The Biggest Dos and Don'ts of Business Casual Attire, According to Professional Stylists

Woman looking in her closet for business casual attire

Although the rules of dressing aren’t nearly as strict nowadays as they were in, say, the 1950s and 60s, there are still some guidelines that continue to be important to this day. Specifically, and unsurprisingly, these guidelines often apply to the workplace, whether they’re dictated by corporate standards or if you simply want to blend in alongside your coworkers

This is where business casual attire comes in, a style of dress that can be worn in the workplace. But what is the definition of “business casual,” exactly? And how do you pull off the look?

What Is Business Casual?

“Business casual attire is a dressed-down but still elevated approach to style for the office or a corporate environment,” says award-winning fashion stylist, lifestyle blogger, podcast co-host and on-air style expert Tara West.

“For me, business casual is a relaxed version of what was once the corporate style of dressing,” says personal shopper and wardrobe stylist Scarlett De Bease. “It is now an acceptable and welcomed style for all, from entrepreneurs to executives.”

How Is Business Casual Different from Business Formal?

West explains that business casual is a more relaxed look and invites a feeling of relaxation while still being appropriate for the office. 

Business formal is the direction you take to the board room, corporate event or an important meeting,” she says. “Think of a premium head-to-toe suit, a beautiful dress, or a pencil skirt with a suit jacket.” 

Related: Parade's Guide to Semi-Formal Attire for Women: 25 Ideas to Match the Dress Code, From Dresses to Jumpsuits

Examples of Business Casual Style for Men




“When I style men for business casual, I usually choose a pair of pants that fit like a jean but are a bit nicer,” West says. “They can be navy blue, dark green or khaki pants. It’s important to choose a quality, beautifully designed and well-made pair of pants. Look for a style with a bit of tailoring that can be taken seriously.” 

De Bease offers this alternative to khakis as well: black jeans with a suit jacket over a T-shirt.

Button-Down Shirts

Button-down shirts in a variety of colors and prints pair nicely with dress pants and work well “with or without a jacket,” as De Bease says, adding that no tie is needed for a business-casual look.

West says that it’s also fine to wear a button-down untucked, “as long as it isn’t wrinkled.”

Graphic Tees

“If in a creative field, printed T-shirts under a jacket are great for showing individuality and creativity,” De Bease says, which is great news if you can’t part with your beloved tees in a business casual environment.


“A fashionable sneaker is a modern take on business casual,” West says. “Opt for a style that looks subtle and clean and not too street-style.”


Additionally, to add personality to a business casual outfit, De Bease recommends wearing a pair of printed socks.

Examples of Business Casual Style for Women



Dark Jeans

When it comes to business casual for women, West suggests wearing a pair of “barrel-leg jeans in a dark wash,” which you can style with a feminine blouse or underpinning, topped off with a blazer. “Finish this look with a bootie or a sleek heel,” West says.

Related: 5 Essential Tips for Date-Night Style if You’re Over 50, According to Model & Beauty Mogul Molly Sims


“T-shirts are okay, but I would top it off with a sweater around the shoulder or a cropped knit jacket to keep the look professional,” West recommends.


De Bease points out that these days, women’s clothes have more stretch than ever, which can even find its way into business casual looks. For instance, De Bease says that instead of denim, you can wear pants in a ponte knit, “which feel like leggings, but don’t look like them.”


If you’re going for a right-this-minute look, De Bease advises picking up a stylish suit-style jacket that’s embellished, fitted or colorful, “which makes a simple top and pair of pants look stylish, current and interesting.”

“Even a denim jacket over a dress or with dress pants is great for a business casual look,” De Bease says.

Related: 5 Essential Tips for Wearing Coats if You’re Over 50, According to Molly Sims


“As for dresses, I think a structured dress always looks elegant, but a long midi dress is graceful and can be worn with a tailored denim jacket or a structured blazer draped over your shoulders,” West says. “Stay away from really short dresses and skirts.”


When putting together a business casual ensemble, West gravitates toward a “polished pair of boots” or a “chic pair of flats” over a sneaker.

But if sneakers are your favorite footwear, De Bease says that fashion sneakers, “not the ones you wear for working out,” look great with pants, suits and even summer dresses.

Related: 5 Simple Formulas for Creating Chic Outfits With Mom Jeans

Business Casual Don'ts

Our fashion experts share these top don’ts to keep in mind when putting together a business casual outfit:

  • Skip anything that’s ripped or has holes.

  • Don’t go too oversized.

  • Don’t wear leggings with short tops.

  • Don’t show exposed bra straps.

Should You Dress as Business Casual for a Job Interview?

“Never dress in business casual for a job interview,” West cautions. “I believe you should always dress to impress. It’s better to be overdressed than underdressed for an important occasion. Take the job interview as seriously as you want the job.”

On the other hand, perhaps you’re interviewing for a creative job. In this case, you can give your outfit some leeway, according to De Bease, who says: “If the company is in a creative field, business casual is the way to go, but be sure to add accessories, colors and/or shoes that show your personal style and imagination. After all, most employers and clients are looking for ingenuity and out-of-the-box thinking.” 

Related: Business Casual Attire for Women: 25 Picks

Should You Dress Up for a Meeting?

“How you present yourself is very important, so I say always dress up for a meeting,” West says. “The way you dress shows people how much you care not only about the meeting but about how you see yourself.”

De Bease agrees, saying, “Any meeting you are attending allows you the opportunity to show that you are there to be an expert and respected.”

Does 'Business Casual' Change Its Meaning in the Summer?

De Bease says that in the summer, the guidelines for business casual attire remain the same “other than women need to avoid sleeveless tops and dresses that are not wide enough to cover their bra straps."

“Both men and women need to avoid wearing shorts to work, as that is too casual and gives the impression you are on vacation instead of working,” she adds.

Although there are some “don’ts,” West says that you can get away with a few more things.

“Men can wear slip-on shoes, like a suede loafer, without socks and usually get away with it,” she says. “Linen pants for both men and women are also acceptable as long as they don’t get too wrinkled and become disheveled-looking.” 

Next up, discover how to dress for a cocktail party.

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