What Counts As Business Casual? Your Guide To Women’s Professional Business Dress Codes

What Counts As Business Casual? Your Guide To Women’s Professional Business Dress Codes 

Know The Dos and Don’ts Of Business Formal, Business Professional & Business Casual For Women

 •June.26.2020

This guide helps you navigate the differences between the three prominent business dress codes: business formal, business professional, and business casual – so you can make a great impression in the proper attire.

Dress code definitions can sometimes vary between different work environments; so be sure to do your due diligence. 

What is Considered Formal Attire? BUSINESS FORMAL FOR WOMEN

Environment: If your workplace or event requires a business formal dress code, know this is the most strict business dress code. Business formal attire is usually reserved for special [boardroom] meetings, certain law establishments, and very corporate environments (e.g banking and investment offices).

1.Very conservative and neat, clean-cut appearance – apart from clothing, this also includes your hair and cosmetics.

2.Do:Tailored and matching pantsuit or skirt suit. Don’t: No mismatching two-piece suits.

3.Do: White collar button dress shirt. Don’t: No vibrant and distracting patterns and colors on shirt.

4.Do: Overall, conservative, dark or neutral colors. Don’t: No vibrant or extravagant colors and patterns.

5.Do: Conservative jewelry – this can include pearl studs and a simple, yet elegant watch. Don’t: Flashy, statement jewelry.

6.Do: Tights/hoisery with skirts – black or nude colors only. Don’t: No lively colors or prints on tights.

7.Do: Conservative, closed-toe heels. Don’t: No statement heels or open-toe shoes.

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Tip: Find a tailor in your area to perfect the fit and/or silhouette of your suit. With a tailor, you can make an old, out-of-style suit, into a refreshingly new trendy favorite in your closet. 

What is Business Attire For A Woman ? BUSINESS PROFESSIONAL FOR WOMEN

Environment: The business professional dress code is business formal’s less strict sister. This dress code can be seen day-to-day in corporate offices, and some legal and banking fields.

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Tip: The business professional dress code should give a very clear indication of a distinguished business professional, however give yourself some leeway to incorporate color, patterns and certain statement jewelry (just be mindful not to go over-the-top).

1.Conservative and clean cut look, however more relaxed than business formal.

2.Do: Pantsuits, skirt suits, dresses. Don’t: Mismatching suits, too-short skirts and dresses (or skirts/dresses you would wear to a nightclub). 

3.Do: Collar dress shirts, blouses, sleeveless shell tops. Don’t: Revealing or short tops. 

4.Do: You can stick to dark and neutral conservative colors, but also incorporate solid lively colors and muted patterns. Don’t: Over-the-top abstract patterns and loud distracting colors. 

5.Do: Conservative jewelry pieces, and although statement pieces can be worn, they should be balanced with the overall outfit. Don’t: Multiple flashy and over-the-top extravagant statement pieces.

6.Do: Tights/hoisery with skirts and dresses- black or nude colors. Don’t: No lively colors or prints on tights. 

7.Do: Closed-toe conservative heels, dressy loafers, flats, oxfords. Don’t: Open-toe shoes, running shoes, extravagant statement shoes.

Here are more examples of business professional dress codes for women from Simon Fraser’s “What To Wear For Work” or  University Of Guelph Gordon S. Lang School Of Business & Economics

Are Jeans Business Casual For A Woman ? BUSINESS CASUAL FOR WOMEN

Environment: The business casual dress code allows you to express your individuality, and can be frequently found in fashion workplaces, and tech companies. While this dress code maintains a professional appearance, it’s even more relaxed than the business professional dress code, above.

1.This dress code is still conservative, with a clean, relaxed, and creative appearance. 

2.Do: Pantsuits,skirt suits, dresses, skirts, trousers, dressy jumpsuits, long dressy bermuda shorts. Don’t: Anything you would wear to a beach or a nightclub, overly short skirts/dresses or trousers, ripped pants/jeans

3.Do: Collar shirts, blouses, sleeveless shell tops, cardigans, dressy sweaters. Don’t: No “t-shirt and jeans” look, revealing or short tops. 

4.Do: You can stick to dark and neutral colors, but feel free to incorporate color and patterns in your outfit. Don’t: Distasteful, overly distracting colors and patterns, and any ripped, tasteless pieces – remember to maintain a balanced, professional appearance.  

5.Do: Statement jewelry pieces can be worn – as long as the pieces are tasteful and you have a balanced appearance. Don’t: A multitude of flashy, gaudy and out-dated statement pieces. 

6.Do: Tights/hoisery with skirts and dresses- black or nude colors. Don’t: Avoid lively colors or prints on tights – especially fishnets!

7.Do: Closed-toe dressy statement shoes, closed-toe conservative heels, dressy loafers, flats, oxfords. Don’t: Avoid sandals, open-toe shoes, running shoes.

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Tip: Because the business casual dress code allows room for individuality, some companies or events have different definitions of their own business causal dress code, so be sure to check the expectations – e.g “dressy jeans allowed only on Friday”.

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