organization. So, depending on their organization culture, it is always defined for you. If in doubt—Ask!
What is informal dress code?
Informal is simply everything that is opposite to formal dressing. Some industries do not believe in formals and business casuals, so there is no cap on what you can wear. However, general decorum is to be maintained, and a basic understanding is expected.
What to wear to work on fridays?
If your company has defined Friday dressing, that makes it easier. Otherwise, round and collared neck T-shirt with regular jeans is your safest bet. Look at everyone around, and you get the pulse of the place. You don’t want to go berserk just because it is a Friday.
Are jeans, corduroys, and khakis considered business casuals?
Jeans are definitely not business casuals. However, some companies consider khakis, chinos, and corduroys as office wear. So, this is very specific to the workplace. However, it is best to avoid if you have an important meeting, interview or conference to attend.
Are sandals considered business casuals?
Closed sandals and flats go well with short dresses, ankle length, cigarette pants, etc. It is really a case by case basis, so watch out. Open flats are straight up ‘no’.
What is the difference between business casuals and smart casuals?
Business casuals are formal clothes and are office wear, while smart casuals are not necessarily considered office wear. Smart casuals are ensembles that are put together for a smart looking outfit and is worn in not so formal places. Or, in an informal set up with clients, colleagues, business units, etc.