The Best Business Casual Pieces Every Woman Needs in Her Wardrobe
What qualifies as business casual for women these days? Learn the new rules, and then update your wardrobe with the style essentials that will help you look your best.
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Now that we’re slowly getting back to in-person meetings and in-office workdays, we have a new issue to tackle: what to wear. After all, the cozy loungewear sets and slippers we’ve grown accustomed to wearing while working from home aren’t going to cut it, even in the most relaxed office settings. But the old rules don’t apply either. Instead, there’s a whole new set of guidelines when it comes to business casual for women.
“Business casual in the current era is all about being appropriate—but also comfortable,” says Astar Davidson, a style expert and fashion merchandiser. “You can wear your best jeans, skip the heels in favor of polished-looking winter boots and walking shoes, and neatly tuck in your tees, sweaters, and button-downs to master current trends.”
Of course, if you haven’t updated your work wardrobe in a while, you’ll want to make sure you’re not wearing old styles that date you and refresh it accordingly. You’ll also want to get some definitive answers on what all of this means, so that putting together the perfect business casual outfit isn’t a guessing game.
What is business casual for women, exactly?
“Business casual outfits for women meet at the intersection of workwear and more comfortable classics you would wear outside the office,” says Davidson. “While the rules have relaxed a bit, you still need to make sure that you’re wearing appropriate business casual attire. If you get the look right, these will be your go-tos for meetings, meals out with friends, and feeling your best when you’re out and about.”
Here are some of Davidson’s most important rules to nail the perfect business casual look for women in today’s world:
- Skip distressed fabrics. It’s important to look polished and neat, so even if your favorite denim is currently trending because of its clever distressing, you shouldn’t wear it to work.
- Lean toward modesty. Davidson says most necklines are fine to wear to the office now, but you should still forgo deep V-necks and anything that shows too much cleavage. If you’re wearing a sleeveless top, stick to wider straps. “If the straps measure less than three finger-widths across, it’s not appropriate for work,” she notes. “Skip spaghetti straps, halters, and strapless altogether.”
- Opt for colors. You don’t have to stick to an all-neutral or an all-black wardrobe anymore. “While the classics always look polished and presentable, your look is part of your personality and self-expression. There’s no reason you can’t add a pop of neon to your accessories, or a favorite bubblegum pink–hued shirt if it’s neatly tucked into a sophisticated skirt or pants.” The same goes for prints, as long as they’re not distracting.
- Mix in your work-from-home pieces. If you spent the last couple of years in your favorite leggings and tees and are reluctant to part with them, you’re in luck. Davidson says it’s OK to wear these pieces for home office days, and you can even use them as layering pieces at the office. For example, your better tees could go under cardigans and blazers, or leggings could go under a work-appropriate tunic.
Check out this handy guide to dress codes—whether you’re going to a wedding, party or business event.
Are jeans considered business casual?
This is definitely going to be the best news you hear all day—yes, jeans are considered appropriate business casual for women, provided they meet certain criteria. “There’s no reason you can’t rock a sophisticated denim look to work,” explains Davidson. “Don’t reach for your casual distressed jeans with rips and whiskering, though. You’ll want your jeans to mimic more elegant styles, so go for dark or colored washes, trouser silhouettes, or even the currently trending flare style.” The other key to making denim work as business casual is boosting the style and quality of your tops and accessories to pull off the look.
How we chose our favorite business casual pieces
We gathered expert input, combed shopper reviews, studied current trends, and, above all else, looked at the versatility of each piece. Business casual dressing is all about being comfortable while being appropriate, so each look can be worn in a variety of settings. Additionally, we considered price value. If a piece didn’t meet strict benchmarks for fabric quality and construction at a reasonable price, it didn’t make the list. So, without further ado, let’s get shopping! You’re about to find everything from the best sweaters and blazers to the classic dresses and pants you’ll live in this year.
Business casual shirts
When it comes to tops, Davidson says to look for good-quality fabrics in flattering natural materials. “You don’t have to shy away from comfort classics here,” she adds, “but you’ll want to elevate the look with cotton that maintains its shape, natural silk, linen blends, and other timeless materials.”
