Casually Confused



The concept of ‘business casual’ would seem, in theory, to make the chore of getting dressed easier and simpler for the professional woman. But vague rules, changing social norms, and dynamic industries make this a confounding and frustrating dress code to follow. Every  workplace, industry, and individual is different, so setting hard-and-fast rules is difficult, but we’ve laid out some guidelines for determining what is appropriate, and shared tips for looking both easy and professional.

Evaluate your workplace. Do you work in a progressive industry like tech, or a conservative one, like financial services? What is the demographic makeup of your office? Do you have mature colleagues with more traditional attitudes who may be offended by certain styles? Your locale is also a factor- cities like Los Angeles and Miami are more casual than New York or Boston.

Set personal parameters. Determine if jeans are appropriate, and if so, decide in what capacity- should a blazer always be worn as well? Decide if you would feel comfortable baring your shoulders or knees (or both simultaneously). Fitted silhouettes also deserve consideration.

Even if you’ve determined that your workplace has a relatively relaxed dress code, there are some styles you should be adopt with caution, and others that should almost always be avoided...

Proceed with caution

  • Sleeveless tops and dresses
  • Sandals should have a back strap or covered back, better if they have a heel


  • Shorts

  • Skirts shorter than 2 inches above the knee

  • Anything ripped or heavily distressed

  • Thin (‘spaghetti’) straps

  • Anything low-cut or revealing

  • Flip-flops

  • Visible underwear lines

Amp up the ‘extras.’ A less formal dress code is a great opportunity to inject a little personality to your look with a statement necklace, scarf, or printed cardigan. Adding some extras also pulls together a casual look and keeps it from looking generic, like a secret service agent or restaurant server.

Your ultimate goal should be a balanced look that reflects the (in)formality of your workplace. Evaluate a look as a whole and decide if it is both relaxed and professional enough for your office. Traditionally formal or dressy elements like suiting blazers or pencil skirts should be paired with less polished pieces like jeans or unstructured sweaters.

Check out the looks we’ve styled incorporating some of these guidelines. They reflect the wide range of business casual from ‘Polished Casual’ to ‘Easy Professional.’ Click on the photos to shop the looks!

So many of our clients struggle with dressing 'business casual' because it's one of those 'messy middle' conundrums.  The best place to come get support from us is in our complimentary Facebook group.  Click here to join!  


Ask questions and share your thoughts below- what's your strategy for pulling together a business casual ensemble?