What is Business Casual for a Woman?

Clothes are an expression of you and your personality. They define you and give people an impression about you that could be long-lasting and often irreversible. Clothes can make or break your day. They can tell a lot about you before you even open your mouth.

While this holds true everywhere, nowhere is this truer than when you are at a formal event. The impression that you eventually make there starts from the way you look. That is why you need to dress well and turn out well.

When you don’t do that, it reflects poorly on you and shows how much you care for the person/occasion for which you are dressed. So therefore, when you are required to dress for a formal occasion, be mindful of how you do that.

Gone are the days when you were required to always dress up in formal, uncomfortable clothes. Stiff collars, uncomfortable business suits, and footwear are all things of the past. You can now afford to forego all these to be a bit more relaxed and chilled out.

In today’s world, the concept of Business Casual clothes rules the roost. Nowadays, everywhere around us, there is talk of wearing Business Casual clothes, whether for meetings, conferences, special events or business-related travel.

What is Business Casual?

As I understand, Business Casual is a cross between formal and informal attire. There is a bit of both here. It is not a jeans and t-shirt look, and it is not even a business suit look. Instead, it is somewhere in between, including an element of informality, ease, and comfort.

When you are comfortable, you are at ease and probably more productive. You are not stiff, and you are not even sloppy. An element of smartness with the right mix of the formal and informal is what is business casual.

Though there is a break from formality here, at the same time, one has to be extremely careful in putting this look together.

You cannot afford to stand out like a sore thumb in a formal event.

So here we will be sharing some tips, some do’s and don’ts for you. These will be like a guide to help you put this look together.

And remember, Business Casual doesn’t mean only the western form of dressing. So with Indian wear, too, you can pull off this look.

What you have to keep in mind is that at all times, you need to be smartly turned out. That, believe me, will boost your self-confidence like nothing else.

We take a look at some of the business casual options.

Business Casual Pants

When considering the Business Casual look, pants are the first thing that comes to mind. While choosing the pant, several things must be considered, from the colour and the fabric to the fitting.

It is best to stick to neutral colours like black, brown, beige, white, navy, and grey at work. The reasons for this are many, but primarily, there are two. One is that you don’t stand out for the wrong reason, and the second is that you have more versatility in your wardrobe. For instance, black pants can be repeated with different tops during the week, which may not be possible if the colour is striking. 

When going for pants, opt for comfortable fabrics that look good throughout the day. Whatever the base fabric, a bit of lycra in it could make your life comfortable as lycra has stretch, making sitting for long hours easy.

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Though neutral is the rule if you want to wear coloured pants, then go for muted options like a dull green or light pink, the idea being not to stick out. You can opt for a plain, pin-striped or a small -plaid. The important thing is that pants should have a good fitting; you could go for high-rise or mid-rise, depending on what works for you and your body type. You could choose from wide-legged, straight-leg, boot-legged or ankle length. But make sure you don’t follow a fad or other people. Be your own person wearing what suits you. So, for instance, if you have full hips and thighs, opt for dark, minimizing colours that don’t draw attention to them.

You could vary the colours and fabric depending on the season. For example, winter could be thick fabrics in dark colours, whereas spring and summer could be the opposite. 

Business Casual Blouses and Tops

Now come the blouses and the tops. Here you can add that pop of colour which suits you, your skin tone, and the colour of your hair or eyes. You could choose colours and patterns from dark, light, jewel tones, plains, prints or florals.

Again these have to fit well. You could go for long sleeves when it is cold, and short sleeves could do very well during the warmer months. Generally, the shirt should be tucked in, but if you don’t want that, then make sure it covers your waistband well. The neckline should be modest, and avoid showing off your cleavage.

Business Casual Blazers

Many of us start feeling cold in the office after a while due to the ACS. If one of those, invest in cotton blazers to go over your top/blouse. Whatever type of blazer you choose, plain, printed or pin-striped, make sure the outfit is well coordinated.

During winter months, the blazer becomes a necessity. So choose the right fabric with a bit of lycra and ensure the blazer fits well. It could nip in at the waist or be a tad longer to cover a part of your hips. The good thing is that blazers can be worn over pants, skirts and dresses.