Trina Turk Owl Top
Choose the navy blue hue, a perfectly appropriate business casual choice, and then wear it loosely tucked into your favorite pants, dark denim, or pencil skirt. The ruffled sleeves offer a bit of personality and excitement.
- Soft, eco-friendly fabric
- Available in two enticing shades, one neutral and the other bright
- Sizes XS through XXL
Skinnytees Mock Turtleneck
“This is a basic winter staple you’ll feel confident wearing with just about everything you own,” says Davidson. “Tuck it in trouser-style pants for a balanced silhouette, use it as a layering piece, or dress it up with accessories.” For some ideas, try these affordable jewelry finds, starting at just $8. (Yes, you read that right!)
- Available in 11 neutral colors
- Reviewers call the fabric “close to the feeling of your own skin”
Grey State Vivienne Top
This ultra-soft, form-fitting top offers the charm of accessories without actually having to add any. Long sleeves and gold accent hooks make it a winner.
- Three neutral, timeless colors
- Charming gold accents
- Buttons up or down to take your look from day to night
Lilysilk Round Neck Silk Blouse
Few things are more luxurious than genuine charmeuse silk, and this glossy top fits the bill at an affordable price. The round neck and elastic cuffs give it a modern feel, while the relaxed fit offers a comfortable take on this classic. Just make sure you know how to wash silk at home to keep blouses like this in tip-top shape.
- Nine on-trend and neutral colors
- Pairs well with everything from denim to skirts
Maurices Crochet Long Sleeve Top
The summery crochet detailing around the neckline of this top that sets it apart from other shirts and makes it a nearly seasonless piece. Choose from two neutral shades that flatter almost every complexion.
- Plus sizes 0X through 4X
- Can be dressed up or down
Carve Designs Sawyer Twill Tunic
This loose tunic-style top can be neatly tucked into pants or skirts for a more polished look, or worn untucked for work-from-home days that are more focused on comfort. It comes in a variety of neutral shades with subtle print to add texture and dimension to otherwise ordinary outfits.
- Comes in sizes S through L
- Three neutral prints
- Open collar adds ventilation and casual-cool style
Business casual sweaters
“Stick to the basics when it comes to sweaters,” Davidson advises. “Neutral shades like black, camel, and shades of white will keep your look relevant for years to come. Don’t go over the top with safari prints or loud colors here. Save that for smaller accessories or accent trims.”
GSTQ Cozy Cowlneck Sweater
This longer-than-average tunic-style sweater is made of a soft cashmere-wool blend that feels like a warm blanket all winter long. The cozy drop shoulders and relaxed fit make it a comfort-forward choice you’ll love pairing with black leggings to give the illusion of longer legs.
- Ultra soft
- Longer tunic style
- Comes in black and red
Carve Designs Aurora Sweater
This easy-to-wear-and-pair V-neck offers the appeal and comfort of your favorite sweatshirt with the business casual precision of a well-made knit. It comes in four vibrant colors and is made of anti-pill wool you’ll treasure for seasons to come.
- Anti-pill wool
- Hand washable
- Slightly longer hem in the back
Boot Barn Molly Bracken Sweater Vest
This fun, chunky vest is more fun than it looks at first glance. By day, it’s a layering piece destined to top your classic ribbed tees and crisp white button-downs. By night? Well, that’s a whole other story. Try wearing it on its own or over a bandeau-style top with a black pencil skirt or with dark flared denim.
Rainbow Stores Ribbed Knit Turtleneck Sweater
This cheap-and-cheerful turtleneck sweater adds warmth without sacrificing style. The trendy ribbed stretchy fabric offers body-hugging balance to oversized skirts and looser pants. The best part? It comes in a variety of colors and is one of the most affordable items on this list. You’ll want to add a few of these to your cart as basics to live in all winter long.
