Congratulations, you’re hired. You start a new job on Monday and the dress code is business casual. Are you wondering what you should and shouldn’t wear? Curious if jeans are acceptable in a business casual workplace? Well, the answers to these questions are not so straightforward, and dress codes can vary from office to office. Many companies are moving away from traditional suiting and embracing more relaxed styles. A progressive philosophy, “dress for your day” has gained traction in recent years. It allows employees to wear what makes sense for their schedules. Have a meeting with important clients? Rock your power suit. Sitting behind your desk all day? Women’s workleisure will fit the bill.
Not all companies have evolved in this way, and enforce a consistent business casual dress code throughout the week. The lack of clear guidelines can be confusing, so it’s always best to take a look around to see what others are wearing. If you’re still in doubt, there’s no shame in asking your human resources department for clarification on the matter. The more informed you are, the more empowered you’ll feel as you shake hands (or bump elbows) with new colleagues. With that being said, we’re here to help crack the code on what’s suitable for your workspace—and to ensure that you make a great impression on your first day on the job.
Defining Business Casual and its Origin
To decipher whether shorts, sandals, jeans and more can be considered business casual, let’s start from the beginning. Grab a fresh bowl of poke or a decorative tiki beverage for this tropical history lesson. Business casual styles evolved from the introduction of “casual Fridays” in the workplace. Believe it or not, “casual Fridays” originated as “Aloha Fridays” with the popularization of the Aloha shirt. The warm summer season in Hawaii prompted a dress code shift and evolved into an end-of-workweek celebration. Allowing casual outfits each Friday spread to California and eventually, across the globe. Many companies imposed less strict wardrobe restrictions and experienced a boost in morale among employees. With a desire to maintain a successful appearance without sacrificing comfort and individualism, business casual was born.
Wondering what rules apply when dressing for a business casual environment? Think more business and less casual. Women’s business casual wardrobes are not as formal as traditional business professional attire, but still render an air of sophistication. Keep the flip-flops, leggings and cut-off shorts in your closet. Focus on polished pieces like khaki pants, knee-length (or longer) dresses and skirts, blouses, collared shirts and knit sweaters. The goal is for your ensemble to appear tidy, but not feel restrictive. That leads us to the main question at hand. Do jeans belong in a business casual workplace? Keep reading for our thoughts on the matter (spoiler alert: our answer is yes but not all jeans are created equal).
How to Wear Blue Jeans for Work
There’s nothing quite like a stellar pair of jeans that make us feel like we can conquer the day ahead. We’re happy to see jeans positioning themselves in the business casual world, and we’re confident they’re here to stay. It’s vital to know which styles are acceptable for your nine-to-five grind, so let’s dive into a few key considerations.
First, let’s talk washes. The darker the jeans, the more businesslike they’ll appear. Yes, it’s as simple as that. We recommend staying away from denim that’s too light-washed unless your office leans very casual. Avoid extreme fading, fraying and tears (more on this later) to achieve a refined feel. Mirroring common trouser silhouettes like bootcut or straight-leg will elevate your overall look. Skinny jeans can be a chic style for women in the workplace as long as they have a proper fit. Look for a pair that is just right and not too tight or too loose.
Our best tip? If you’re going to wear jeans, keep your professional pieces in play to round out your business casual looks. Check out our favorite ways to elevate a pair of jeans so you can crush your goals and impress your peers in style.
Can You Create a Business Casual Outfit with a Blazer and Jeans?
Curious if jeans and blazers are the right match for a business casual setting? We’re ready to seal the deal on this question with a resounding yes. A blazer is a sure way to take any outfit to the next level. A tailored blazer will ensure you look sharp and on-point, while a relaxed, boyfriend silhouette creates a modern, workleisure feel.
The best part? Blazers come in a multitude of colors and fabrics to customize your look for each season. Opt for a linen blend in pastel shades like baby blue or peach for a spring-ready look. For cooler seasons, stay warm in a heavier fabric like tweed or wool. Explore autumnal shades like pumpkin spice or marigold yellow highlighted in fall 2021 women’s fashion trends. Are cool tones more your jam? A deep wine or eggplant shade will pop over a crisp white collared blouse paired with dark wash jeans. Now all you need are proper shoes and accessories—that’s up next.
Finishing Touches: Footwear and Accessories
Creating a cohesive look is like baking a cake. It wouldn’t be quite the same without the icing, would it? Think of shoes and accessories in the same way. These finishing touches can really make or break an outfit especially when you’re building a business casual look around jeans. There’s a plethora of footwear options for women to choose from that provide comfort and a sleek appearance. Close-toed shoes are your best bet. Think flats, loafers, ankle booties and block heels. Classic neutrals like navy, black and nude are no-brainers but don’t feel limited to these tones. A pop of color on your feet is a fun way to shake up your outfit choices throughout the workweek.
The casual in business casual allows for a bit of wiggle room for personalization. Let your personality shine with a sassy snakeskin crossbody bag or polka-dot belt. Wondering what jewelry to wear? Keep things subtle so your necklace isn’t the star of the show during an important meeting or presentation. It’s your time to shine. If you’ve been looking for a way to wear pearls, now’s your chance. Pearls are elegant and distinguished, and are having a major trend moment in the fashion world. If pearls aren’t your style, no worries, a simple pair of hoop earrings or a chain pendant necklace will do the trick.
