What Is Business Casual Attire? A Guide to How to Dress for Work

Here’s one of the mysteries of the modern workplace: What exactly is a “business casual attire” dress code?

It’s becoming more common in an increasing number of offices and industries. In fact, for many businesses, it has become the norm. But what is it, exactly?

The problem is, there’s not just one cut-and-dried definition that applies everywhere across the board. The answer is often, It depends on the office. “Business casual” can mean something different at a tech startup on the West Coast than it does at an insurance firm on the East Coast. That creates uncertainty and confusion.

To help you out, we’ve put together a guide with tips on what to wear — and especially what not to wear — in a business casual workplace.

This way, if you see the phrase “business casual attire” in an employee handbook or in a job posting on ZipRecruiter or a similar job board, you’ll know what to do.

What is Business Casual?

It’s important to remember the two separate words here: You’ve got “casual,” but you’ve also got “business.”

A business casual dress code is a little less formal than business professional attire, which means suits, ties, a dress shirt and dress shoes for men, or a tailored skirt-and-blazer combo, pantsuit, or knee-length dress for women.

But it’s more formal and businesslike than casual clothes, which typically includes jeans, shorts, T-shirts, leggings, sandals or tennis shoes.

A business casual outfit means comfortable but work-appropriate clothing. It means your employer wants you to focus on your work performance instead of your formal office attire, but you’re also expected to dress well enough to be able to attend an unexpected meeting with a client, your boss or even your boss’ boss.

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What to Wear for Women

Here, women typically have more complicated choices to make than men.

Women generally can’t go wrong with knee-length dresses and skirts, or a simple blouse-and-pant…

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