Do you want to know what to wear to work when the dress code is casual, or smart casual? These key examples will help you achieve that effortlessly chic and casual style you want while saving you time and stress in the morning.
Dress codes can be confusing these days. When your new job or work-from-home job requires you to come into the office and the dress code is casual or smart-casual, the big question is “What do I wear to work to be casual in a professional environment?”
A casual dress code should be a relief, but as the corporate adage goes, “When in doubt, always choose to dress up as opposed to dressing down”. It seems “casual” and “professional” are at opposite ends of the spectrum.
But they don’t have to be.
After working in several offices with casual or smart casual dress codes, I’ve learned the art of dressing casually in a professional, work environment.
You will learn practical examples of stylish pieces you can wear to wear to work in a casual office environment and how to pair them differently to achieve multiple looks, so you spend less money.
Ready to walk into your office with confidence?
This post is about what to wear to work casual.
What Wear To Work Casual Attire
1. An Elevated T-Shirt
There’s a world of options to choose from when you venture outside the confines of a plain, white t-shirt. These styles give the t-shirt a fresh and updated look but without the notion of trying too hard.
For cotton or cotton-blend tees, look for details in the sleeves such as trim, puffed, or different lengths. Choose a fancier neckline such as a v-neck, boatneck, or decorated with lace or trim. Subtle patterns or ribbing detail in the fabric can also provide a more feminine look.
Neutral colors such as ivory, taupe, brown, and navy will add an element of refinement as opposed to bright colors when wearing cotton t-shirts.
Silk knit tees are classy and have a weightiness to them that adds a high-end touch, even when paired with jeans. A silk satin or brushed silk tee may seem too dressy but will balance out when paired with nice jeans or casual work pants. Cashmere tees provide warmth when needed in a chilly office and can be paired with flowy skirts or pants.
Last, but not least are linen tees. A linen tee is my favorite summer top because it’s so breathable, yet so classy looking, and without the high-end price tag. Linen wrinkles naturally and is expected to have wrinkles when worn, but I recommend steaming or running a quick iron over them before leaving the house.
Ensure your top fits well: not too loose, not too low cut, and not too short. Tucking your casual work tops into your pants or skirt will ensure you always look well put-together for the office.
The tops I’m wearing in the photos below are excellent examples of elevated tees. They’re super comfortable and dress up the denim I’m wearing as well.
Find the perfect elevated t-shirt here:
- Lattelier Classic Short Sleeve Shirt – click here – Tailored shirt that is boxy, but sophisticated!
- Sarah Knitted T-Shirt – click here – This classy neutral top is made from cashmere and wool; lightweight and comfortable!
- Silk-knit boat neck tee – click here – Elegant, chic, and comfortable!
- Silk satin tee – click here – A fitted style that is still modest and classy!
- Short sleeve linen top – click here (this store has affordable, quality linen)
2. Casual Work Pants: Black, White, or Ivory Jeans
Black, white, or ivory denim jeans are my go-to’s when putting any casual outfit together. These colorways provide variation and excitement from the classic blue jean. They’re the perfect casual work pants because they can be worn year-round, wash easily, and also pair with the greatest selection of tops, jackets, and shoes.
White or ivory denim gives off a statement look because most people wear dark colors on the bottom. Make certain your denim is thick enough to assure modesty since you will wear them to work in a casual or smart casual office.
My formula to avoid stains on white or ivory jeans is to know what the weather conditions will be and what I’m going to eat that day. For example, if there’s melted snow outside or the office is ordering pizza for lunch (pizza Tuesdays, anyone?), I’ll wear my ivory jeans another day.
I also ensure lids are firmly sealed on any coffee or tea cup I’m drinking. Better safe than sorry.
Oh, and I’m mindful to avoid leaning against whiteboards.
You get the idea.
Black denim gives off the effect you’re wearing something dressier than a pair of jeans. Opt for the darkest black wash, without fading or whiskers. The best thing about black denim is that it doesn’t show stains and that is something we can all be thankful for.
