What is Business Casual? Guidelines and Tips for Women and Men [2021]

what is business casual

Business casual dress code differs from one company to another. What’s more, it has different meanings depending on the industry. And, it isn’t the same in all countries. Still, being asked to dress business casual is more and more common these days.

Lots of events require business casual attire, such as a meeting, an interview, your first day at a new job, etc. However, business casual meaning is incredibly confusing for many people.

How do you know what to wear when asked to dress business casual? Do not panic! I’m about to explain what business casual is both for men and women. Not to mention that I’ll share some useful outfit ideas.

Thus, if you want to know all about business casual, you’re in the right place. I’ll cover from the basics to advanced tips so that you can dress properly and succeed. Ready?

Let’s get started!


What is business casual

There is a lot of controversy as regards what business casual exactly means. There is no right or wrong definition. It simply has several connotations depending on the industry, country, age, person, etc. 

In this chapter, I’ll explain what business casual means. And then, I’ll explain the difference between business casual and business professional since many people seem to confuse them, but they’re not the same.

What is business casual?

Business casual can be defined as less formal than traditional office attire but professional enough for an office environment. Thus, it’s a mixture between traditional business clothing and a more relaxed style.

business casual

Business casual has different connotations depending on the culture, geography, the company’s dress code, age, gender, type of industry, number of interactions between employees and customers, etc. If unsure, your best bet is to confirm your company’s dress code. 

You can also observe what other company members and coworkers wear to the office. It’s preferable you go overdressed the first day if you do not know what to wear. You can always adjust your look for a more comfortable one if accepted later on.

A business casual dress code means you have to project an image that’s professional and business-like. Still, it allows you to feel a bit more comfortable with somehow casual and relaxed clothing.

Appropriate business casual pieces of clothing you should have in your wardrobe are knee-length sheath dresses and pencil skirts, button-down shirts, blazers, sport coats, slacks, khakis, sweaters, dress shoes, or loafers and (optional) tie, among others. 

Still, there are certain items you should never wear if the dress code is business casual. For instance, shorts, flip-flops, ripped jeans, t-shirts, openly revealing clothes and athleticwear. 

Business casual vs. business professional

In this section, I’ll explain the difference between business casual and business professional so that you can better choose what to wear to work. 

Not surprisingly, the main difference between these two terms is that business professional implies the use of a two-piece suit. Still, there are other aspects you may want to consider since many people have problems distinguishing the terms mentioned above. 

business casual vs. business professional

Business casual allows you to feel more comfortable around the office but without looking messy. It generally involves wearing a button-down shirt with no tie or a shift dress. But, of course, sweaters, blazers, and slacks are welcome. 

If you wear a skirt, make sure it’s knee-length or longer. Remember you’re dressed for work. As regards shoes, loafers or dress shoes are preferable. Women can either opt for wearing heels or flats. 

However, the business professional dress code generally requires you to wear a suit. Therefore, men will have to wear a button-up shirt with a tie. In contrast, women may wear a blouse, dress pants, or a business skirt. 

Dress shoes are mandatory for both men and women. The latter can wear professional heels. As to colors, business professional attire is more conservative. So, bright colors are not appropriate.  

Besides, business casual attire is more convenient for a phone interview, for instance. Whereas a business professional attire is perfect for an in-person interview or a video conference interview.

business casual attire

What to wear to a business lunch/diner or a company event/party is challenging to decide. You’ll have to ask your company – sometimes they provide this information. Consulting other employees is a great idea too. 

Anyway, both business casual and business professional dress codes have benefits. You’ll find a complete summary below:

Business casual benefits:

  • Comfort will help your employees to be more efficient while at work.
  • Casual clothes cut down employees’ costs on clothes for going to work.
  • Some clients may feel more comfortable when they first visit you.
  • A relaxed atmosphere increases productivity and company morale.
  • A business casual dress code allows more freedom of expression and creativity. 

Business professional benefits:

  • There won’t be any dress code uncertainty.
  • It avoids uncomfortable situations – for instance, when someone is not adequately dressed for an important meeting.
  • Some clients will expect your employees to dress formally – at least in some industries. 
  • A business professional dress code ensures there’s uniformity among employees.

That’s all for this introductory chapter. So now you know what business casual dress code means. Besides, you’ve learned the difference between business casual and business professional. Thus, it’s time we move on! 

In the next chapter, I’ll tell you all about how to dress business casual. Keep on reading to ensure you dress properly if asked to wear a business casual outfit.

