What Actually is Business Casual?

So, what is even considered business casual these days? Especially with the rise of athleisure, the lines have been blurred, and quite honestly I just don't know what qualifies anymore. Perhaps, in part, due to the fact that I've been working on my own/for myself for a few years now, I've lost touch with what it means. But, I've posed the question to some friends with "normal" jobs, since having a clearer idea of what business casual is could make getting dressed for a meeting just a bit easier--which, I'm all about.

First off, it seems that some of the guidelines associated with business casual coincide with (my version of) uniform dressing, as discussed previously: monochromatic and muted versus patterns and bright colors; a balance of coverage, but always err on the conservative side; and balance loose vs. tight-fitting clothing on the top and bottom.


For ladies:

  • As a general rule of thumb: cover your shoulders, or have something to cover-up with as an option; strapless is the only real no-go, but off the shoulder is all the rage
  • Twill, linen, khaki, etc. are all good as far as pants go, but dark jeans sans rips (even though, there are plenty of places that won't mind) are great, too
  • Skirts and dresses, of course, shouldn't be too short (anything above mid-to-lower thigh)
  • Shoes are pretty much up for grabs, so long as it's not flip flops--wedges are a great option, lower block heels, flats, dress sandals, espadrilles, fashion sneakers

For guys:

  • Button downs are kind of a must, but roll them sleeves, unbutton at the top, and lose the tie
  • Generally, khakis are safe, but dark jeans, with no sort of funky wash work well
  • Leather or suede shoes, but "dressy" sneakers will fly nowadays

All in all, dress codes have generally gone out the window in most companies, since work environments have (over recent years) changed so much, especially with the rise in prominence of co-working spaces. We have a lot more freedom to wear what we want and, thusly, express ourselves via our sense of style. As with most things in life: have fun, but be respectful, and play to your audience.


Photos by Joanna Totolici