In a world where work from home and remote work culture have become the norm, the lines between work and leisure continue to become increasingly blurred in the fashion world. We can't just live in our sweatpants forever, nor can we switch back to stiff suits and high heels overnight. What we need is a middle ground, a happy place between comfort and professionalism, and that's where business casual comes in. It's that sweet spot where you can look put together while still feeling comfortable and stylish.
Let’s start at the top - what is business casual? It's not as easy as throwing on a pair of jeans and a t-shirt, nor is it about sticking to the old-fashioned suit and tie. It's about finding the right balance between these two extremes, and that's where the real challenge lies. So, how can we achieve this delicate balance? How do we mix and match elements from formal and casual wear to create a look that's both stylish and professional? Whether you’re looking to find a new office outfit or just want to dress chic and put together, building a business casual look or wardrobe can be achieved with a few key tips.
- POLISHED OFF
First and foremost, it's important to always aim for a polished appearance. This means ensuring that clothing is free of any imperfections, such as missing buttons, wrinkles, loose or torn threads. Steaming or ironing wrinkled clothes can help avoid looking too disheveled. If jeans are allowed, opt for a dark wash without excessive holes or tears. These can be paired with a blazer or cardigan for a business casual setting.
To maintain the polished and refined appearance we're building, it's crucial to steer clear of clothing that is excessively baggy, as it can make the business casual look appear sloppy and unkempt. However, slightly loose-fitting t-shirts are acceptable if paired with more formal business pieces like blazers and trousers. This combination can add a touch of chicness to your outfit while still maintaining a comfortable, relaxed vibe.
- THE REVEAL
To nail the business casual look, it's crucial to steer clear of overly revealing clothing. While a full-on suit may not be the need of the hour, avoid clothing that might reveal undergarments or expose too much skin. Opt for knee-length skirts instead of mini-skirts or shorts to maintain an appropriate yet stylish balance.
- LAYER WITH INTENTION
Layering is a subtle yet essential aspect of fashion, and it shouldn't be overlooked when it comes to the business casual outfit. The key to achieving an elegant and sophisticated look is to keep the layering minimal, pairing formal pieces with casual items. For instance, you can layer a designer or high-quality t-shirt with tailored pants, blazers, or cardigans. Adding a knit vest over a shirt or t-shirt can create a stylishly layered outfit. For those who prefer a more preppy look, draping a knit over your shoulders and tying it at the chest can do the trick.
- COLOUR PALETTE
The beauty of neutrals lies in their versatility and ease of dressing. Not only do they make it easier to mix and match pieces, but they also provide a polished and refined look that is perfect for a professional setting. Neutral colours are a timeless choice that never go out of style. Unlike trendy or bold hues that can quickly feel dated or overwhelming, neutrals have a classic, understated elegance that withstands the test of time. By opting for muted, solid colours, you can create a timeless and polished aesthetic that will never feel out of place or inappropriate.
To truly elevate your business casual look, it's essential to pay attention to the finer details. Adding delicate, minimal jewelry pieces such as gold chain necklaces, earrings, and rings can bring a touch of sophistication to your outfit. Pairing your look with closed-toe leather shoes, a chic tote bag, and a stylish pair of solid-framed sunglasses can complete the ensemble and make you look effortlessly put-together. Find your perfect pair of sunglasses here.
- CAPSULE WARDROBE
Lastly, building a capsule wardrobe can help simplify the process of dressing business casual. A capsule wardrobe consists of classic pieces that can be mixed and matched to create versatile looks with just a few key items. Keeping a curated selection of business casual items such as shirts, cardigans, denim jeans, dress slacks, designer t-shirts, leather boots or loafers and a belt can provide a foundation for any business casual outfit. For more on curating a capsule wardrobe download our free guide + checklist here
Wardrobe pieces that work for the business casual look:
TOPS: Long sleeve and button up shirts as well as designer or well-made t-shirts are a great base for the business casual look and wardrobe.
PANTS/SKIRTS: Tailored suit pants, chino’s, midi tailored, structured or pleated skirts (mini skirts are out) and mid-dark wash high quality denim jeans work if paired with shirts and blazers.
OUTERWEAR: Blazers are a must for any business casual look. Cardigans, vests - both knit and button-down or tailored, as well as crew neck knit sweaters which can be layered with shirts.
FOOTWEAR: This look works best if you pair with closed toe shoes. Ballet flats, brogues, loafers, boots and sneakers - but to pull off this look always make sure your shoes are scuff free, polished and in good condition.
By following these simple tips, you can create a versatile business casual wardrobe that is polished, appropriate, and timeless. Remember to keep your appearance polished, build a capsule wardrobe of classic pieces, avoid revealing or overly baggy clothing, layer with intention, and stick to a muted, neutral color palette. With these elements in mind, you can create a wardrobe that not only works for the office but also for day-to-day dressing. The key is to strike a balance between formal and casual elements, resulting in a look that is both stylish and professional.
SHOP OUR CURATED BUSINESS-CASUAL PICKS
Sustainability/Ethical Rating: For our conscious fashion lovers, we've added a 1-5 star sustainability rating based on this article here and taken into account ethical brand ratings from Good On You to give an estimate score out of 5.
V Neck Cardigan
Ribcage Straight Ankle Jeans
Rowan Bone Vest
Lui organic cotton-poplin shirt
Sara Tailored Wide Leg Pants
The Larsen Blazer in Drapeweave
C&M CAMILLA AND MARC
The Bradley Hardware Lugsole Loafer Mule
The Neale Straight-Leg Pant in Drapeweave
Camilla & Marc
Veja™ Campo Sneakers in Leather