How to dress business casual

Learning how to dress business casual is of utmost importance. Nowadays, many brands allow their employees to wear business casual clothes. Yet, business casual is not the same as casual. You’ll still have to dress somehow professionally enough for a business setting.

In this chapter, I’ll show you how to dress business casual. If you follow my advice, you’ll learn how to dress to impress while feeling more comfortable than wearing traditional business clothing. 

I’ll also share some dos and don’ts advice so that you’re always covered no matter what business casual outfit you choose to wear. So let’s get into it!

How to dress business casual 

Knowing what clothes to wear when asked to dress business casual is not a piece of cake. There isn’t a clear consensus as to what business casual means. But don’t worry, I’m about to explain how to dress business casual below. Just carry on reading!

how to dress business casual

Tips on how to dress business casual:

Find out whether your job leans business or is more inclined to casual.

Not all industries understand business casual dress code the same way, neither do all companies. Thus, you’ll need to somehow figure out what business casual means for the company you work for.

Some industries allow you to dress a little bit more relaxed, such as in tech industries. Others expect you to be somehow creative like fashion and maybe some agencies. However, sectors like finance or the service industry have stricter rules.

It is for this reason that you should find out what business casual dress code means for your job, company, and industry. If unsure, it’s preferable you overdress till you know what’s expected of you. 

Likewise, you should always dress properly for a job interview, even if who interviews you isn’t wearing professional clothes. Remember that when you go to an interview, you should dress to impress. 

Check your company’s official dress code.

Not all companies have the same dress code policy. What’s more, not all employees understand business casual the same way. As a result, what’s acceptable in some workplaces may be considered as breaking the rules in others. 

check your company’s official dress code

Some companies allow you to wear jeans, polo tees, and open-toed shoes. However, others ask their employees to wear closed-toed shoes, full-sleeve length shirts, and non-denim pants. 

Besides, you could be required to dress more formally for specific occasions, such as at a conference, trade show, or when you meet clients. Learning about your company’s dress code policy can save you from uncomfortable situations. In addition, it’ll ensure you’re always dressed as expected. 

Consider what other employees are wearing.

It would be wise to pay attention to what other employees wear on a typical workday. This would allow you to model your attire after them. You may notice that they do not always wear the same kind of clothes.

Some companies have the so-called “dress-down Fridays,” and employees are allowed a bit more freedom. However, other companies expect you to dress more formally for company events.

consider what other employees are wearing

Observing how your colleges dress is of vital importance. It’ll give you a hint as to what is expected of you. Remember when you go to work you should wear your clothes polished. Old clothes or items with holes are not at all appropriate. Check for imperfections from time to time and renew your clothes when necessary. 

Ask your company’s human resources department.

If unsure about what business casual means for your company, you can always ask the human resources department. The best way might be to send them an email. Besides, you could also talk with higher-ups and ask for their recommendations.

Make sure you understand not only what you should wear but also what you’re supposed not to wear. Not surprisingly, learning about unacceptable clothes might end up being much more useful than what you think. 

Create your own business casual wardrobe. 

It’s high time you build your own business casual wardrobe. But, before you start, make sure you apply the information you learned in the previous tips. Besides, bear in mind that the more trendy a clothing item is, the more casual it is.

create your own business casual wardrobe

Likewise, if you decide to wear colorful clothes, these would be more casual than neutral colors such as black, gray, navy, or white, among others. And remember, the simpler the design, the more formal it will be. 

Bear in mind that you’ll need to select business casual clothes for one week or a week and a half to be covered. You cannot wear the same outfit every day. On top of that, most people only do the laundry once a week. So, you’ll need several items.

Think of a number, such as 20, and choose business casual clothes till you complete them. Consider that you’ll need different clothing depending on the season. While some items can be worn all year long, others are only seasonal.

Do not include socks, underwear, and accessories in your counting. It would be wise to carefully select those items which can form part of several outfits. 

Examples of how to dress business casual for men.

how to dress business casual for men

To help you understand how to dress business casual for men, I’d like to mention some items to help you make an idea. For instance, you could wear a sportscoat, neutral-colored shirts, sweaters, pants, dress slacks, and dress shoes or loafers. 

Examples of how to dress business casual for women.

how to dress business casual for women

As regards women, you should wear clothing items like blouses, blazers, sheath dresses, and knee-length skirts. Pencil skirts and dress pants are appropriate too. Besides, you can wear flats, stilettos, pumps, or kitten heels for your feet, among many other things. 

Examples of what not to wear under any circumstances. 

