Announcing… our new Guide to Business Casual for Women!

Guide to Business Casual for WomenEven though our focus here at Corporette® tends to be on conservative business attire (women’s suits and sheath dresses for the win!), we’ve done a TON of posts over the years offering advice on business casual — so we’re happy to announce our new Guide to Business Casual for Women! We’ve rounded up some of our best posts over the years (and identified a few obvious holes, like reviewing the different “types” of business casual offices women may encounter, from smart casual attire to casual business attire to California professional — stay tuned for that one). Hopefully this will be a great resource for you if you’ve got a business casual conference, an informal interview, or if you transition from a conservative office to a business casual office. We intend this to be a living page that we’ll update regularly, much like our Guide to Comfortable Heels and Wardrobe Essentials for Work.

Some questions for you, ladies, possibly for future posts and additions to our Guide to Business Casual for Women:

  • what other business casual advice would you be interested in seeing here at Corporette®?
  • who are your favorite business casual fashion bloggers, Instagrammers, and YouTubers? What are your other favorite sources of advice on business casual?
  • for those of you in very conservative offices, do you find that “business casual” still has a place in your wardrobe? (Or is “business casual” whatever’s left when you take off your blazer, or wear to work on the weekend?) — on the flip side, do you feel like your conservative offices are inherently becoming more casual?
  • what’s your “safe” outfit when someone says “oh, wear business casual”? If you were building a business casual wardrobe, what would you buy first?
  • what would you wear on the first day to a business casual office, when you interviewed in a suit but know that’s too formal for the office?

What else would you want in a guide to business casual for women? Do tell… 

Picture credit: Deposit photos / racorn


  1. I know some business casual jobs pay very well indeed, but I also feel that sometimes a job is business casual because they know full well they aren’t paying suit & dry cleaner money(!). So I think I’d be most interested in seeing advice about budget, and where you can get away with spending less vs. what will look frankly cheap.

    I’m also curious about classic styles vs. keeping up with trends in business casual. I feel as though I know how to dress timelessly when I’m dressing more formally, and I am okay with a timeless look vs. latest trend. I feel as though adding some “this season” touches matters a little more when it comes to looking sharp in business casual?

    TLDR, I frequent this site because this stuff is not my forte, but budget shopping and staying on trend are the business casual topics I’d like more help with!

    • And accessories (belts, scarves, etc.).

    • Anonymous BigLaw Associate :

      Confused on this comment because many of my business casual clothes are dry clean only.

      • Interesting. I wouldn’t assume that to be the norm at all.

        • Anonymous BigLaw Associate :

          Kat-I think this confusion signals something that needs to be done when talking about business casual: defining what the term actually means in the context of a specific post, or what range the term encompasses in your guide. For example, I think silk blouse and a pencil skirt are business casual, as are a blazer and dress. But the term may mean something different to other readers. And the term can mean something different office to office.

  2. I have to laugh that knee-high boots aren’t professional enough for a business casual environment. I’ve worked in a variety of business-casual offices in marketing roles over the last ten years and during the winter these have always always always been a part of my wardrobe. With skinny jeans in the more casual places and with a sheath dress and tights in the more formal places or times. Mostly flats, sometimes heeled. I love a shorter bootie in the spring/fall, but taller leather boots are a winter must.

    They have also been spotted on a wide variety of my coworkers and bosses during this time, so I don’t think I’m just a strange outlier here.

    • But, more importantly, yay, a feature for me! I feel like business casual is so much harder to do well than more suited up environments so I think there is a lot of ground to cover for you here.

  3. I’m in a business casual law office and I’d put my office on the conservative end of the business casual spectrum. The attorneys all wear clothes that could go to court if you put on a jacket, but we don’t wear suits or jackets in the office. I usually wear trousers or a knee length skirt and a blouse or a dress with a cardigan or soft jacket. Support staff is a little more casual (slacks instead of trousers, more cotton or ponte). We have casual Fridays and most people wear decent quality jeans with polo or button up shirts (men) or blouses (women).

