A guide to business casual attire


There are certain places and events that require a specific type of attire. For example, if you’re attending a wedding, the couple might say that you should wear “formal” clothes or that the dress code is “black tie.”

Fortunately, “formal” and “black tie” are easy enough to understand. Unfortunately, there are some dress code terms that might make you scratch your head and ask, “What exactly does this mean?” One such term is “business casual.”

What is business casual?

You’ve probably seen the term “business casual” when applying for a job as the required attire for an interview. In many workplaces, business casual is also the prevailing dress code.

Essentially, business casual is the combination of elements from the two aforementioned types of attire. For example, ladies can wear cropped pants and a collared blouse with an optional blazer.  Meanwhile, men can opt for khakis and a long-sleeved shirt without a tie; depending on the situation, the sleeves can also be folded up to the elbows.

The problem with this is that it can be tricky to balance the “business” and the “casual” sides. How relaxed is too relaxed and how formal is too formal? Below, we delve into a bit more detail about “business casual” attire. This way, you know what to buy before you open a loan app Philippines’ alternative lenders offer to start your closet update.

Business casual for women

Women have a lot of choices for business casual attire. They can combine a skirt or pants with a blouse, then wear closed-toe shoes or heeled sandals. Some places are more strict about footwear, so sandals, sling-back shoes, or peep-toe pumps may not be allowed. In addition, “doll shoes” or flats may be acceptable in some places and discouraged in others.

With regard to color, opting for neutrals like black, brown, cream, navy blue, or white is always good. That said, a lot of business casual attire also comes in bright hues like red and yellow. If you aren’t that adventurous, you can opt for shades in the blue or green family, like turquoise or mint. Other good colors are old rose, pastels like lavender, and burnt orange shades like sienna or ginger.

What to buy for womens’ business casual attire

Here’s a quick shopping list for women for mixing and matching their business casual attire:

  • Sleeved or sleeveless blouses
  • Button-up collared shirts
  • Turtleneck shirts
  • Blazer or cardigan
  • Dress pants or well-fitted khakis
  • Cropped pants, palazzo pants, or culottes
  • Knee-length skirts of any type or cut (e.g., A-line, pencil cut)
  • Knee- or tea-length dresses
  • Heeled, closed-toe shoes

For accessories, keep them understated. Stud earrings are best, although mid-length ones are also acceptable. Meanwhile, classic necklaces and bracelets like pearl or gold are your best options. You can also forgo bracelets and simply wear a dress watch.

Business casual for men

For men, business casual is usually composed of slacks, chinos, or khakis, paired with a button-up shirt and closed shoes. Polo shirts are usually on an “it depends” basis. Some events or venues may consider it business casual enough, while others may not (e.g., those that explicitly require long-sleeved shirts).

What to buy for men’s business casual attire

The usual combination for men’s business casual attire, is obviously, a pair of pants and a shirt. Some options you have include:

  • Dress pants, chinos, or khakis (chinos have a closer fit; khakis are usually straight-cut)
  • Long- or short-sleeved button-up shirts
  • Polo shirts, depending on the occasion or venue
  • A sport coat or blazer
  • Dress shoes, including dark loafers
  • A dark belt and a dress watch

Color-wise, again, you can never go wrong with classic neutrals like gray or black. For something different, try muted tones of red, orange, green, or blue.

What about jeans and sneakers?

One of the biggest questions about business casual attire is whether or not jeans are allowed. The answer to this is: it depends. Usually, jeans are fine for business casual as long as they’re dark-colored (black or dark blue are preferred) and aren’t in the “distressed” style. Then, pair the jeans with a suitable top and shoes.

Speaking of shoes, there’s also a debate about whether sneakers can also be used for business casual attire. Again, the answer is it depends. At the very least, you need to make sure that the rest of your outfit is more business than casual. It’s also ideal if you choose dark-colored sneakers. Do note that while sneakers may sometimes be acceptable, athletic shoes are definitely a no-no.

The bottom line here is that there will be different rules for different scenarios. When in doubt, make sure to consult the host or someone from the venue. If you can’t confirm the details for any reason, it’s better to be overdressed than underdressed.

What you want to avoid in business casual

Last but certainly not least, here’s a list of must-avoid pieces of clothing if you’re going for a business casual look:

  • Flip-flops
  • Too-tight clothing
  • Oversized clothing
  • Shorts
  • Athletic tank tops
  • Crop tops and low-cut tops
  • Spaghetti-strap and tube tops, unless suitably covered with a blazer

All in all, it isn’t that difficult to pick items for a business casual outfit. If you still aren’t sure, you can use this article as a guide so you don’t end up committing a social faux pas.