November 20, 2023
13 min read
You’ve probably heard the term “business casual” before. But knowing exactly what that includes can be a bit more tricky. After all, styles and trends are constantly evolving, as are workplace standards.
This ultimate guide to business casual will break down what it is and highlight tons of outfit ideas, along with what not to wear.
Business casual is a type of attire that’s generally traditional business clothing but in more relaxed or “casual” styles. This type of attire is considered appropriate and professional for an office environment, among other scenarios.
With the push to return to the office, understanding this type of attire is more important than ever.
Whereas business casual is traditional business clothing in casual styles, smart casual is professional yet more informal and more relaxed than the former. Smart casual is more toned down, too. It’s almost like a professional spin on casual clothing.
Many industries seem to prefer smart casual, such as:
The main difference between business casual and business professional is that the latter is more professional. Business professional is that it’s more traditional and formal.
Usually, more “conservative” industries require employees to wear business professional, such as:
Business casual is a popular choice of attire in many different scenarios. Many offices require or expect employees to dress in business casual. For example, people who often have client meetings or other important, in-person meetings should probably err on the side of caution and steer clear of more casual dress. Even casual lunches in the office most likely require a nice fit.
Similarly, industry events like conferences are another great place to wear your best looks.
You should also plan to wear business casual during interviews, whether they’re in-person or online. If you have an interview coming up, do a practice run with Yoodli’s interview simulator.
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Many business casual examples are gender-based. To be clear, this type of attire is for people of every gender.
However, if you’d like to explore more gendered examples, here’s some guidance about what types of outfits and pieces you might want to experiment with.
If you’re interested in men’s business casual, you’re in luck: it’s extremely versatile and there are many options.
For example, some tops that are appropriate for men’s business casual include pieces like:
Even T-shirts can work, as long as they have clean lines and a more tailored fit. Just make sure with men’s outfits, your top and bottoms should be in solid colors or at the most, simple patterns.
With regard to bottoms, the best men’s business casual examples include things like:
Bottoms should be in classic, neutral tones such as navy, beige, olive, or gray.
For your footwear, you might want to explore options like:
Desert boots or chukka boots are also acceptable, depending on your overall look.
There are also plenty of men’s accessories you could experiment with as well. In your arsenal, you could have watches (aim for those with metal or leather straps and traditional styles), a variety of leather belts, pocket squares, or scarves.
If you’d prefer men’s accessories that lean toward the formal side, tie bars and cufflinks are also good choices.
Just like men’s, there are tons of women’s business casual options to try. You might consider experimenting with multiple pieces and combinations to find exactly what you like.
For women’s business casual tops, there are plenty to choose from, such as:
Like men’s, make sure any women’s business casual tops don’t have busy patterns. Opt for more simple, subtle patterns and styles.
With regard to women’s business casual bottoms, you could consider items like:
Like the tops, your bottoms should also be in neutral tones.
Women’s footwear includes many different options, such as:
There are tons of great complimentary accessories for women’s outfits. For example, you could explore items like:
Things like tie bars, cufflinks, and watches are great options.
You don’t have to be a man to wear men’s dress or a woman to wear women’s clothing. However, if you’re looking for more androgynous, gender-neutral options, there are some great examples to consider.
For example, some gender-neutral tops include options like:
Remember, neutral colors and simple or subtle patterns are best. That goes for bottoms, too. In terms of bottoms, consider gender-neutral examples like:
For footwear, most options are naturally gender-neutral examples, such as:
Accessories like belts, watches, wraps, scarves, necklaces, earrings, and cufflinks are all gender-neutral examples.
For more specific common business casual examples, sometimes it helps to consider particular types and styles based on the kind of clothing. Things like shoes, dresses, and full outfits can help give you some idea of what you might like.
Plus, having a few examples of what this type of attire can look like is essential for anyone working in retail.
There are plenty of business casual shoes you can mix and match with your outfits. Close-toed shoes are usually a good bet, too.
