Decoding a business casual dress code can be tricky. How do you convey professionalism without being too formal? And how do you still add in the essence of your personal style? Is business casual the quintessential blazer and slacks ensemble, or a sweater dress and booties? And just how versatile can your business casual wardrobe be? Whether you’re navigating this elusive dress code for work, sorority recruitment, or your next internship interview, we’ve rounded up the best business casual outfits for you. They won’t only check the boxes for a polished, yet relaxed look, but allow you to blend in aspects of your unique style, too.
Warm up Your Look with a Fall-Inspired Orange Sweater
Just because we’ve transitioned from pumpkins to candy canes, doesn’t mean we have to abandon our favorite shades of fall. A bright orange sweater paired with sleek houndstooth-checkered slacks brings in just the right amount of color and personality to your daily work wear.
Transition Your Favorite Skirt to Fall with Tights and Booties
As the temperatures drop, you may be tempted to store your skirt collection until the spring. Instead of packing them up with the rest of your warm-weather wardrobe, think about how to modify them for the chillier weather. By pairing a pencil skirt with black tights, booties, and a simple black turtleneck, you can integrate skirts into your business casual look year-round.
Get the look: Splendid Knit Turtleneck in Black ($58), Express High Waisted Plaid Pencil Skirt in Black and White ($42), Kendall + Kylie Pierce Booties ($150)
Create a Lightweight Ensemble with a Flowy Top and Tie-Waist Pants
While you might often associate business casual with crisp blazers and straight-legged slacks, there are plenty of other ways to style a professional ensemble. For a looser, less structured look, try coupling relaxed tie-waist or paper-bag style pants with a lightweight, flowy blouse. Throw on a wool trench coat when the weather is chilly or style it with a light sweater when spring weather begins peeking out.
Pair a Structured Jacket with Your Go-To Statement Accessories
Structured blazers will forever be an essential of business casual attire. It’s a fundamental piece you can use as the basis for any interview or internship ensemble. And a classic blazer or jacket can be the perfect foundation to upgrade with accessories. Adding a few eye-catching pieces, whether it be drop fringe earrings or a chunky gold watch, will automatically bring your personality into this classic look.
Opt for a Timeless and Sleek All-Black Ensemble
I think we can all agree that black is one color that will never go out of style. Black always connotes sleek (I mean just look at the timeless LBD). So it makes perfect sense that it’s a go-to hue for professional attire. Tuck a sleeveless black top into a pair of black slacks for an instantly polished monochromatic ensemble.
Bundle up in a Classic Neutral Overcoat
Sometimes a great coat can make an outfit. This is something you should definitely take advantage of in the cold weather months. Throw a knee-length tailored coat over a black turtleneck and black slacks. Finish it off by slipping on your favorite booties. Then you’re out the door and on your way to nail another day on the job.
PHOTO: Alyssa Dich, Columbia College Chicago
Layer on a Leather Jacket for an Edgy Vibe
Integrating your personal style into your business casual wardrobe not only makes getting dressed way more fun, but it also helps convey a sense of who you are. This can be super important when it comes to interviewing and networking. If you usually opt for an edgier vibe in your day-to-day wear, try layering on a leather jacket over a simple black top and striped wide-legged pants, for a professional outfit with a touch of personality, too.
Mix It up with a Long, Lightweight Pleated Skirt Paired with Your Favorite Fall Boots
A flowy, lightweight pleated skirt might seem like a better fit for brunch than business casual. But pairing it with the right pieces can help bring this fun skirt from the weekend to the weekday. Worn with a white turtleneck, long coat, and tall boots, this playful skirt can easily be transformed into internship-ready wear.
Embrace a Matching Blazer and Slacks as Your Go-To Internship Staple
A matching blazer and slacks are probably one of the first things that come to mind when you think business casual outfits. And it’s easy to see why. The matching set is a polished, no-fuss outfit that literally comes ready-to-wear. Why not find one you love to have on hand for a no-stress outfit perfect for any interview, meeting, or networking event?
Accessorize a Neutral Sweater Dress with an Eye-Catching Bag
A sweater dress is a perfect culmination of a cozy sweater and sleek dress, combined into an instant one-piece business casual outfit. Add an eye-catching embroidered bag, heels or booties, and you’re ready to go from class to your internship in comfort and style.
Contrast Professional Slacks with Laid-Back White Sneakers
It’s no secret that “dad sneakers” are having a moment. We’re not complaining though, especially when it means you can replace a day spent in high heels with a day spent in sneakers. Contrasted with high-waisted plaid pants, a black top, and some delicate gold accessories, these white, thick-soled sneakers will add the “casual” element of business casual while giving your toes a much needed day off.
Brighten up Your Work Day with a Pop of Yellow
All of us need a little motivation to power through the work week every now and then. So why not add a touch of those positive vibes into your workday ensemble? Pairing neutral striped pants with a bright yellow blouse will add a pop of mood-boosting color to liven up your daily hustle.
Layer up for a Cozy Work Day Ensemble
You know those days where it feels impossible to leave the cozy embrace of your bed? The ones where it just seems so tempting to leave the house wrapped in a blanket? We know a blanket might not fall under the category of business casual. But there are ways to layer up for a comparably cozy, yet professional, look. Throw on a long vest over a thick, knit turtleneck sweater and wide-legged slacks and cinch it together with a belt. Now you’ve got an internship-ready outfit that will keep you snug all day long.
Get the look: Forever 21 Chunky Knit Turtleneck Sweater in Mauve ($48), BCBGeneration Piped Long Vest in Black ($118), Anthropologie Bristol Studded Belt ($58), Everlane The Wide Leg Crop Pant in Ochre ($68)
PHOTO: Yusra Siddiqui, LIM College
Juxtapose a Simple Graphic T-Shirt with Wide-Legged Striped Pants
The graphic T-shirt is arguably one of the most versatile pieces in any wardrobe. From pairing it with classic denim to wearing it to bed to rocking it in an updated-business-casual look, graphic shirts can blend into almost any ensemble. Worn with wide-legged striped slacks, booties, and a long, structured coat, it’s a fun addition to a professional outfit. It also has the potential to show off a little bit of your personality.
Cinch a Turtleneck and Blazer with a Wide Buckle Belt
Add your own personal touch to the quintessential business casual blazer by styling it in an unexpected way. Layer it over a simple, white turtleneck, and cinch it in with a wide buckle belt. The belt becomes an eye-catching accessory while giving the structured blazer an entirely new shape.
Tuck an Eye-Catching Leopard Print Blouse into a Simple Black Skirt
Prints are a great way to break up the monotony of neutral colors. This is especially true when it comes to business casual outfits. A leopard print blouse, paired with a black midi skirt and flats, is a subtle touch of style. It also adds personality that blends well into a professional, internship-approved look.
What are your favorite business casual looks? Show us on Instagram by tagging @cfashionista!
Opening image by Jasmine Willis