New Year, New You and your Business Casual Wardrobe

Business Casual Dress is the choice of companies and organisations that want their staff to be comfortable at work and still project a professional image. Human Resources departments often have a copy of their dress code, so ask if unsure. You never want to be in a situation I was in whilst teaching in a secondary school in the UK. All female staff were made to attend a meeting where staff were told what was and was not acceptable to wear during one very hot summer.  Had the whole teaching  profession, or at the very least, the school had a clear understanding of what constitutes a business casual dress code, this embarrassing situation could have been avoided.

For Business Casual a degree of tailoring is usually required: opt for a tailored colourful jacket with a smart pair of trousers/skirt or dress underneath. The picture above right suggests smart business casual for lightweight summer dressing or for hot climates. Alternatively,you could combine a colourful smart blouse or good quality cardigan with neutral coloured  tailored trousers, dress or tailored skirt as in the picture below which would be suitable for most seasons and climates.

Notice the difference the necklace makes in adding style and interest to the outfit but if I were dressing this woman, I would shorten the  necklace to draw the eye up to the face. The belt is a great finishing touch to add interest to the skirt and ties the outfit together. Whilst the cardigan acts as a ‘softly tailored’ jacket, finishing at a flattering hip level, if the woman had a tummy, I would advise her to wear the top un- tucked and to lose the belt. If you are unsure of what styles and colours suit you, consult a style and image consultant for professional advice.

Here are my tips for creating a business casual wardrobe:

  • wear co-ordinating separates
  • give dresses a different look by teaming them with either a cardigan or jacket
  • separate formal suits with jackets and different coloured skirts, trousers and jackets
  • collect interesting accessories to co-ordinate with the colours in your wardrobe but remember, less is more
  • keep shoes simple, current, smart and comfortable. Very high heels will be painful and  may cause you to walk awkwardly- save them for dressy nights out!

To make sure you never have to be  hauled up in front of senior managers  for correction or sabotage your professional credibility, note the following are generally frowned on in the workplace:

  • denim, unless on dress down Friday
  • figure hugging, see through or revealing clothes
  • gym wear, especially lycra
  • tank tops and strappy tops
  • poorly laundered and un ironed clothing with fraying seams
  • flip flops
  • skirts/hemlines  that cause you to reveal too much when you sit down
  • an ungroomed appearance
  • offensive slogans on clothing
  • too much perfume ( some people are allergic to chemicals, so go easy)
  • holes in clothing or shabby shoes


  1. Great Blog Catherine. Everyone in my company can wear jeans any day of the week. I try and wear a skirt at least once a week as I think it’s nice to dress up for work, especially if you have lots to do as I think it puts you in a good frame of mind! Hope to see you on the 7th at the consultants meeting, Mel x


  1. […] in business then you need to make sure your making the right first impressions!  Take a read here for her fabulous tips. I especially agree with avoiding lycra […]

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