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28th Mar 2024

What actually is business casual? Explaining the dress code

Anna Martin

Business casual

Business casual. How does one do business, casually?

It’s one of the most elusive dress codes you can ever see at the bottom of an invitation or worse when you’re starting a new job, what does it actually mean?

Can I wear my leggings for the casual part and maybe slap a shirt on top? Or is it a t-shirt and slack kind of vibe?

Stop fretting and start reading because we have the answer.

What is business casual?

business casual
Credit: Getty

To put it simply, business casual should strike a balance between comfort, style and professionalism.

Yes, that does sound near impossible, but we will break it down.

Basically, it combines the traditional elements of business clothing the addition of relaxed elements of casual wear.

One key thing to keep in mind is that half the battle of this dress code is the fit of your clothing, you don’t want anything too tight and nothing too loose – there is nothing worse than your trousers abandoning you during a meeting.

You should try to avoid anything with cutouts, skirts and shorts that expose the upper thigh and tops that flash your midriff – that goes for all genders.

There are some basics you can invest in if you’re looking to expand your office-appropriate wardrobe for example skirts, various colours of slacks, formal and casual shirts, blazers, suits…the list is endless

The basic rule we can apply for all the outfits: one business formal garment should be mixed with one informal one.

What basics should I have?

A black blazer: It’s a lifesaver. The right blazer has the power to take any plain outfit and turn it into something that looks more mature and put together.

Like you’re a person who has their life together even if you’re just pretending (aren’t we all?)

The most important thing is that it fits you well.

A shirt you actually like: They’re versatile (they can be dressed up or down), they’re basically seasonless, and they’re comfortable while still looking professional.

For a slightly more stylish business casual vibe, pick a shirt with a little bit of flair, like ruffles, a polka dot pattern, or an interesting collar.

A blouse: Think of a blouse as your shirt’s much cooler older sister.

Credit: Reiss

Don’t buy something too out there just in case it goes out of style and you start to hate it out of nowhere but that doesn’t mean it has to be boring.

You can mix it up with fun patterns or cool silhouettes.

Dresses: Dresses are, obviously, an office staple. Plus, if you wear a dress you don’t have to pick a top and a bottom for your outfit, it’s all done in one.

Go for something that is comfy and that you’d be happy to dress up with heels or dress down with flats for maximum bang for your buck.

Skirts: A skirt is another obvious wardrobe staple for a business casual office.

You can wear it with a shirt, a blouse, or even a plain T-shirt. For work, we prefer midi-length skirts over maxi skirts or shorter options.

A pair of black slacks: You really can’t go wrong with a pair of cigarette pants, which are always chic and polished.

business casual
Credit: Pull&Bear

Jeans: Most business casual dress codes allow for jeans and they are something most of us already have in our wardrobes.

Your best bet is to pick out a pair in a darker wash (light washes look less professional) with no rips or trendy accents.