Appearances do matter. From the job interview to the corner office to networking events, the business casual dress code is a great way to dress for success.

Now, we know that striking the right balance of professional and casual styles can be tricky territory — With no black and white rules to be adhered to, business casual is one of the most confusing, mixed-signal dress codes out there.

Trying to decipher what constitutes business casual for women can be overwhelming in modern work environments. A business casual dress code can indeed vary depending on which part of the world you live in, the industry and company you work for, your profession, your career level, and even the season.

Where one company embraces the business casual dress code with a more laid-back norm (t-shirts and jeans allowed), another would veer more towards the more formal look, expecting nothing less than a dressy blazer and shiny shoes.

What is Business Casual for women?

Put simply: Business casual is a semi-formal professional dress code that is typically found in modern office settings. Although the term can vary between companies and cultures, business casual traditionally denotes a polished, office-appropriate look that appears smart but is still somewhat comfortable and relaxed rather than overly formal.

Not too business; neither too casual, business casual is a delicate balancing act. The easiest way to think of the business casual dress code is a hybrid of business professional and casual wear.

Note that business casual is different from smart casual. While business casual traditionally includes classic business staples, smart casual usually combines a professional attire with trendy clothing pieces.

Women business casual examples

Wearing a full-on suit is overly formal. For business casual, it is more like the outfits you would wear when meeting your best client for lunch.

When planning the perfect business casual wardrobe, think professional wardrobe, but deconstructed. In other words, try mixing tailored and traditional business staples such as dress pants, khakis, blouses, and tailored blazers with more relaxed and fashion-forward pieces. The business casual look should always make you feel stylish and confident but should not raise any eyebrows at your next meeting.

Just like the name implies, remember that business casual is about business first and casual second. So be sure to check your employee’s handbook for more clarity on your company’s dress code before going on a shopping spree.

Winter business casual women’s outfits

For fall and winter business casual attire, be sure to opt for thicker fabrics and warm styles, such as long sleeves and knitted sweaters, boots and sock booties. Business casual for the cold weather also calls for layering.

A (cashmere) turtleneck is the ultimate, versatile starting point of your 9-to-5 winter business casual look, working with everything from pants to midi skirts and beyond.

Summer business casual women’s outfits

The warmer months usually introduce a refreshing colour palette and lightweight, breathable fabrics (such as cotton, linen, and silk) into your wardrobe. During summer, the challenge when choosing business casual outfits is to find just the right balance between work-and weather-appropriate.

Although dresses and skirts are fabulous for keeping your legs fresh, avoid body-hugging, overly tight styles when temperatures rise. Business casual women outfits: these are precisely what you need to look effortlessly polished at work. The first order of business every morning is deciding what to wear to work. Business casual is a very versatile dress code. An excellent assortment of basics is the foundation of your business casual wardrobe.  To help you get your workwear wardrobe on track, we’ve compiled here all the business casual essentials your nine-to-five style needs, according to fashion experts.  Mix and match the more dressed up pieces to look more put together, or add more casual pieces for a more laid-back vibe.

Business casual shoes

Put your best foot forward with stylish business casual shoes that will effortlessly take you from the workplace to happy hour. There are a ton of fantastic business casual footwear options to achieve a business casual look. From flats that don’t fall short in the style department (like loafers, brogues, and ballet shoes) to heels that mean business (such as comfortable kitten and block styles and boots).

If you had only to buy yourself one pair of office-appropriate shoes, make it a chic pair of leather pointy-toed pair of heels in black or nude. These classic women’s business casual shoes can literally be worn with anything and everything in your work wardrobe. And luckily, you can still pull off a killer look with pumps in modest height (sorry, stilettos).

If you’re comfortable ditching heels to work, opt for a pair of comfortable flats like a pointed-toe d’Orsay or menswear-inspired Oxfords, Brogues and loafers. These flats are just some of our favourite go-to shoes for walking around the office all day or for commuters running from the subway to the office and back home again. Cushy booties or knee-high boots without over-embellishment are business casual staples during colder months. Keep buckles and studs to a minimum for a more timeless look. Pick your boots in leather (or vegan alternative) or suede in a neutral colour that will go with anything. Once a big no-no in the office, denim jeans at the office are becoming more and more common as workplaces are increasingly adopting more relaxed dress codes.  Super versatile, seasonless, and comfortable while still looking put together, denim jeans are in vogue.

So, know that yes, you can wear work-appropriate jeans as business casual attire—as long as they are well-tailored and your ensembles remain polished. Dressing up your denim (with, say, a pair of heels or a blazer) is de rigueur.

Business casual women shirts

A chic button-down white shirt in classic cotton style or more feminine silk is a business casual staple. For a slightly trendier business casual vibe, go for a button-down with a little bit of feminine flair, like ruffles, or a studded collar.

Business casual blouses and tops

Shirts aren’t the only business casual tops of choice. The beautiful thing about the business casual dress code is that it allows for a bit more fun with your work everyday wardrobe than some other, more formal corporate dress codes. You can branch outside of primary neutral colours for your tops. Experiment with stylish blouses in a variety of sleeve lengths in pops of pastels, jewel tones, plaids, muted florals, and subtle prints. Don’t get too trendy with over-the-top patterns, though, and avoid anything too revealing or sheer.

To master the delicate balancing act of business casual, pair your trendy blouses and tops with classic trousers or skirts.

Business casual dresses

Business casual dresses are an office staple for both summer and winter days. Beyond structured, business-suit-like dresses, business casual dresses come in many other polished forms that are ideal for the office. From shift dresses to mock turtleneck dresses, wrap dresses, silk dresses, and midi dresses, business casual dresses are super versatile, figure-flattering, and easy to wear and layer. Just ensure that they are in an appropriate length and fit for the office.

Business casual skirts

Both stylish and versatile, pencil or A-line skirts with appropriate length are another undeniable business casual wardrobe staple.

Business casual sweaters

Perfect for the colder months and to keep you warm in an air-conditioned office, basic sweaters are an excellent addition to your year-round business casual wardrobe. Wear them tucked into your skirt or smart pants, with jeans and heels or layer them over shirts and dresses. Pick up sweaters in a range of basic neutrals, but don’t be afraid to also play with fashion colours and patterns.