It’s the most ambiguous dress code in corporate America: business casual. These days, employees can wear suits, jeans and everything in between. The real question: what is acceptable? Business casual varies from company to company. For some, this means pant suits or skirts for the ladies and dress slacks with a shirt and tie for the guys. In the ever-changing corporate world, businesses are molding into the relaxed atmosphere of 2016.
The next time business casual is thrown your way, avoid spending endless hours in front of your closet and follow the guide below for tips on what to wear to your next interview, special event or average day in the office.
A pencil skirt and blouse are go-to pieces that pull together a classic business casual look. A structured skirt gives clean lines and a tucked-in blouse offers a professional yet feminine flair. Layer the neckline with a statement piece and give your feet a break from heels with a pair of flats. After a long day of running from meeting to meeting, your feet will thank you.
What to do in these cold winter months? Pair a high waisted, free flowing skirt with opaque leggings and ankle boots. Add a patterned scarf to a solid top and voila, you have an outfit that is comfortable and chic. This pairing can even be worn straight from work to your evening plans. Who needs a change of clothes to enjoy a local happy hour?
A classic button down shirt paired with dress pants is the essence of business casual. Layer a solid quarter-zip sweater to beat the office chill without resorting to a hoodie. Don’t forget: A businessman always seals the deal with a sharp pair of recently shined dress shoes.
Not feeling dress pants? Chinos can be switched out for corduroys or khakis (just ask Jake from State Farm). This classic men’s staple is great for on-the-road training sessions or for polishing this week’s excel report. Corduroys and khakis can wear the casual in business.
Companies allow a lot of leeway on “Casual Fridays,” but even in jeans, it is important to maintain a professional look. The key is to put an outfit together that is presentable during the day, but also serves as a gateway to weekend plans. Once the clock strikes 5 on Friday evening, there’s no need to head home first before hitting the town.
A black blazer is a great way to dress up any pair of jeans for the workplace and still show that you mean business. Avoid jeans with distressed washes or holes. Always aim for a dark wash with a clean cut to look your sharpest in the office.
The plaid-like blouse can be worn alone to meet the girls after work or layered with a blazer for a client dinner. Black flats offer comfort and neutrality that work for any occasion.
When it comes to bags, women have an overwhelming amount of options. A tote is a must for any work routine since it looks more sophisticated than a backpack but holds more than the average purse. There is ample space to pack a lunch, hold important papers and carry a laptop between work, school and meetings.
The sport coat or blazer is an essential garment to any business casual wardrobe. Elbow patches offer detail, while the coat provides a flattering silhouette similar to a suit jacket. Add a belt that matches the dress shoes and head into work ready to tackle the day. This look proves that you mean all business on top, and when worn with a well-fitting pair of jeans, that you’re ready to meet the guys downtown for pizza as soon as you finish those TPS reports.