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Business Casual Skirts

Wearing skirts is also an option that can be explored. The colour guideline is pretty much the same as for pants. Try going neutral, and in case you want that colour too, opt for the muted kinds. And one wonderful thing is that you can pair the same blouses with your pants and skirts, thus maximizing their utility. Depending on your body type, you could opt for an A-line, pencil or pleated skirt. For instance, A-line would work very well if you have a small waist and wider hips. The fabric choice and print could be pretty much the same as in the case of pants. 

You could also choose the printed option if you don’t want to opt for a plain skirt. Skirts generally have a slit, so make sure it is modest, helping you sit and stand easily. The hemline can range from just above the knees to a few inches below.

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Business Casual Dresses

Wearing a dress is also a great option. Going for this means you don’t have to bother about putting two articles of clothing together. One choice, and you are sorted. Necklines and sleeves should follow the same rules as in the case of blouses, and hemlines should follow the same rules as skirts. Dresses can be paired with smart blazers in contrasting or the same colours. You could opt for the printed or plain ones as well. You could even wear smart cardigans with the dress when the weather becomes cold.

Scarves

Any form of attire that looks a tad simple can be made to look attractive with a lovely scarf. The idea of a scarf should be to add to the look and not take away from it. And preferably, it should be knotted or of a size which doesn’t come in the way while you are at work.

Sarees

If opting for a saree, go for natural fabrics like cotton, linen and silk. They are comfortable as they breathe, so long hours will not make you uncomfortable.

When wearing a saree, keep a few things in mind. First, the blouse and its fitting are highly critical. The blouse should have a good fitting, ensuring that your bra strap never shows. The blouse could be a matching or a contrasting one. When it comes to sleeves, you could wear a sleeveless blouse or one with short or long sleeves.

Then comes the petticoat. Here again, the fitting and the petticoat’s length are important. The petticoat must fall just above the fall of the saree, and of course, it should match the colour of the saree.

The saree’s pallu could be pinned to prevent it from coming in your way. But you could leave it free-flowing as well if the fabric of the saree is soft. The saree has to be tied well.

Finally, you could complement the look by wearing silver /gold/diamond jewellery and a bindi if you like.

Suits

Here you could opt for the traditional form like a salwar -kameez or a churidar or the contemporary version, which is a long kurta with a smart pair of ankle-length pants. In this case, also opt for a bit of lycra in the fabric of the pants. The outfit could be complimented with a scarf or a stole bearing in mind that it should stay in place.

Shoes

Regarding footwear, there are several options to choose from, which you could do depending on your convenience. For example, you could go for wedges, flats, heels, boots and even certain kinds of sandals. Wear smart heels which are not too high; about 4 inches should be good enough. Remember, you are dressing for work, so comfort is essential. If your work requires you to stand for long stretches or walk quite a bit, then opt for flats or thick block heels. You will not be comfortable in those pointy heels. You could wear open or closed-toed footwear depending on what you like. The colour should be neutral.

What is not Business Casual? 

While you could play around a bit with what is business casual, there are certain things that you cannot compromise.

  1. Jeans are Business casual, but they have to be in good condition. You can’t wear a frayed, ripped, faded or flashy pair of jeans. You have to stick to the classic styles.
  2. The safest hemline of your skirt and dress is knee length or just a couple of inches above it.
  3. Showing off bra straps is a big No. If your top or blouse is sleeveless, especially in the case of a saree, go for padded blouses.
  4. Avoid wearing shorts, long dresses, crop tops or tops with spaghetti straps.
  5. Your neckline should not be more than 4 inches below the collarbone.
  6. Whatever you choose to wear, your clothes should always be well-ironed.
  7. Your clothes don’t have to be boring so add a pop of colour or print whenever you want to.
  8. The fitting is very critical. Your clothes must always be well-fitted.
  9. Avoid low-rise pants with short tops.
  10. Accessorize your clothes with some jewellery but nothing too big or flashy. 
  11. Whatever you do, remember this look is for an official event, so you cannot dress up the way you would for an evening out with your friends.

You can keep these points in mind while putting your business casual look in place.

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