As important as understanding what business casual dress code is, it’s to learn what items shouldn’t form part of your attire. For example, you should never wear clothes with offensive words or graphics. 

Besides, you shouldn’t wear ripped jeans or ratty sneakers, flip-flops, or clothes that are too tight or too revealing. So you’ll be better off if you avoid wearing those items mentioned above. 

If still unsure, check the business casual dos and don’t I’m about to share below.

Dos and don’ts 

It’s high time I summarize what you should and shouldn’t wear if asked to dress business casual. In essence, business casual means that your clothes should help you give your boss and coworkers a businesslike and professional impression. 

businesslike and professional impression

Still, business casual doesn’t mean the same for everybody, which makes it confusing. What’s more, the number of DON’TS is more significant than the DOS. Mainly, what you have to pay attention to is not to break any of your company’s dress code policies.

There are some general guidelines that work for most brands. For instance, you should wear clothes that properly fit your body shape. Clothes that make you look professional in the eyes of others. 

As to your clothes colors, it’s obvious you shouldn’t choose colors that are too bright. You’ll be better off selecting pastel or neutral colors instead. Besides, these colors match more easily. So, they’ll help you with clothes combinations. 

On top of that, you should be careful with what kind of shoes you wear. These should be dress shoes. Some companies allow women to wear dress sandals and open-toed shoes, but not all brands fancy this.

As to the length of dresses and skirts, these must be knee-length or longer. Make sure your clothes are not too tight or revealing. And avoid wearing clothes with offensive messages.

The list of DONT’S is much longer. Consider aspects like don’t wear sports clothes to the office. Jeans and sneakers are not generally allowed. Clothes that are baggy or tight are not appropriate. 

don’t wear sports clothes to the office

Excessive jewelry, hats, flip-flops, shorts, beachwear, and unprofessional shoes aren’t allowed either. What you must do is pay attention to what senior employees wear and model after them.

When in doubt, it’s always preferable to go for formal business attire. You can make your outfit more casual as time goes by. It’s worse to be underdressed than overdressed at the office. 

Below, you’ll find a summary of common DOS and DON’TS for business casual attire: 

  • DO pick up clothes that fit you and make you look professional, such as tailored blazers, pants, and dresses.
  • DO buy clothes of neutral colors. This way, your outfit will be office-appropriate.
  • DO pick up closed-toed loafers or heels to go to the office.
  • DO select a formal business attire.
  • DO put on casual pants, capri pants, long skirts, and knee-length dresses.
  • DO use dress shoes and dress sandals.
  • DO wear tasteful jewelry. 
  • DO wear polo shirts, sweaters, and blouses.
  • DON’T use baggy or logo-ridden shirts and pants.
  • DON’T wear sneakers, sandals, or jeans to the office.
  • DON’T choose neither baggy nor tight fits. 
  • DON’T dress in denim jeans or sneakers unless approved by your company.
  • DON’T turn out in sports clothes.
  • DON’T use clothes with offensive, political or religious messages.
  • DON’T wear clothes that are revealing, tight, distracting, loose, torn, or frayed. 
  • DON’T put on excessive jewelry or fragrances. 
  • DON’T wear hats or clothes with hoods. 
  • DON’T show up wearing shorts, halter tops, crop tops, or beachwear. 
  • DON’T wear flip-flops, clogs, or other unprofessional shoes to the office. 

That’s all for this chapter; now you know how to dress business casual. In the next chapter, I’ll tell you all about how to dress business casual for women. Keep on reading to ensure you know how to dress properly.

Business casual for women

In this chapter, I’ll explain what business casual for women means. Afterward, I’ll share some business casual outfit ideas for women. So what are you waiting for to dress to impress in the office? Let’s have a look at it!

What’s business casual for women

Business casual for women varies from company to company. What’s more, it differs depending on the work you do. And it’s not the same in all parts of the world. Not to mention that you’ll need different outfits for each season.

business casual for women

Thus, we could say that women’s business casual dress code is not at all easy to decipher. For most companies, it means you have to mix elements of formal attire with casual pieces of clothing.

For instance, you can combine a blazer, suit skirt, or formal pants with a patterned top or leopard flats. However, most of your business casual clothes should be in neutral colors since these are easier to combine. 

Business casual dress code for women is more challenging than what you may think. There are many items that could be worn or should be avoided depending on your brand’s dress code policies.

Besides, what you wear to the office can have an impact on what others think about you. Thus, you must carefully select your outfits from Monday to Friday. On top of that, it’s challenging to choose a summer business casual attire.