Some specific examples of business casual shoes include:
Remember, flip-flops are definitely not business casual shoes.
In terms of business casual dresses, the versatility of styles is something many people appreciate.
For example, some of the best options for business casual dresses include things like:
The most important thing to keep in mind about dresses is that all of these styles offer different looks that can be dressed up or down with accessories. Opt for neutral tones and simple patterns.
Because this type of attire is so versatile, there are tons of potential business casual outfits to try and experiment with.
For example, some of the most common business casual outfits include looks like:
Of course, this isn’t an exhaustive list. Don’t be afraid to try multiple outfits. It might take a minute to find your favorite styles.
You should feel comfortable wearing this type of attire no matter what size your body is. There isn’t a fit that someone can’t wear because of their body type. But there are also some specific plus-size business casual options that might be helpful to consider.
For example, experiment with tops and bottoms like:
With plus-size business casual, just remember that you should feel self-confident and comfortable with the outfits. It might take a bit of experimenting to find exactly what you like.
There are also many different types of business casual attire. For example, options can vary based on the season or time of year.
With spring business casual, the idea is to dress for the longer days and warmer weather. You’ll also have a little more freedom incorporating different patterns into your outfits. Aspects like brighter colors and lighter fabrics are essential for spring business casual.
Some specific examples of spring business casual clothing include looks like:
You can also dress these outfits up with accessories like statement necklaces, a leather watch, or earrings.
As the temperatures continue to rise, summer business casual options should prioritize breathable fabrics and comfortable footwear. Like spring, you can also emphasize brighter colors, bold or playful patterns, and prints.
For example, some specific summer business casual pieces could include fits like:
Once the weather starts to get a bit cooler, you can experiment with some fall business casual options. In particular, you might opt for some more neutral or earthy tones and richer textures.
Some fall business casual outfit ideas could include looks such as:
For winter business casual, you’ll likely want to prioritize warmth. Layered looks, rich textures, and cozy knits are great options.
Some of the best choices for winter business casual looks include outfits like:
With winter looks, make sure to take advantage of layers and accessories with gloves, hats, and scarves to keep warm.
Because smart business casual is a subtype, there’s a bit more freedom in the types of outfits you could try.
For example, some smart business casual fits you might experiment with include looks like:
Smart business casual is pretty versatile, so be sure to try many types of clothing and styles to see what works best.
Of course, there are some important clothing items that are not considered business casual, and it’s useful to know what exists outside of that type of attire so you can avoid it.
For example, some clothing, styles, and accessories that aren’t considered business casual include things like:
As of late, there are a few noteworthy trends that have cropped up. Loosely keeping track of the various trends in outfits can help you diversify your wardrobe as well as your looks.
For example, prioritizing comfortability is more common, even with this type of attire. People opt for cozy knit sweaters and soft fabrics over starchy tops. Breathable, lightweight options like Tencel, cotton, and linen are great picks. Relaxed silhouettes are another aspect of this comfortable trend, specifically wide-leg pants, oversized blazers, and loose-fitting pants.
Whereas this type of attire used to be limited to neutral colors, bolder patterns and more vibrant hues are more trendy today. Today, geometric patterns, stripes, and floral prints are especially popular.
In the past, sneakers and tennis shoes were frowned upon. However, elevated sneakers are more popular than ever, and increasingly appropriate as part of an outfit. If you’d like to experiment with sneakers choose shoes with minimalist, simplistic designs and neutral tones.
Of course, thrifting and sustainable clothing is another “trend” that’s gained traction. Instead of supporting fast fashion to build a wardrobe, people have turned to secondhand clothing in the form of family hand-me-downs or thrift store finds.
Finding some business casual outfits that make you happy and are also comfortable and stylish shouldn’t be as difficult when you have an idea of what you like.
Having some versatile pieces you can mix and match — such as blouses and button-downs with corduroy or dress pants — are all you need.
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