Related Post: Denim Style Trends | The Best Jeans For Your Body
Some additional classy denim options:
- Levi’s top-rated straight-leg jeans – click here
- Lattelier Boot-cut Vintage Jeans – click here – Pair these black wash jeans with a collared shirt and loafers for the perfect smart casual look!
- White House Black Market High-Rise Sculpt Skinny Flare Jeans – click here – Thicker white flares that won’t be see-through!
3. Casual Work Coats: A Classic Blazer
Thank goodness the days of the blazer being only for formal wear are over.
The classic, black blazer is on everyone’s list, and for good reason-it pairs amazingly well with most tops and bottoms.
All the items mentioned in the above sections can be worn with a blazer. So can tanks, sleeveless tops, sweaters, button-downs, and blouses. A cropped blazer pairs well with skirts and dresses. Neutral colors are most versatile (black being the obvious choice) but don’t shy away from navy, gray, beige, or camel if it complements your wardrobe.
Cotton, twill, or linen blazers are more casual work coats, and can work better in the warmer months.
Find the blazer in a cut that works for your body shape and height and you’ve found your “everyday wear to work” piece for the casual office setting. Blazers also make perfect day-to-night looks for happy hour with friends, a dinner date, or even to your child’s school event.
Related Post: What To Wear To A Funeral (And Still Look Stylish)
Call me strange, but I throw a blazer on before I run errands sometimes. This way I don’t need to change my casual, work-from-home outfit (Ponte-knit yoga pants and an elevated tee or sweater) AND I feel good and look put-together.
Cheers to the blazer, ladies.
Grab your perfect blazer here:
- NA-KD Fitted Blazer (similar to the style I’m wearing on the right) – click here
- Norma Kamali Single Breasted Jacket – click here – Gorgeous black blazer in a shorter length – click here
- Gentle Herd Classic Suit Blazer – click here – Ultra-sophisticated blazer in multiple colorways, very chic!
- Lattelier Linen-Blend V-Neck Layered Blazer – click here – OMG, this blazer comes in so many colors and it’s the most stylish linen blazer I’ve ever seen…need this now!
A button-down shirt is a timeless classic and in a denim or linen fabric, becomes the perfect casual work shirt.
A medium shade of denim will offer the most versatility with your “wear to work” clothing and casual wardrobe throughout the year. Both dark and light denim look good with white pants. Try belting your denim shirt with a flowy skirt.
Also, the shade of your denim shirt does NOT have to match your pants! I don’t know where that “rule” originated, but I recommend disregarding that and choosing contrasting pieces for the best style.
My favorite shirt that I own is a button-down, chambray shirt I purchased from Rails over ten years ago. It’s lightweight and a flowy material so I can wear it in the warm months and layer a cashmere knit underneath in the cold months. I dress it up with skirts and trousers and dress it down with wide-leg linen pants. I seriously love this shirt. It fits incredibly well. And I’m going to have to replace it soon because it’s starting to wear thin.
Choose a linen button-down shirt for the warmer months. Long sleeves will keep you comfortable in the office air-conditioning, but a sleeveless shirt is also a good option layered under a sweater or blazer. There’s just something so effortlessly chic about linen.
Purchase something similar here:
- Button-down linen shirt (I own this and love it) – click here
- The White Company Sleeveless Linen Shirt – click here – This shirt has relaxed cap sleeves with a revere collar, so it’s completely office appropriate!
- Cloth & Stone Chambray Buttondown Shirt – click here – Similar to the style I’m wearing, above
- Veronica Beard Isabel Chambray Top – click here – For something a little different, this feminine top has a mock neck and buttons down the back!
5. Casual Work Shoes: The LaidBack Derby Shoe
Derby shoes don’t have to be stuffy, dress shoes anymore. They give off an “old-school gentleman” vibe but are super wearable.
I discovered my first pair of derby shoes at an upscale consignment shop in my area. They were beige, lightweight, comfortable, SUEDE (my favorite shoe fabric), brand new, and the price was right. Honestly, the only reason I bought them was that I thought they were pretty and maybe I could wear them instead of white sneakers.