You’ll have to make sure your outfit is still appropriate for going to the office. For example, you can wear clothes in breathable materials like linen or silk, but ensure your clothes aren’t sheer nor too revealing.

Winter clothes are easier to select. You could perfectly dress in sweaters, shirts with long sleeves, blazers, or a smart coat to commute to the office. Below I’m about to share some outfit ideas to help you understand what business casual attire for women really means.  

Business casual outfits for women

There’s a lot of variety as regards business casual outfits for women. That’s why many women feel unsure of what to wear. But, if you’re one of them, you’re in the right place!

business casual outfits for women
Source: Photo by Evan Wise

Here, you’ll find some business casual clothes for women and how to combine them so that you look professional but chic!

Let’s have a look at them!

  1. Business casual tops.

There are lots of top choices out there. What matters is that they complement your skin tone, eyes, and hair color. Besides, business casual tops need to be appropriate for going to the office.

More often than not, you’ll be better off with pastels, muted florals, jewel tones, and some prints. Your tops neckline is something you must pay attention to. Make sure your cleavage is not on display. 

Thus, boat neck, collared, square neck, or turtle neck tops should be among your business casual top options. Remember you should dress modestly. As regards sleeves, long sleeves or ¾ sleeves are more than welcome. However, be careful when wearing sleeveless tops. You should pair them with a blazer. 

  1. Business casual shirts. 

Business casual shirts can be of several materials. You can either go for a more classic cotton shirt, silk one, or a synthetic design. Whatever your choice, make sure you wear a bra and camisole underneath, in case your shirt is at all sheer.

As to colors, they can either be neutral or soft. It depends on what you wear on your bottom. You can also opt for shirts with a print or a pop of color to make your look more personal and fun. It’s really up to you as long as you look professional enough. 

  1. Business casual pants/trousers. 

Pants are an excellent choice for the office. Just make sure they are smart trousers in neutral colors. Besides, you should make sure they are comfortable enough when sitting down. Your pants or trousers must fit you well, and they should be wrinkle-free so that you look professional.

business casual pants/trousers

What’s more, business casual pants can be of many materials, such as cotton, wool, linen, polyester and even, denim. However, if you choose to wear denim trousers, make sure the color is pure and without ripped seams. 

You can select different styles depending on the season. For instance, thicker fabrics in dark colors for winter and spring. But, you’ll probably wear lighter pants in summer and spring. 

  1. Business casual skirts.

Business casual skirts will make you look more stylish. Besides, you are likely to pair them with those blouses and shirts you usually wear with pants. Skirts are incredibly versatile. 

Not to mention that they’re almost always appropriate and make you look more feminine. You can either opt for a pencil skirt, A-line skirt, or pleated skirt. Just make sure your skirt length is knee-length.

On top of that, it’s worth mentioning that if your skirt has a slit, it has to be modest and comfortable when you sit down. You can dress in skirts of many colors and prints. Just ensure they’re appropriate for going to the office. 

  1. Business casual dresses.

Likewise, dresses are ideal for businesswomen. You won’t have to worry about what to match your top and bottom with. Besides, dresses go well with blazers and jackets. You can even add a scarf to ensure you’ve got the perfect outfit.

business casual dresses

Still, make sure necklines, sleeves, and hemlines are appropriate for going to the office. As to your dress length, it can be knee-length or mid-thigh length. Necklines should be modest, and you cannot show too much cleavage. Full-length or ¾ sleeves are preferable since they’re both appropriate and more flattering. 

  1. Business casual shoes.

Women have many options as regards business casual shoes. You can either wear flats, heels, boots, wedges and certain sandals. That’s to say, brogues, loafers, ballerinas, kitten heels, booties, knee-length boots, etc.

Still, your shoes shouldn’t have many embellishments, such as multiple buckles or studs. And, make sure you pick comfortable shoes if you’re going to be walking around all day. Skinny heels are not so common since they can make you tired sooner.

What to wear will depend on the occasion and the job you do. For example, you won’t probably wear the same shoes for a conference, business diner or to the office. Besides, if you use tights or socks, make sure they’re in a neutral color and appropriate. 

  1. Business casual accessories. 

Believe it or not, accessories can change your overall office look. If used properly, they’ll make you look your very best. It’s a great idea to wear elegant scarves. Choose colors that complement your look.

business casual accessories
Source: Katja Bayer

As to jewelry, it must be conservative and small. For example, it’s a great idea to wear a conservative watch. Other accessories like purses or briefcases matter too. Make sure they are in neutral colors, and wear them only if you’re going to use them. 