- Under $10
- Comes in several timeless colors
- Trendy ribbed fabric
Business casual pants
The most important part of nailing the dressed-up pants look is feeling comfortable. “Find a silhouette that is flattering on you,” says Davidson. “If you feel your best in bootcut jeans, you can replicate the look in dressy pants with more elegant materials like wool or cashmere.” And don’t be shy with color here—statement pants can elevate your entire look.
M.M. LaFleur Colby Pants
These looser-fit tapered black pants give off Audrey Hepburn vibes without the pressure of constricting fits. They’re your new go-to dark neutral pants and are offered in various shades of black, gray, and blue to suit your every mood.
- Regular and petite-friendly inseams
- High-rise waist
- Sizes 0 through 18
WHBM WKND Knit Straight Pants
These soft, cozy straight-style pants are the most magical combination of trouser-forward styling and sweatpants-like appeal. Their relaxed feel is perfect for lounging with a polished look and lends well to in-office and dressed-up days when paired with a neat collared shirt or blazer ensemble. The drawstring waist is accented with sleek grommet trim and front pockets—because everyone loves pockets.
- Sweatpants-level comfort with trouser styling
- Drawstring closure
- XXS through XXL sizing with short, regular, and long inseams available
Cleobella Charlotte Trouser
These fashion-forward trousers are made of 100 percent GOTS organic cotton, the same kind you’ll find in the best organic sheets. That means they’re a comfortable, cozy take on a crisp classic and a sustainable choice you can feel good about dressing up or down.
- Modest price point for GOTS organic cotton
- Tie belt
- High-end, tailored look
Summersalt Multitasking Slit Front Ankle Pant
Choose from black, terra cotta, or deep blue shades of this business casual pant that screams sophistication and seasonless wearing. The mid-weight fabric is smooth, wrinkle-resistant, and boasts just the right amount of stretch to keep you moving comfortably. Pair it with a turtleneck and booties when the weather is crisp, or a collared short-sleeve polo and wedges when flowers are in bloom.
- Expanded size range
- Neutral and bold color options
- Medium-weight fabric with some stretch
Grey State Astoria Pant
A ruched elastic waistband, pintuck detailing down the center of the legs, and elastic-encased cuffs that make these pull-on pants feel like the fanciest joggers you’ve ever owned. Tuck a round neck tee, top with a blazer, and throw on some mules for a complete business casual look you’ll be proud to show off—comfortably.
- Chic pintucking
- Comfortable elastic waistband
- Machine washable
Business casual jeans
As we mentioned earlier, jeans can definitely qualify as some of the best business casual pieces for women, but they should echo the feeling of dress pants. Save the distressed jeans for when your out-of-office reply is up, and instead look for trouser legs that pair well with balanced, fitted shirts or trendy flare styles in darker rinses.
Loft Pull-On Straight Jeans
If you’re a fan of modern, edgy style and endless comfort, these pull-on jeans in a charcoal black shade are going to really impress you. The elasticized waistband offers a nod to vintage design and casual comfort, while the higher rise adds definition that slims the waistline. These are just waiting for your best bodysuits and slim-fitting tops to get tucked in and paired with ankle boots or, down the road, your favorite summer sandals.
- Modest price point
- Ideal for year-round wearing
- Available in medium and tall inseams
NYDJ Marilyn Straight Leg Jeans
Wear these as is with sweaters, blazers, and blouses all winter long, then roll them up for a cuffed look that shows off your warm-weather footwear when the season changes. Either way, the dark wash is flattering and elevates this casual wardrobe staple.
- Petite and regular sizes 0 through 18
- Two dark-rinse options
- Figure-hugging silhouette that slims and lifts
Madewell Mid-Rise Perfect Vintage Jean in Lunar Wash
These best sellers from Madewell have been one of the most popular women’s jeans in America for the last several seasons—and for good reason. The flattering mid-rise classic boasts a laid-back look that goes well with most torso lengths, and it provides plenty of movement, thanks to stretch denim.
