Getting up for work is hard enough as it is. Trying to follow rather vague dress codes for work just adds to it. The business casual dress code has garnered a reputation for being difficult to follow despite it being the most common dress code in professional work places.

Dressing business casual may mean different things from workplace to workplace but there are unwritten, general rules that one can follow to stay in line with the dress code. Here are some guidelines on how to dress business casual for the working woman.

Tops

Blouses are the safe choice to stay within the business casual dress code. Button-down shirts are also encouraged. And depending on your work management, sometimes solid-color shirts are also acceptable. The general rule for tops is that anything can work really as long as you don’t show off too much cleavage or skin. So be careful with wearing low-cut tops and sheer blouses to work.

Bottoms

Similar to tops, choose bottoms that don’t show off too much skin. You can wear skirts as long as they don’t ride up too high. Knee-length pencil skirts are a great foolproof choice. The business casual code also allows for more relaxed pants. But don’t get too comfortable. Boho pants aren’t usually acceptable in the office. Go for well-fitting (not too tight or too loose) pants in muted colors instead.

Shoes and other accessories

Shoes and accessories are a great way to style an outfit. But make sure that you accessorize within the acceptable range given your office’s business casual code. Choose small accessories over large ones and wear sensible shoes instead of high heels. The latter is more for your own comfort though. But if you’re office has a casual day when dress codes are more relaxed that’s the time to go a bit more daring with shoes and accessories.

Here are more tips in the form of some Dos and Don’ts:

  • Do avoid wearing shirts or sweaters with loud or offensive words or logos written on them. You don’t want people to get distracted or worse offended by what you’re wearing. Reserve your statement pieces for nights out or days off.
  • Don’t wear revealing clothes at the office. Yes, you may have a cute co-worker whose attention you want to catch but remember that the office is a place for work and not dating. Avoid wearing miniskirts (those that hit three to four inches above the knees) even though they’re made of tweed. Another rule of thumb is to keep the cleavage at an inch. It is also smart to keep your shoulders covered up.
  • Do look at and take notes of how older employees dress. A good way to know what kinds of outfits are acceptable to wear at work is to look at how older employees dress. They’ve been there a longer time and have probably mastered how to dress within the dress code.
  • Don’t wear sloppy or ripped clothing. Ripped jeans and unfinished hems maybe all the rage in street fashion right now but they don’t have a place in the office setting. Athleisure is also another trend that you should not wear at the office.

Decoding how to dress business casual can be difficult and may vary from workplace to workplace. But there are general guidelines that you can follow to make sure that you stay in line with your office’s dress code.