  1. Business casual outfit ideas for women. 

There exist lots of possible combinations for a great business casual woman’s outfit. To name a few, you could dress in a cropped jumpsuit with a blazer, a dress with heels, a blouse with pants, a pencil skirt with a blouse, a blazer with jeans and a pair of heels, etc. 

business casual outfit ideas for women

What to wear is up to you as long as you look professional and don’t break your company’s dress code policies. Try to look stylish but conservative. What you wear to work will influence how others feel about you. So think twice before selecting your outfit for the next day, and you’ll succeed! 

Now that you’re familiar with what business casual for women means, it’s time to move on. In the next chapter, I’ll focus on business casual for men. What’s more, I’ll share some outfit ideas. You can’t miss it!

business casual for men

In this chapter, I’ll tell you all about what business casual means for men. I’ll start by providing some general guidelines every man should know. And then, I’ll share some business casual outfit ideas for men.

What’s business casual for men

Business casual for men remains unclear to many people. Many still wonder what pants, slacks, jackets, or shirts are considered appropriate office wear. If you are one of those, you are in the right place.

Like it or hate it, business casual attire means you won’t be required to wear traditional office wear. However, you’ll still have to give a professional or business-like impression. Well, that leaves you probably quite confused. Since what business casual dress code means is open to interpretation.

business casual dress code
Source: Korie Cull

Besides, business casual attire varies depending on what profession you have, where your office is located, your company’s culture, and more. Yet, some general safe bets include clothing items such as khakis, trousers, and chinos; button-down shirts and sweaters; dress shoes, blazers, and sportscoats.

Each company has its own specific rules. For example, if you’re going to an interview, make sure you research the company beforehand. Likewise, if you have to attend a networking event, choose an outfit that’s comfortable but makes you feel confident. 

What’s more, when you start a new job, it would be wise to pay attention to what your coworkers wear to the office. And, make sure you draw attention to those in a position you aspire to be too.

You’ll probably be safe if you dress in a tucked-in collared shirt, flat front pants, and leather dress shoes. Most brands will allow you to wear chinos. However, jeans are less common. As to ties, they’re generally optional, but it depends on your company’s dress code policies. 

I hope you have a better understanding of what business casual attire for men means. Below, you’ll find some suggestions and outfit ideas to get you started!

Business casual outfits for men

Here I’ll provide you with key details as regards business casual men outfits. So let’s have a look at them in more detail!

  1. Business casual shirts.
business casual shirts

Business casual shirts are a must-have for any man. Cotton button-down shirts are business casual basic pieces of clothing. Make sure your dress shirt fits the shape of your body. You can choose from a slim, regular, or athletic fit.

These days slimmer fits are preferable, even if you are a big guy. And, do not forget to tuck in your shirt. When choosing a business casual shirt, pick something that aligns with your company culture.

It’s safer to select monochromatic colors and simple patterns, at least until you make yourself a business casual wardrobe. Then, trendier patterns and brighter colors can be added as time goes by if your brand allows them. 

  1. Business casual sweaters.

Sweaters, sweater vests, and cardigans are perfect for your business casual attire. You can pair them with a collared button-down shirt or a blazer. Make sure your sweater is tight-fitting and avoid loud colors and busy patterns.

A navy or gray sweater is a safe bet. What’s more, if you chose to wear a cardigan, you can combine them with a shirt and a tie. This way, you’ll no doubt look chic and professional. 

  1. Business casual jackets and blazers.
business casual jackets and blazers
Source: Andrew Power on Unsplash

Blazers are a must-have for any businessman. You can perfectly pair them with a button-down shirt, such as an Oxford. Besides, blazers go well with sweaters in colder months.

What type of jacket or blazer to choose is up to you. Still, it’s advisable you select a blazer in solid colors and subtle patterns. Anything in navy or black will do with most of your outfits so if you have a black blazer, just go for it. 

Both single-breasted and double-breasted blazers are welcome. Yet, the latter is preferable for those in managerial positions since they’ll make you look more professional. 

  1. Business casual pants/trousers.

Business casual pants matter more than what you think. They need to pair with your bottom. Chinos, trousers, and khakis are business casual appropriate. As to the color of your pants, you can go for gray, navy, tan, brown, and black.

Some companies allow their employees to wear jeans. Still, not any pair of jeans will do. Make sure they are high-quality, well-fitted, and in dark colors. Clean, tight-fitting trousers will make your overall attire look sophisticated. 

