About Women’s Business Casual Attire

Selecting business casual attire for working women is a daunting task. As corporate standards differ from one office to the next, a woman can make a business casual wardrobe mistake easily. By assessing your office’s rules of decorum and erring on the side of conservative fashion choices, a woman can choose proper business casual options with ease.


  • According to Wikipedia, business casual attire first surfaced in the early 1970s as a response to the energy crisis in Western countries. Suits and ties were abandoned in offices around America, as the government required businesses to raise thermostat temperatures to reduce energy costs. As women in upper management rid their closets of suited skirts, tailored pantsuits, tied blouses and business-oriented dresses, a more relaxed manner of dress emerged. A basic business casual wardrobe for women includes blouses, skirts, cardigans, polos, sheath dresses, tops, twinsets and khakis.


  • A resurgence in business casual attire flourished in the 1990s and during the dot-com era. Many Silicon Valley technology companies adopted business casual attire as their permanent work style. After many Internet businesses folded in the early 2000s a return to wearing suits and ties was a necessary change for many companies.


  • Business casual attire has two distinct categories: management-level business casual and general business casual. Women in management, from C-level executives to middle managers, typically wear suits with casual blouses, crisp cotton shirts, printed scarves and nontraditional accessories. These managers typically wear slingback shoes and open-toed pumps with tailored pantsuits, cardigans and dresses with short sleeves. Lower level managers, entry-level employees and administrative personnel wear general business attire basics: twinsets, khaki slacks and skirts, cotton polo shirts and casual tops.


  • Traditionally, companies on the East Coast, South and Midwest are more conservative in their business casual requirements than their West Coast corporate counterparts. When building a business casual wardrobe, as a rule, women should eliminate the following items: capris, halter tops, athletic shoes, spandex, spaghetti straps, ripped jeans and sandals. Shirts worn to work should always have a collar, and any outfit worn to a beach, dance club or formal event is inappropriate for work.


  • Wardrobe policies differ from company to company. Business casual attire can mean different things for different employers. Before building a business casual wardrobe, consult your company’s employee handbook for proper work attire. Any item that is too trendy, baggy or tight-fitting does not belong in a woman’s business casual wardrobe. Avoid jeans, T-shirts, Bermuda shorts and tank tops. Dresses or skirts with thigh-bearing slits are inappropriate for the office. Makeup and hairstyle options should look natural and conservative. Beach totes and trendy clutches are unprofessional bag options. Women should carry briefcases and purses in neutral colors only.