Black Jeans: The Business Casual Secret Weapon
Arguably, the most versatile piece in any women’s closet is a great pair of black jeans. Are black jeans business casual? When it comes to non-blue shades, black jeans are perhaps the most appropriate business casual option in the game. Due to the dark hue, they bear a striking resemblance to traditional slacks, but can pull double duty for weekend looks. A win-win situation, if you ask us. The color also helps to hide fading or other signs of typical denim wear, creating a more authoritative look. Aside from color and wash, fit and silhouette are both key when it comes to wearing black jeans for business casual attire.
As we like to say, fit is it. From tops to bottoms and everything in between, you’ll feel and look your best in well-fitting garments. Denim is no different. A quick trip to your local tailor may help to achieve the perfect fit in both waist and length. With black jeans, you can easily get away with any silhouette for the workplace. Looking to expand past your go-to bootcut bottoms? Try the wide-leg jean, an ultra-trendy style that is having a real fashion revival. Tuck your favorite blouse into a pair of black wide-leg jeans for a chic business casual look.
Is White Denim Business Casual?
The look of crisp, clean white is no longer just reserved for a women’s summer wardrobe. Now regarded as an acceptable year-round color, white jeans are an up-and-coming player for business casual attire. Yes, even after Labor Day. We promise. The key to pulling them off? Selecting the right pair and then balancing them with refined and work-ready tops, accessories and footwear. Since white is the lightest shade out there, always be sure to double-check fabric thickness to avoid any see-through mishaps.
Perhaps the easiest way to wear white jeans in a business casual workplace is by pairing them with neutral separates. Shades of tan, navy and black will pop beautifully against pristine white jeans to create a timeless ensemble. For a go-to look, tuck a camel-colored silk blouse into your jeans and add on a longline navy blazer. Want to try something brighter? Opt for a printed blouse in the spring or winter color family. Think coral, amethyst or fuschia. Either combination is a foolproof way to create business casual ensembles with white jeans.
What About Colored Jeans For A Casual Workplace?
Color is a great way for any woman to add personality to her outfit, from light pastels to vibrant bolds. It serves as a way to express your mood and tell others how you feel through the art of fashion. But are colored jeans business casual? Is it a fashion must-do or professional faux-pas? This one can be a little trickier, so let’s break it down.
To create a more polished look, always err on the side of a darker or more subdued color. Jewel-tones like emerald green, deep burgundy and dark navy serve as appropriate colored jean options for business casual attire. If your workplace leans more toward the casual side of business casual, you can opt for something even bolder. Let your personality shine in denim hues like cobalt blue or cherry red. Anchor them with neutrals such as white button-down blouses, gold jewelry and nude flats. However, not all colors are office-ready, so don’t go pulling just any pair out of your closet. Those bright neon jeans you love? Best to save them for the weekend.
Jeans and Polos: Are They Business Casual?
It’s truly up to your office’s policy whether jeans and polos are acceptable. But, is this combo considered business casual? Not exactly. When worn together, polos and jeans give off a super casual vibe. The good news? They’re totally doable as separates when paired with the right partners. We’ve already stated our case for jeans, so let’s jump into styling polos.
Polos naturally have a preppy aesthetic, so feel free to lean into this style genre. Balance the laid back feel of polos with traditional bottoms like slacks or a pencil skirt. It’s all in the details from here. Choose a polo in a luxurious fabric like silk or cashmere for an added wow factor. Tuck your polo into wide-leg trousers and add a leather belt. Slip your feet into a pretty pair of pumps, and you’re all set to take command of your day.
Can You Layer a Casual Office Look With A Denim Jacket?
Layering pieces are a must for any woman in the workplace (hello, sub-zero air conditioning). Looking to change it up from your go-to cardigan or blazer? Don’t be afraid to reach for your favorite jean jacket as an on-trend way to complete your business casual ensemble. As offices become increasingly more casual, you can wear this versatile layering piece in a variety of work environments. Whether you incorporate it as part of your outfit or keep it desk-side, there are a few do’s and don’ts to consider.
A top do for denim jackets in business casual attire? A dark wash in a clean finish. You will also want to look for a jacket with a tailored fit that hits right at hip level. These characteristics will give a more refined feel so be sure to steer clear of light denim or any distressing. Leave the cropped and oversized boyfriend jacket for your weekend outings or athleisure wear. When it comes to styling, keep your other apparel pieces on the more executive side to help elevate the jacket. Try it over a classic shift dress in a solid hue or pair it back with a timeless pencil skirt.
Are Ripped Jeans Business Casual?
You see them everywhere, from stores to social media. You most likely even have them hanging in your very own closet. Ripped jeans are always a trend-forward choice, featuring everything from torn knees to chewed hemlines. But you might be wondering, are ripped jeans appropriate for business casual looks? In a word, no. Distressed jeans are too casual and don’t look polished enough for work. If this isn’t the answer you were hoping for, not to worry. There are plenty of other ways to infuse a bit of edge into your business casual outfit while still keeping it professional.
Instead, try a pair of dark black, high-rise coated skinny jeans for your business casual attire. This fashionable denim treatment will give the appearance of luxe leather and offers a certain it-girl vibe to upgrade your outfit. Missing the look and feel of classic denim fabric? We’ve got you. Simply tuck a chambray button-down shirt into the coated skinnies and slip on your go-to blazer. Major style points for a printed or menswear-inspired option. To complete the edgy business casual look, slip into a sleek pair of boots and add a bold lipstick color.
Need help putting together a few business casual outfit options that feature jeans? Our style experts are here to help. Take your style quiz, order a Fix and don’t forget to ask your stylist for office-ready denim. Relax and receive five pieces that you can try in the comfort of your own home. Shipping and returns are always free, giving you even more peace of mind.