Similarly to shirts, pants come in a variety of cuts and fits. Remember that straight and slim cuts are preferable. Baggy pants won’t make you look professional. 

  1. Business casual shoes. 

Regarding your footwear, it’s worth mentioning that your shoes can break or make your look. Thus, you must choose them wisely. A safe bet is a pair of polished Oxfords, loafers, or monk straps.

business casual shoes

Leather shoes are always welcome. And colors like black, chocolate, dark red, or tan are a great option. Remember to pick shoes that match with your belt and watch. Anyway, what to wear depends on your company’s dress code.

If you happen to work for a brand that allows some freedom, you may want to wear leather sneakers, Chelsea boots, or a pair of suede shoes. Still, even if your workplace allows you to wear more casual shoes, make sure they are clean and polished. 

  1. Business casual accessories.

There are lots of accessories you can wear to complement your business casual outfit. What’s more, accessories allow you to express your style and personality. Options include belts, ties, watches, cufflinks, pocket squares, a leather bag, etc. 

Whatever you choose, bear in mind it has to match your overall outfit. A brown leather strap watch is always welcome. It’s classic, and it’ll probably go well with most of your clothes.

Likewise, belts are mandatory. They’ll help you ensure your pants are where they should be. Not to mention that they’ll help you acquire a polished appearance. As to pocket squares, they’re great for matching a blazer. The options are endless. 

  1. Business casual outfit ideas for men. 

There exist plenty of business casual outfits for men. Among others, you can pair a sports coat with a button-up shirt, dress pants, and a tie. Another option could be to dress in a sports coat, t-shirt, and chinos.

business casual outfit ideas for men

You might also want to wear a sports coat, polo, and dress pants or a button-down shirt with a pair of dress pants, a belt, and a watch. Not surprisingly, the options are endless as long as you follow your brand’s dress code policies and look professional. 

Well, that’s all for business casual for men. So now you know what it means and what is expected of men when the dress code is business casual. I’ve also shared some outfit ideas. 

In the next chapter, I’ll explain what business casual is during a job interview. So keep on reading to be able to dress to impress and get the job you were seeking!

Business casual during a job interview

In this chapter, I’ll tell you all about what’s business casual during a job interview. I’ll also comment on when it’s appropriate to dress business casual for a job interview. And finally, I’ll provide some tips that will help you to succeed.

What’s business casual during a job interview 

Business casual interview attire means that you have to dress professionally but not overly formal. You’ll have to wear clean, tidy clothes and ensure you’re well-groomed. Business casual interview attire is less formal than a suit but more polished than a t-shirt and flip-flops.

There are more don’ts than dos as regards what you’re supposed to wear to an interview when the dress code is business casual. However, what’s unquestionable is that you should dress a bit more professionally than average employees. 

dress code is business casual
Source: Dollar Gill

When in doubt, contact the human resources department or ask the person you schedule the interview with. Most industries allow business casual as the appropriate attire for an interview. However, you’ll be expected to wear a suit in industries like finance, law, or banking, among others. 

Business casual interview attire for women means you could wear a tailored dress. Another possible outfit would be a button-up shirt or blouse with either pants or a skirt. Still, make sure your dress or skirt is knee-length and avoid showing too much cleavage.

Regarding shoes, you should definitely go for something that’s comfortable but business-appropriate. For instance, you could wear either flats, loafers or heels. Pick something that allows you to walk around comfortably.  

As to men, business casual interview attire means you might need to wear a collared shirt with dress pants. Whether to wear a tie or not is up to you. A jacket or blazer is also optional. However, it’ll give you a professional look.

If you do not want to wear a jacket and the weather is cold, you could wear a sweater instead. Besides, you must wear dress shoes. What’s more, brown loafers, lace-up dress shoes, or Oxfords are more than welcome to polish your interview attire. 

When it’s appropriate

What to wear to an interview matters more than what you may think. Thus, you must research your industry and determine whether business casual attire is suitable for your forthcoming interview. 

what to wear to an interview
Source: Leio McLaren

Business casual is appropriate for an interview where the environment is a little more relaxed than formal business wear. Generally, this can happen when interviewed for a position in an IT company, creative industries, or fitness-related industries, to name a few. 

However, you won’t be allowed to dress in business casual clothes if your interview belongs to the medicine, insurance, finance, law, or banking industries. On the contrary, you would be expected to dress business formal. That means a suit and tie or hosiery for women. 

