Many companies are finally heading back to the office, which means it’s time to ditch those PJs and dig your work clothes out of the back of your closet. According to a pre-pandemic survey by Randstad US, around 25% of offices have a business casual dress code, and if you need a refresher on what is—and isn’t—acceptable to wear to the office, you’ve come to the right place.
The following are the guidelines you’ll want to follow when dressing for a business casual workplace, as well as several outfits to inspire your back-to-work shopping—because why should students have all the fun? Bonus: If you’re on the job hunt through websites like ZipRecruiter or Indeed, these looks also double as interview outfits and will help you appear professional and polished.
The rules of business casual attire
Business casual clothing is designed to strike a balance between comfort and professionalism. When following this dress code, you’ll look polished and put together, but you don’t need to don a full suit and tie, stockings, or other professional attire.
For women, business casual attire often includes:
For men, business casual attire entails:
Collared shirts or button-downs
Casual slacks like khakis or chinos
Dress shoes, loafers or nice boots
Some offices also allow nice denim—think dark, solid colors with no rips or tears—and open-toed shoes in the summertime. However, it’s best to check in with your employer to see if these garments are appropriate before you wear them to work.
1. Go trendy with wide-leg trousers
Slacks and a blouse are a classic pairing for women, but that doesn’t mean the look has to be boring. You can stay on-trend by incorporating a pair of wide-leg trousers into your work wardrobe, and the Islet Pant fits the bill perfectly. They’re made from a luxurious cotton-linen blend, and they come in white or light yellow, allowing you to add a pop of color to your outfit.
These pants would pair perfectly with any plain top, but we like the Faherty Willa Peasant Blouse, which has a subtle pleated appearance and delicate ruffles on the sleeves and collar. The shirt is available in five different colors, and it’s made from 100% organic cotton.
Finally, to complete this look, slide the Naturalizer Kayden Mules onto your feet. These open-back shoes are extremely comfortable for long days at the office, and they have a trendy square toe and chain accent on the front for a professional appearance.
2. Keep it simple with a pretty dress
For those days you don’t feel like having to mix and match separates, you can get ready quickly by slipping into a business casual dress. The Floral Flutter Sleeve Flare Dress is ideal for office wear, as it has a modest knee-length hem and short sleeves. However, it’s anything but frumpy, boasting a waist tie to flatter your figure and a stylish mock neck. The tan fabric is covered with large burgundy flowers, and it comes in a wide range of sizes, from 00 to 18.
This dress could easily be paired with flats or heels, and the LifeStride Giovanna 2 Pumps come in a maroon hue that perfectly matches the floral motif. The shoes have a closed toe that’s office-friendly and a zip-up back that makes them easy to put on, and their lower heel height is comfortable to walk in.
The Thin Croissant Dôme Hoops offer a classy final touch on this elegant outfit. They’re hand-crafted from gold vermeil, which is a thick layer of 18k gold on top of sterling silver, and the jewelry is sure to become a regular part of your work wardrobe.
3. Reach for wardrobe staples
Listen up, guys. You’re going to need a few pairs of nice pants to wear to work each week, and the Stretch Washed Chino 2.0 is a worthwhile addition to your wardrobe. These pants are the perfect combination of comfortable and professional, and they come in more than a dozen colors to suit every style. Plus, Bonobos has a comprehensive size range, with waist sizes 28 to 46 and five different fits, including slim, tapered, tailored, athletic, and more.
You can pair these chinos with a nice button-down top, such as the Organic Cotton Shirt. As its name suggests, this shirt is made from 100% organic cotton, and it comes in a variety of plaid and striped colors. The button-down has a shorter hemline that hits right at the hips, making it easy to tuck in, and it’s ideal for layering during the winter.
Finally, you can complete your business casual look with the Kenneth Cole Destin Slip-Ons. They have a sophisticated cognac leather exterior that will look right at home in the office, yet the sole is cushioned for comfort, even if you’re commuting or walking around on your lunch break.
