Business Casual for Women


For women, the most important factor of business casual attire is the fitting. Make sure all the cuts fit your body properly and are not too tight or loose.

Business casual attire does not consist of clothes which you can wear while attending a cocktail party or an outdoor event. It must be classy and decent and not over the top or gaudy. Business casual strives to be simple and neat while looking appropriate for any business meeting.

A dress code is different at every organization. Something that is considered as formal wear in one organization might be not be thought so at another. The HR policy handbook might have details on the dress code that employees are expected to follow.

How do we determine appropriate business casual attire for women?

Women's Business Casual Attire

  1. Tailored blouse or shirt
  2. Dress suit
  3. Knee length or 2 inches above the knee skirts
  4. Corduroy, khaki, twill, linen or cotton pants or skirts
  5. 2-piece suit with jacket
  6. Tailored knit sweaters

Careful that the skirt slits are acceptable. For example, a short skirt with a small slit at the bottom center of the back side is fine because it is for the convenience of climbing stairs. A long skirt should not have a cut above the knees. Your clothes must be clean and ironed, so wrinkle free fabric is a great option. Hose are optional in most dress codes with business casual attire, but strongly consider them if your skirt is knee length or less than that.

In addition to clothes, there are a few other elements that play an important part in forming the right business casual attire for a working woman. Look for leather shoes and leather belts. Black and dark brown colored footwear suits business casual attire. If they go well with your outfit, consider off white colored or navy shoes.

Medium or low heeled pumps, strapped sandals and boots can be worn with business casual attire. Matching your footwear and belt is an important detail to be aware of when preparing your outfit. Platform heels are a definite no go. If you wear sandals, make sure your toe nails and feet are well groomed.

Accessories are a good way to enhance your appearance when dressing business casual. A delicate necklace, earrings and bracelets can add a nice touch to the clothing. Avoid colored accessories, use suitable metal accessories which look elegant and are more interchangeable with various outfits in your wardrobe.

A purse or bag makes a lot of difference, therefore they should match your outfit properly. There are many leather bags and purses to choose from which look awesome with business casual attire. Look for those that are single colored, simple, and small in size. Match your bag with your footwear for a coordinated look.

If you have to carry some documents or a laptop, choose a leather folder or case according to the size required. Your hair shouldn't look untidy, make sure you give it the proper attention. Natural looking make up, clean fingernails and light colored nail polish will complete your look.

Good rule to follow - if you would wear it to a club, you probably shouldn't wear it in a business environment. Avoid colorful stuff, instead choose neutral colors that look elegant and professional. Simple and crisp are excellent things to keep in mind when making your selections.

  • Skirts/Pants: Women can wear casual pants or skirts. Neither should be tight. Fabrics should be crisp; colors should generally be solid; navy, black, gray, brown and khaki are always safe bets. For a business like appearance, pants should be creased and tailored; neither extreme of tight or flowing. If you are pursuing a conservative industry and are unsure, observing well dressed women in your industry on the job, at career fairs, at information sessions, etc. will provide invaluable insight. 
  • Skirt Length and Slits: A skirt should be either to your knees or at the most 2 inches above the knee while you are standing. Your thighs should be covered while seated. If your skirt comes to just below the knee, a slit to just above the knee might be acceptable. A very long skirt should not be slit to above the knee. Slits in the center back of a skirt are generally to make stair climbing easier and are appropriate. Slits to accentuate a view of your legs are not appropriate for business purposes. If worn, slips should not be visible. 
  • Shirt/Sweaters: Tailored shirts or blouses have been noted as acceptable, but tailored knit sweaters and sweater sets are appropriate business casual attire for women. Cotton, silk, and blends are appropriate. Velvets and shimmery fabrics that you would wear to a party are not appropriate. It should not be a tight fit. Cleavage is not appropriate to business and job search occasions.
  • Jewelry/Accessories: Wear a conservative watch. Jewelry and scarf styles are always changing. Choose the more simple and lean towards conservative. Avoid extremes of style and color. A creative industry may offer more flexibility than a traditionally conservative industry.  
  • Cosmetics: Makeup should be conservative and natural looking. For a polished look, a little is usually better than none. Nails should be clean and well groomed. Avoid extremes of nail length and polish color, especially in conservative industries.  
  • Shoes: Leather or fabric/microfiber are best. Appropriate colors are black, navy and brown, white and pastels are not appropriate.  Coordinate your shoes with your other attire and accessories.  Toes should be covered for the most conservative look. Sandals that are neither extremely dressy or extremely casual may be appropriate. High heels, thin straps, platforms and chunky heels are not appropriate. Be sure you can walk comfortably in your shoes; hobbling around a job fair in shoes that are uncomfortable and pinching your feet does not convey a professional image.  
  • Hose: Not required for more business casual dress codes, but are recommended if your skirt is knee length (rather than calf length) and in more formal environments such as hotels.  
  • Purse/Bag: If you carry one, keep your  a purse small and simple, or carry a small briefcase or business like tote bag in place of a purse. A structured bag tends to look more professional that something soft or floppy. The purse/bag color should coordinate with your shoes. A briefcase is certainly not necessary for most business casual events. Leather, microfiber and fine wovens are appropriate. Canvas and straw are not appropriate.