Basically, what to wear to an interview depends on the industry, company dress code policies, location, weather, country, etc. Still, most of the time, it’s appropriate to dress business casual.

As I mentioned before, when unsure, it’s advisable you err on the formal side. However, once you are there, observe the rest of the candidates, and if you realize you’re dressed too formal, you can always adapt your outfit by removing the tie, for instance. 

Even if the dress code is business casual, you should never wear jeans to an interview. The idea is that you give a good impression. So, you’d better save your best jeans for when you get the job. 


Deciphering what to wear to an interview when the dress code is business casual can end up being such an ordeal. Most people have problems figuring out what business casual really means.

Hopefully, this guide will help you to understand business casual attire better. I’ve already explained what it means in previous chapters, as well as what’s expected of both men and women.

Still, I’d like to share some tips which work for business casual interview attire. So let’s have a look at them!

Here, you’ll find common-sense tips as regards what to wear to an interview when the dress code is business casual:

  • Do not wear too much jewelry.
  • Decide what to wear beforehand, not on the day of the interview.
  • Check for stains and imperfections. Do the laundry and iron your clothes. 
  • Pick up clothes in neutral colors.
  • Choose clothes that make you look professional but comfortable.
  • Avoid wearing patterns in the first interview. Leave fashionable clothing items for when you get the job.
  • Make sure everything fits correctly. 
  • Polish your shoes the night before. 
  • Keep your hair neat. 
  • Don’t wear too much make-up.
  • Don’t wear a suit nor jeans. Instead, choose a business professional outfit with which you feel confident for the interview. 

And that’s all for now. In this chapter, you learned what to wear to a business casual interview. Yet, as important as knowing what to wear, it is to understand what you’re supposed not to wear.

In the next chapter, I’ll focus on what not to wear when the dress code is business casual. So keep on reading to ensure you’re well-informed as regards what not to do! Who knows, there might be something you think it’s appropriate, but it isn’t.

What not to wear

In this chapter, I’ll deal with what you’re not supposed to wear if the dress code is business casual. There are lots of clothing items you cannot use for going to the office. There’s a proper outfit for each setting and occasion. So don’t wear clothes just because they are comfy.

What not to wear when the dress code is business casual

It goes without saying that appearance matters. People will judge you, and they’ll make an idea of who you are based on how you look. However, I guess you would like to be known at work for your performance rather than because of your appearance. 

Deciding what to wear to the office is a daily struggle for many. Yet, it’s common sense you shouldn’t turn up wearing flip-flops, dirty clothes, ripped jeans, or ratty sneakers, to name a few.

what to wear to the office
Source: Mateus Campos Felipe

Business casual attire can be confusing to many people. However, there are many clothing items you should never wear to work. If in doubt, carry on reading. I’ll cover the main no-nos below.

Not surprisingly, you cannot wear dirty or wrinkled clothes to work. In other words, your clothes must be clean and unwrinkled. What’s more, it would be wise to keep a change of clothes in the office or your car in case the worse happens.

Your hair and nails must be clean if you want to give a good impression. Not to mention your shoes, they need to be clean and polished. Besides, you mustn’t wear clothing that’s too tight or revealing to work.

Items like miniskirts or crop tops are not at all appropriate. An attire that’s somehow revealing doesn’t transmit respect and professionalism. Likewise, you shouldn’t wear clothes that are too casual.

you shouldn’t wear clothes that are too casual

Casual clothes might be trendy and comfortable though they’re not welcome in a working atmosphere. So make sure you avoid wearing flip-flops, shorts, t-shirts, ripped jeans, etc. Talking about t-shirts, you cannot wear t-shirts with offensive messages to work.

So, if you own any of them, you’d better save them for the weekend. Or you can get rid of them. Besides, you shouldn’t wear club clothes to work. Apart from being inappropriate, your boss may think you never made it home last night.

On top of that, it’s preferable if you do not wear clothes that make it difficult to work. I refer to clothes that are uncomfortable for working, such as tight clothes. Apart from being a distraction, you won’t be able to do your job well.

Another piece of advice I’d like to share is that you shouldn’t use too much perfume or aftershave. The smell can be annoying for some people. And, obviously, anything others can see through is not correct either.