4. Bundle up in cold weather
When colder weather rolls around, you can trade your usual blouses for a warmer top like the BP. Rib Crewneck Sweater. It comes in four colors, including a bold bright blue, as well as sizes XS to XXL. The top has voluminous sleeves and chunky stitching, and it looks stylish tucked in or hanging loose.
You can pair this sweater with the Essential Slim Kick Flare Pants for a trendy fall ensemble. The tailored trousers hit just above the ankle, allowing you to show off your shoes, and they come in a range of standard, tall, and plus sizes. The black option is a versatile choice for everyday wear, but the pants also come in other colors and patterns, as well.
This outfit demands a cute pair of booties, and the Marc Fisher Glorify Boot is a great option for your workday. They have a leather upper and stylish pointed toe, and you can choose from black, brown, or white styles.
5. Show your personality with bold prints
Business casual attire lets you show off more of your personality with pieces like the REISS Jackson Pencil Skirt. The high-waisted design is navy blue with a tan floral pattern, and the hem hits mid-calf, making it an office-friendly choice. There are pockets in the front where you can stash your phone, and a front slit gives you more mobility than traditional pencil skirts.
Because the skirt has a busy pattern, it’s best to pair it with a plain top like this Silky Collar Blouse. It’s made from a satin-like fabric with a pointed collar and long sleeves, and the thin material is easy to tuck into the skirt (or any other bottoms you pair with it).
You can accessorize this look with a layered necklace, such as the Women’s Coin Necklace Set from Madewell. It includes three complementary necklaces of staggered lengths, making them effortless to layer.
6. Cover up with a cardigan
A simple dress like the Calvin Klein Sheath Dress is another must-have for your business casual wardrobe. This classic design comes in several professional colors, and is available in sizes 4 to 14. The dress is sleeveless with a flattering sheath silhouette, and it has an exposed zipper on the back.
If your workplace tends to be chilly, you can easily layer the Ramie Rayon Cardigan over your dress. This simple sweater comes in several plain colors, and it has a V-neck hem with three large buttons down the front. The semi-fitted silhouette hits at the waist, and it’s a versatile piece to add to your closet.
If open-toe shoes are acceptable in your workplace, you can complete this look with the Soda Topshoeave Wait Womens Open Toe Sandals. They’re available in a variety of colors, including cognac, black, white, and natural, and you can’t beat the budget-friendly price.
7. Stay cozy in warm winter sweaters
Most business casual dress codes allow men to wear nice sweaters in cold weather, and the Polo Ralph Lauren Cable-Knit Cotton Sweater is a classic choice. It has a traditional cable-knit design with long sleeves and rib-knit cuffs, and it’s decorated with the brand’s signature embroidered pony. The sweater comes in a variety of colors, and it can easily be worn over a button-down or on its own.
You can pair your favorite sweater with plain pants like the Ultimate Tech Chino Pants, which come in several neutral colors, including shades of brown, blue, and black. They’re available in sizes 26 to 54, and they even have a special lining in the pockets that cleans your phone screen—how’s that for innovation?
There’s no need to wear traditional dress shoes in a business casual workplace. Instead, you can opt for something more comfortable like the Sperry’s Authentic Original Boat Shoe. These iconic shoes are made from full-grain leather, and they have a hand-sewn moccasin construction that conforms to your foot for all-day comfort.
8. Layer up for a stylish ensemble
For an extra-stylish work outfit, start with the rag & bone Priya Tweed Vest over a sheer long-sleeve top like the Floerns Women’s Button Front Blouse. (You’ll need to wear a black T-shirt or tank top underneath the blouse, too.) The vest is available in sizes 00 to 16, and it has an adjustable strap on the back for a perfect fit.
With this layered look on top, you’ll want simple pants like the Never-Fade Pixie Skinny Ankle Pants, which come in fun colors like Bourbon and Terrestrial Green. The Never-Fade fabric maintains its color no matter how many times you wash it, and the high-rise waistband has a slimming effect, to boot.
Finally, you can finish off the look with a retro shoe like the Crown Vintage Penny Loafer. They have a platform sole that will give you a little extra height, and you can style them with a pair of ankle socks for a trendy, yet office-friendly look.
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Prices were accurate at the time this article was published but may change over time.