Business casual is a term that confuses a lot of women - the name in itself is an oxymoron. Besides being difficult to define, 'business casual' can mean different things depending on your professional environment.

Simply put, business casual is a combination of business pieces worn with less formal items in a way that the outfit as a whole is taken down a notch. The aim is to look smart and put together, but a little more comfortable than your general corporate look. It's about adding the less formal items to your look, while still looking polished.

I'm often asked by clients what to wear to achieve a business casual look. My first piece of advice would be to make sure you start with your workplace dress code - some companies or industries may be more or less formal than others. 

I've put together some outfit ideas and style advice for professional women looking to perfect the business casual look.

Smart Separates

When I think business casual, what immediately comes to mind is smart separates - smart trousers and a sweater - perhaps try a 3/4 sleeve which appears more elegant. Separates will give you a smart silhouette with a slightly more casual feel.

Dresses and Skirts

Trousers are the most obvious choice when you think of business casual wear, but don't exclude a dress or skirt. A knee-length knitted dress would be a great option for this look. Depending on the dress or skirt, you can either dress it up or down by the choice of shoes, either a pair of heels or smart flats would change the overall effect. 


The most likely choice for a business casual are trousers. Make sure they are ironed and in great condition to make sure you look polished. Pay attention to the fabric of your trousers. If it's a more casual fabric, stretch perhaps, you can pair them with a heel and smart blouse without looking overdressed. 

Dressed Down Suit

If you want to wear a full suit, there are ways you can dress it down to achieve a more casual look. By adding a fine knit jumper or a quality crew neck underneath your jacket instead of a shirt, you look appear more comfortable. You can also swap out your heels for a pair of smart flat shoes or brogues.

Lizzie Edwards is a leading London based Personal Stylist and Image Consultant for women over 35.