Here is a list of the main no-nos:

  • Bright colors, such as neons.
  • Backless or low-cut tops.
  • Strapless tops or shirts.
  • Oversized or loose clothing items.
  • Clothes that are too revealing. Avoid wearing anything that shows off your back, cleavage, or tummy.
  • Clothing that’s too casual. Business casual has the “business” connotation too. 
  • T-shirts or tops with offensive messages or graphics.
  • Flip-flops.
  • Athletic shoes and clothes like leggings or yoga pants.
  • Wrinkled clothes.
  • Clothes you bought for clubbing or bar-hopping.
  • Light-wash or ripped jeans.
  • Muscle tees.
  • Too much makeup. If you wear makeup, it has to look natural. 
  • Tight skirts or dresses which make it difficult to walk around.
  • Stained clothes.
  • Shorts or miniskirts.
  • Too much perfume or aftershave.
  • Clothes people can see-through.
  • Cold-shoulder tops. Reserve them for the weekend.
  • Visible undergarments.

Now that you are familiar with what you shouldn’t wear when the dress code is business casual, I’d like to provide some key takeaways. Read the next chapter, and you’ll get them!

Guidelines for a proper business casual attire

In this last chapter, I’m about to share some general guidelines regarding acceptable business casual attire. Let’s get into it!

Key takeaways 

To help you better understand what business casual attire means, I’d like to share some key takeaways. 

As you may well already know by now, what business casual means is open to debate. That makes it hard to figure out what you’re supposed to wear to work when the dress code is business casual.

First, you should check your company’s dress code policies and determine what business casual means for your brand. If still unsure, you can ask higher-ups or the human resources department.

check your company’s dress code policies

As I mentioned above, business casual has more DON’TS than DOS. Thus, you’d better learn about what you’re supposed not to wear. It’ll include clothing like sports clothes, dirty clothing, clothes you bought for clubbing, beachwear, etc. 

What business casual means, no matter the industry, is that you have to dress in professional clothes. Just because your company allows you not to wear business professional clothes, it doesn’t mean you can wear whatever you want. 

Consider the following key takeaways:

  • Business casual dress code varies from company to company. Figure out what it means in yours. 
  • Business casual is not sportswear.
  • Business casual doesn’t mean you have to wear a suit and tie but neither shorts and flip-flops.
  • Dress for the industry you work for.
  • Wear professional clothes. Remember, you’re dressing for work.
  • Business casual is less formal than traditional business attire.
  • Business casual has the “business” connotation included. So, you should dress professionally enough.
  • Ensure your business casual clothes fit your body shape.
  • Don’t show up in the office wearing casual clothes. Distinguish between clothes for going to work and clothes for other activities, such as partying or sports.


Now you are familiar with what business casual means. Both men and women are expected to dress professionally. However, some industries allow more freedom than others as regards what to wear to the office.

This means you must find out what are your company’s dress code policies. Most brands allow their employees to dress business casual. Still, you might be asked to dress more professionally for certain events, such as a business meeting or diner.

So, it’s critical you understand what is expected of you. When you are at work, you represent your company. What’s more, people will judge you because of your clothes. Thus, you’d better dress properly and give a good impression.

I hope you’ve found this post interesting!

Now, I’d like to hear from you …

Have you got any questions about this post?

What do you usually wear to work?

Does your company allow you to dress in business casual clothes?

Is there anything I forgot mentioning that you’d like to share?

2 thoughts on “What is Business Casual? Guidelines and Tips for Women and Men [2021]”

  1. Theresa/Colorado

    Healthcare field… used to wearing scrubs, and I own my own business in the mental health arena. So, I am creating my HR dept and style and also invited to networking or other business development events like with the Chamber of Commerce for local medical professionals. In this climate, for breakfast networking, I am told the dress code is, “business casual or just casual”.
    Well, my plus-size comfort zone says wear neutral scrubs and walking shoes, lol, but I am asking you to help me reach outside my routine go-to safe clothes, and still be comfortable around my colleagues. Suggestions?

    1. Many women wonder what to wear when the dress code is business casual. As explained in the post, it means combining formal and casual wear. Your clothes should be appropriate for going to work. Neutral colors are more than advisable since they’re easier to mix and match. Still, there’s a whole world of possibilities to choose from.

      Since you’ve been told to wear either business casual or casual attire, there’s no need you dress too formal. Just a pair of jeans or dress pants with a blouse or sweater will serve you well. Besides, when appropriate, you can add a blazer. It’ll significantly help you look elegant, professional, and stylish.

      Instead of your walking shoes, you could try to wear flats. You’ll be comfortable, but stylish. Options are endless. Boots are welcome too. And, you can add some complements, such as a belt, necklace, or a watch. They’ll allow you to show a bit of your personality. Most importantly, select clothes with which you feel comfortable. They must also be work-appropriate.

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published.