  4. First day: blazer + dress that works without blazer
    Safe: Pencil skirts for dayyyyyyys, sleeveless blouse, optional blazer

    Interesting how much business casual can change from place to place. My last organization (in Chicago) was ‘business casual’, but I quickly coined it ‘dressy casual’, and later came to understand it as ‘California casual’. Ex: I could get away with on-trend slight midriff (half an inch at most!) and pencil skirt, but would be out of place in the ‘Pam from The Office’ look. Current organization (in a large city…in Ohio) is the opposite. Boss trends toward professional, and so do I. Geography – and leadership – are key. Important to note budget as well; both are non-profits and we certainly can’t be expected to keep up with professional dress on the salary provided. As Kat always says, know your culture!

    Just really, REALLY looking forward to the day when I can go into Nordstrom and tell them I got the big job and need the wardrobe to go with it. It’s basically my fantasy.

  5. I’m a lawyer at a big firm and I’ve started wearing skinny jeans and blouses and blazers most days. I’d be interested in reading about the most work appropriate dressy jeans.

    • I agree! My firm has recently included jeans in the definition of business casual, and I would love some suggestions for work-appropriate jeans at varying price points, as well as suggestions to wear jeans and stay professional.

    • Coffee Queen :

      We have jeans in our office however, we always have dress pants for court stored in the office just in case of emergencies

  6. Associate in a big law office in Boston here. Our office is definitely trending more casual. We are technically “business casual” but I have seen a lot more people (partners and associates alike) wearing jeans. I would say it’s mostly folks in our corporate department who work with more casual biotech companies or startups. In general, the litigators are staying away from more casual looks, although in recent years it’s been interesting to see the trend towards stretchier, ankle-length bottoms. I think it looks perfectly professional in most situations but that certainly wasn’t common even 5 years ago.

  7. Anonymous :

    It is easier to look professional and appropriate in the suit uniform. I am 51 and a little overweight pear so it is difficult to hit that right note with trousers and tops and still have a classic tailored look.

  8. Calibrachoa :

    So I had my first day in the New Job That’s Business Casual In Tech just a little while ago so what I wore was tweed-patterned ponte trousers, a black and white print top and a heavy black cardigan, with black flats. Turns out I was overdressed like whoa because the team, including my new manager and his boss, all wore jeans and sneakers..

    • Keilexandra :

      Was your job actually “business casual” in dress code, or “casual” and you assumed the business part because, well, it’s work?

      I read Corporette in spite of working at a “no dress code” tech company, in engineering no less. It’s nice to be able to wear jeans and a t-shirt on days when I don’t feel like trying, but I also DGAF about being overdressed when I do feel like it. Once you’re more comfortable in the new job, I think you can still wear real business casual outfits (like you described above) if you *want* to.

  9. I agree with the earlier poster that it’s important to define terms as business casual can mean different things to different people.
    For me, I don’t do business casual during the week, and probably would describe what I wear to the office on the weekends as polished casual as opposed to business casual (e.g. dark jeans and a blazer)

  10. My jobs have always been somewhere on the scale of business casual, and I currently live in hot, humid New Orleans where offices are over-air-conditioned to the extreme. I have a large collection of cardigans to wear with sleeveless or short sleeved items to balance the indoor/outdoor; a blazer or jacket is almost too formal in my environment. I’d love posts on good quality layering pieces, as well as open-toed shoes or sandals for the office. And as someone mentioned above, how to handle “casual Friday” jeans while still maintaining some polish.

  11. Mineallmine :

    Why have pencil skirts become the go-to shape for business casual, when on all but the most petite of posteriors, a pencil skirt is very curvy? Not that there’s anything wrong with curvy, but I feel self-conscious when my rear is so prominently emphasized at work, and I don’t want to always wear very long jackets and cardigans to cover it. I like slightly A-line skirts that look more or less like a straight skirt but with better drape, but they’ve become harder to find in recent years for some reason.

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