A business casual dress code can be difficult to get just right. Go too far on the business side, and you could end up looking overdressed and uncomfortable. But veer too far into casual territory, and you could give the impression that you're not taking your job seriously.
It may be tricky, but a business casual dress code allows for a lot of creative freedom when it comes to getting dressed for work—and you can often build a work wardrobe using items you already have in your closet. Embrace the comfort and flexibility of a business casual dress code by following these simple tips.
Dress it up
Dresses are a key part of any business casual wardrobe. They're easy to style, comfortable to wear, and come in an array of fits and fabrics.
A shift dress is a great option for the workplace, as it tends to fit most women's figures comfortably and fall at an appropriate length. Pair one with a blazer and tights in the winter, or in warmer months, reach for a lightweight cardigan that hits below the waist to streamline your mid-section and make you look long and lean.
Stay away from anything that displays excess cleavage, bra straps or too much skin.
Dresses are also a great option for those who are pregnant, because they grow with your belly. Most maternity dresses can stay put in your wardrobe even after the baby is born, or they can also be used as transitional pieces while you get back into your pre-baby body.
Stretch it out
Think jersey knits are too casual for the workplace?
A cotton pencil skirt with an elastic waistband is a great alternative to a stiff pencil skirt and can be dressed up or down. Wear one with a soft knit sweater and some statement earrings or look just as cute pairing it with a basic T-shirt and a fitted blazer.
If you're not a fan of skirts, buy a pair of jersey culottes, similar to wide leg capris. They feel like pajamas but look so chic when worn with flats or a pair of heels.
Get more bang for your buck by buying pieces that are built around comfort. Again, this is a style that transitions easily into maternity wear thanks to a generous amount of stretch.
You can even look for a maternity-waist skirt to wear well into your third trimester. Just be sure to avoid any VPLs (visible panty lines) and balance out a stretchy piece with something more tailored.
Dare to wear leggings
Many women wouldn't dare to rock a pair of leggings in the workplace, but it can be done! The key to wearing leggings in an office setting is to treat them like a pair of tights. Since they're skintight and may even be see-through, pair them with a long tunic, a button-up, or even a dress to ensure you're not being too revealing of your lower half during office hours. Finish the look with a chic pair of over-the-knee boots or a pair of classic flats, depending on the season.
Leggings are another great staple when you're pregnant, as you can continue wear them post-pregnancy. Bonus: Chances are you're more productive when you're comfortable, and there's nothing more comfortable than leggings.
Go all in on accessories.
Accessories go a long way in the workplace, especially if your outfit tends toward the simpler side. Even a blank-canvas look like a white button-up with dark jeans can be dressed up with the right details. Try a printed scarf, a bright pair of heels, or a statement necklace to add some personality to a basic outfit. Something as simple as a studded belt can add the perfect touch of flair to an otherwise basic ensemble.
Keep in mind that business casual attire can mean different things in different workplaces, so it's always a good idea to look around and take a cue from your coworkers—particularly those in management roles. Just because a look was acceptable at another job doesn't mean it will be at your new one.
The options for dressing business casual in the office are endless, as long as you continue to dress appropriately and represent yourself respectfully. Start off by buying items that can be easily incorporated into your already existing wardrobe, and as the seasons change and your career evolves, expand your wardrobe with prints, patterns and colors that reflect your personality. Look to consignment stores and secondhand clothing sites like thredUP for affordable, high-quality pieces. View getting dressed for the workday as a creative experiment and have fun with fashion!
Allie Lochiatto provides budget-friendly fashion advice, whether you're spending a day lounging at home or heading to work. Allie writes for her blog, Allie Wears, and for thredUP, an online and offline consignment store where you will find a great selection of women's work and maternity clothes.
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