- Flattering 9.5-inch rise
- Stretch denim that feels worn in from day one
- Sizes 23 through 33
Business casual dresses
Think of business casual dresses as layering pieces that transition from day to night in a cinch. Opt for something that hits slightly above or below the knee to keep things work appropriate, and make sure your shoulders are at least somewhat covered. Davidson suggests sticking to straps at least three finger widths across.
Quince Fit & Flare Knit Dress
Consider this effortless piece your new favorite layering gem. The design naturally cinches the waist and creates an hourglass figure while giving room to breathe and move. It’s a classic little black dress that is appropriate to wear to the office with a smart cropped blazer or cardigan, and it transforms into a chic French-inspired dress when paired with heels for the evening.
- Under $40
- Versatile midi length
- Stretch jersey fabric
PCEAIIH Long Sleeve Maxi Dress
This cheap, chic, and versatile Amazon best seller is so comfortable that reviewers swear it “feels like pajamas.” It’s the perfect combination of soft jersey that comes in dozens of colors and prints. Reviewers note that the material can be a little clingy, though, so you’ll want to wear the right shapewear under this look.
- 30-plus colors and prints
- Sizes XS through 3XL
A New Day Ruffle Short Sleeve Dress
You’ll look and feel your best in this warm-weather, short-sleeve dress that offers a wrap-style finish. The tiny print and cinched waist will give you the appearance of a flawless hourglass silhouette, and the ruffles at the shoulder add a flirty flair. It’s available in both regular and plus sizes and comes in a handful of gorgeous hues. Pair it with mules, kitten heels, or even crisp white sneakers to nail the look.
- Under $30
- Available in regular and plus sizes
- Timeless wrap-style silhouette
Gobi Bold Striped Midi Dress
Spring and summer wardrobes call for nautical knits, and this resort-ready piece is just waiting to be asked to the office. It offers a nod to 1920s design features with a dropped waistline, pockets, and bold stripes that work just as well with flat slides as espadrille wedges.
- Summery style that works at brunch and at the office
- Layers with blazers, cardigans, and more
- Vintage-style knit
Bella Dahl Belted Utility Dress
- Versatile style that can be worn in all four seasons
- Machine washable
- Available in three neutral shades
Business casual skirts
The same slightly above the knee or lower rule for dresses also applies to business casual skirts. “Skirts can be a lot of fun, but keep in mind you’ll want your skirt to hit at an appropriate length when you’re sitting, too,” says Davidson. “It’s always easier to err on the side of caution and opt for comfortable pieces like maxi-style skirts, midi skirts, or flexible pencil silhouettes.”
Time and Tru Midi Skirt
You may be surprised to learn that Walmart is a treasure trove of inexpensive business casual skirt options, but it is—and you won’t be disappointed. This versatile knit gem, which can be dressed up or down, offers a form-fitting take on the classic pencil skirt. The best part? It costs less than lunch out with colleagues.
- Under $11
- Available in three neutral colors
- Sizes XS through XXL
Trina Turk Clyffe Skirt
This cool-weather standout evokes hipper days and mod fashion choices all around. The A-line silhouette and knee-length hem offer a bit of excitement while still being professional. Pair it with a ribbed turtleneck or jazz it up with a patterned blouse and textured tights.
- Vintage appeal that won’t go out of style
- Front utility pockets
- Neutral camel color
Chico’s Printed Maxi Skirt
This slightly stretchy maxi will be your year-round go-to for business casual outfits of all kinds. It adds a dose of fun to typical white tees, and lots of dimension to a plain black turtleneck, and it pairs well with sandals and a denim jacket for the weekend. Your only issue will be wanting to wear it all the time.
- Pull-on styling
- Slight stretch that moves with you
- Machine washable
Drefbufy Maxi Skirt
- Flattering A-line shape
- Eight versatile colors and prints
Business casual blazers, jackets, and cardigans
Investing in a few great blazers, layering jackets, and business casual cardigans offer your wardrobe foundation staples you can reach for time and time again. “Skirts, dresses, and pants styles are updated pretty frequently, but a good black cardigan or dark-toned blazer will serve you well for several years,” says Davidson. “The same goes for a piece like a denim jacket.” While we’re on the subject, you’ll also want a smart winter coat to make the perfect entrance (and exit). Take a look at these plus-size winter coats, too.
