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What Does Business Casual Mean for Women?

business lifestyle style Jul 21, 2020

3 min read

Clothing doesn’t make the woman; her smarts, heart, and effort do. But clothing does make for a first impression and, arguably, continued impression of her. Like it or not, what we wear can affect our business relationships with clients and partners and how successful we are in the long run.

Whether you work in a corporate office or are running your own business, a business casual dress code is probably your everyday go-to. Even if you’re working from home (in yoga pants!), you still have client meetings, conferences, and other events, calling for biz casual, to attend. 

For men, it’s easy. Jeans and a button-down and they’re ready to go. As women, we have more options and tend to face tougher standards for our appearance in the modern work world. Are sneakers with a blazer appropriate, how short is too short, what’s the appropriate heel height, etc.?

If business casual is a term that induces stress in you or you find yourself playing it so safe that your outfits are boring, remember the goal of business casual - sophistication with a dash of personality.

Getting Business Casual Right

Sometimes it’s easier to start with what not to wear. This is by no means comprehensive, but some of the most common pitfalls women make.

  • We’re all for jeans, but distressed jeans are a no-go. 
  • Leave shorts for casual activities and make sure skirts and dresses are no shorter than 2-3 inches above your knees.
  • Anything too tight or revealing also doesn’t cut it. 
  • Avoid flat sandals and heels that are too high.
  • A good rule of thumb is that if you are questioning a wardrobe choice, it’s probably best not to wear it. 

Now that we have what to avoid out of the way, here’s what to wear for each category of clothing.

Tops

Tops can make or break business casual. Blouses, sweaters, and even nice t-shirts are acceptable in neutral or bright colors or patterns. All necklines, except those that are too revealing, are appropriate and should be chosen according to your body type. Sleeves can range from wide straps (covering your entire shoulder) to long sleeves.

And the star of the business casual world is the blazer. Throwing a blazer on almost any outfit can make it business appropriate. Fit is a defining factor with blazers, so make sure they don’t gap or pull when buttoned.

Bottoms

Dress pants should fit well, be constructed from a quality material, and not be too tight. With current trends, pants can be skinny or wide-leg and still work well for a business setting. Darker colors and heavier fabrics are great for the colder months, while light colors and fabrics are appropriate for summer months. 

And now, for the most common question of all, “Are jeans business casual?” It depends, but for most entrepreneurial women in most situations, the answer is yes. They should be dark wash, quality, and fit well. Make sure to pair jeans with a dressier top or blazer to keep the look from being too casual. 

Skirts and Dresses

A-line, pencil, and pleated skirts and dresses are a staple for business casual wear. Length is vital and can range from a couple of inches above the knee to mid-calf. With fit, try to find a happy medium that isn’t too tight or too loose to the point for frumpiness. The same rules for necklines and sleeve lengths for tops apply to dresses.

This is a quick guide to help you figure out where the worlds of fashion and business intersect. Your clothing choices should depend on your body type and the occasion. In our Women Entrepreneur 1: Foundation course, we offer a bonus fashion module that dives deep into perfecting your business look.

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