In most offices, the dress code is business casual. For many, this rule is a little fuzzy. What is acceptable and what is not? For those who haven't quite figured it out, the following is a ladies' guide to creating a business casual wardrobe.
Business casual shopping
When shopping for outfits, an ideal business casual wardrobe should include two jackets, three skirts, three pairs of slacks and six blouses or shirts.
What not to wear
When examining your existing wardrobe and trying on various outfits, discard anything that is too short, too long, too snug or too baggy. A mini skirt with a tight top will have heads turning at a club, but are inappropriate around the office.
Equally inappropriate for office wear are outfits that show too much cleavage or a midsection. There's no need to button blouses up to your neck, but there's a big difference between a cleavage glimpse and looking like a sexy bombshell. A true lady knows how to show off her assets with class.
Plain or patterned
Even though there is nothing wrong with striped and flowered materials, plain colors are preferable. Patterns aren't unsuitable, but they don't offer as many combination possibilities as solid colors for your business casual wardrobe and should be used in moderation.
Which colors to choose
Black has always been a particular favorite with the ladies. It goes with everything, has a slimming effect on a fuller figure and is suitable for almost every occasion. Whether for day-to-day office wear, a meeting with clients or an after-hours party, when choosing black, you can't go wrong.
But black is not the only suitable color for a business casual wardrobe. Grey, navy blue and tan are equally at home in the business world. All three are basic colors that combine well with other colors. You can pair them up with a white blouse for a traditional look, or with a pastel color to create a business look with a softer side.
In the winter, few people have trouble upholding the business casual style in an office, but during the summer, things get a bit more complicated. When it's warm outside, ladies tend to reach for something sleeveless. This could be in violation with your office dress code, so be sure to take along a jacket or at least a cardigan sweater.
Many women love shoes and buy them to make a fashion statement. In an office setting, they should be stylish, but comfortable. In many offices, footwear that is too sporty is frowned upon. So definitely no sneakers, no beach sandals and certainly no flip flops. Equally unsuitable are bejeweled shoes. Ideally, your business casual wardrobe will hold pumps in black, navy blue or tan, with a one- or two-inch heel.
Where it comes to accessories, keep it simple. A small gold or silver wristwatch is preferable over a big flashy piece. The same goes for a bracelet; one gold or silver bracelet is more tasteful than a number of bracelets jangling on your wrist. A close-fitting necklace is better than a free-swinging one, while a small ring is more tasteful than a knuckleduster.
When in doubt, take your cue from the female executives in your office. There's nothing wrong with copying a style. You may have heard that it is the most sincere form of flattery.
Some may argue that the term "casual dress" is widely open to interpretation and in some ways they're right. What's considered casual and appropriate by today's standards has evolved significantly from even a few decades ago, still, there are few fashion tips that transcend the ages when it comes to keeping things cool, casual and composed.