A Woman's Guide to Business-Casual Dress

Business-casual dress codes have been established to allow employees (and employers!) to work comfortably in your business while still projecting a professional image on the job, with customers or clients. Casual business attire for women requires some thought because women have so many clothing choices. When choosing feminine business-casual clothing, keep it simple.

Because all casual clothing is not suitable for the office, start with the following items:

  • A dark jacket and several high-quality cotton shirts and plain white blouses.

  • Dark skirts or pants (boot-cut or straight leg) and one or two dresses (sheath style). Select colors in a dark neutral shade such as black, brown, navy blue, or gray.

  • Three to four pairs of high-quality leather shoes (in brown, black, and navy).

  • Twin sets or other sweaters (cardigans) — which can be a great place to add color — provide more finish than just a shirt or blouse but are less formal than a jacket.

Dark colors are a good first choice for jackets, pants, and skirts because they wear well. Add blouses and shirts, scarves, belts, shoes, and jewelry in interesting colors and textures.

Dark colors convey authority; bright colors convey friendliness. Light colors, such as taupe and khaki, generally are more casual than black, gray, and navy.

A number of small things can kill a positive impression:

  • Excessive use of bright color and wild patterns

  • Excessive jewelry

  • Any sheer fabrics that show your undergarments

  • Undergarment straps showing and visible panty lines

  • Wrinkled or stained clothing

  • Loose hems

  • Spiky, strappy sandals in metallic colors or with rhinestones, or open-toed shoes

  • Missing buttons

  • Dirty or overly bleached or colored hair or obvious roots

  • Chipped nail polish

  • Chewing gum

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