LILYSILK Classic Double Breasted Slim Blazer
This always-in-style double-breasted blazer is a wardrobe must-have that you can wear across all seasons and you’ll never regret buying. Pair it with wide-leg trousers, skinny denim, pencil skirts, or slim-cut dresses. The gold-tone buttons bring together any outfit, and the lining is made of 100 percent real silk to make it endlessly supple and easy to wear.
- Tailored fit
- Three neutral classic shades
- Double-breasted button closure
Athleta Westlake Cardigan
Whether you’re commuting or working from home, you’ll manage to wear this always-useful cardigan with your entire wardrobe. It’s made of a lightweight, stretchy merino blend that buttons down. Wear it open or closed—the choice is yours.
- Available in regular and plus sizes
- Ultra-soft merino wool
- Ribbed-knit cuffs
Amazon Essentials Open-Front Cardigan
You’ll want to add this cheap-and-cheerful piece to your collection in every color. It’s just that good, and there are thousands of reviewers who agree. Wear this Amazon best seller open over a dress, belted over a bodysuit, or partially tucked into trendy denim.
- Comes in 20 colors
- Sizes XS through XXL
Liverpool Los Angeles Classic Jean Jacket
Take your typical denim jacket to the next level by trying it in a solid, sophisticated shade that you might normally leave to blazers or leather pieces. This deep greenish-gray hue adds just a bit of spunk to neutral outfits while still offering the comfort and casual feeling of denim.
- Updated take on the classic jean jacket
- Stretch-twill material
- Machine washable
Business casual shoes
Comfort is the name of the business casual shoe game. “Kitten-style and lower heels are super on-trend right now and offer much-needed comfort. Boots, booties, ballet flats, loafers, and mules are all approved choices that fit under the business casual for women umbrella,” adds Davidson. “Keep your most polished slip-on sneakers and all-white trainers for dress-down Friday so long as they’re paired with elevated clothes like pencil skirts or twin sets.” While we’re on the topic, find out what your favorite shoes say about your personality.
Naturalizer Kayden Mule
This comfortable mule with horsebit ornamentation is an affordable take on the designer alternative that everyone is longing for—only it’s better, because it comes with a non-slip outsole and a subtle half-inch heel at a fraction of the price.
- High-end designer style for a bargain
- Genuine leather and suede finish
- Expanded size range
Naot Nefasi Booties
The Nefasi comes with Naot’s famous removable, anatomic cork and latex footbed. Few brands offer this technology, and it is one of the few ways to guarantee a comfortable fit you would be happy to wear all day long. Wear these booties with dark denim, or pair them with solid or printed business casual dresses or coordinating dressy separates that need a dose of dressed-down balance. Need a pair of snow boots while you’re at it? We’ve got plenty of those for you to choose from, too.
- Available in six colors and prints
- Extended size range up to a women’s 12
- Low heel, supportive footbed, and genuine leather
Calvin Klein Danica Pointed Toe Pump
If there’s one low-heel trend to try right now, it’s the kitten heel. Davidson suggests looking for shoes that offer a two-inch or lower heel to nail the trend that riffs off classic ’80s, ’90s, and early-2000s vibes. This Calvin Klein pump comes in a variety of natural leather shades you’ll proudly pair with everything in your wardrobe.
- Demure kitten heel
- Vintage style that stands the test of time
- Available in five shades
Vivaia Pointed-Toe Bow Flats
Add some feminine detailing to your shoes with these bow-adorned, pointed-toe flats you’ll be happy to skip back to the office in. They come in two colors and boast a deodorizing removable insole, a genius feature that will help your shoes last longer, and the bows can be swapped out depending on the outfit you’re wearing. There’s a knit-style pair for your more casual days and a velvet-finish pair for evenings and dressed-up work events.
- Interchangeable bows
- Removable insole
- Sizes 5 through 11
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