I’m not much of a sneaker girl unless I’m walking the dog, playing sports, or working out. Any white sneakers I purchased would sit in my closet while I opted for shoes, well, less sneaker-like, but there was definitely a void in my wardrobe essentials.
Enter the laidback derby shoe-it’s not a sneaker nor is it quite an oxford (the term is used interchangeably by a lot of brands I’ve noticed). These laced shoes have a sole less rugged than a sneaker but can come with more arch support than a flat.
I quickly fell in love with my derby shoes and reach for them often when I want an effortless look.
Laidback derby shoes are the answer to flats that blister your feet, “today is not a heel day” days, and of course “I just don’t like wearing sneakers” personality types (wink, wink).
They work with many different outfits such as pants, jeans, skirts, and dresses. You can wear them with socks, no-shows, or tights.
These casual shoes provide the perfect level of upgraded simplicity.
Purchase the perfect derby or oxford shoes to wear to work in a casual or smart casual setting here:
- Cole Haan Women’s OriginalGrand Plain Oxford – click here – Styled like a derby, these are gorgeous in cognac or black and top-rated!
- NYDJ Etai Oxfords – click here – These gorgeous pebbled leather shoes in a beige are similar to ones I picked up at a flea market…I may have to replace mine with these soon!
- Softwalk Willis Oxford – click here – 8+ colorways to choose from, and these have a small platform!
- Chiko Domana Square Toe Block Heels Oxford – click here – Beautiful minimalist style!
- Chiko Kavita Square Toe Block Heels Oxford – click here – Super cute chunky derby!
6. Casual Work Boots: The Classic Chelsea Boot
Chelsea boots have been on trend for the past several years, but their interesting history goes way back to Queen Victoria II. Their comfort and ease to slip on and off make them an excellent choice for casual work boots.
Boots with a flat heel or low heel can provide the perfect casual look with skirts, dresses, skinny pants, and under looser pants like straight legs, flares, and wide-legged pants. If you like a higher heel, try block heels or platforms.
The length of your pants, skirt, or dress should hit just at or below the top of the boot shaft. Avoid wearing Chelsea boots with bottoms that hit above the boot shaft, as it can make your legs appear chopped off.
Purchasing the right style and color will become a hero in your closet you’ll wear to work and other casual settings year after year.
Related Post: 11 Wardrobe Staples Every Woman Needs In Her Closet
Find your perfect pair of Chelsea boots here:
- Everlane The Italian Leather Chelsea Boot – click here – Sleek flat boots with a contrast outsole and come in three neutral colors!
- CHIKO Zina Round Toe Block Heels Ankle Boots – click here – Beautiful leather boots with knit goring
- Vegan Leather Chelsea Boots with Pointed Toe – click here – Budget option for a sleek flat Chelsea boot!
7. “Not Your Child’s” Backpack
Backpacks have come a long way in the world of fashion and I’m excited to share this as the last item on this list.
You may be wondering, why not a tote bag, Laura? And I’ll tell you. Or skip ahead to the point.
Long-Winded Explanation of Why I Didn’t Choose A Tote
While tote bags may always remain the classic women’s work bag, I prefer each item in my closet to solve as many needs as possible. This means I need less. I own less. I have less to store and maintain. And I can focus on purchasing higher-quality, investment pieces I absolutely love and will keep for years.
It’s not that I dislike tote bags-oh no, I assure you I love them-the idea of them that is. I used to be an avid collector of tote bags (subconsciously in fact).
A tote bag for the beach, a tote bag for the pool, a tote bag for the grocery store, and a tote bag for school. A tote bag that zips, a tote bag for work, a tote bag for the laptop, and a tote bag for…hm, I thought maybe there was a song in there.
Oh, and an ever-growing array of “free” tote bags that were gifted with purchases from department store counters, catalog orders, and community events.
A tote bag for everything and everything for a tote bag. Isn’t that how it goes?
In all seriousness, I owned too many tote bags and wore them too little. They just don’t solve my needs for work.
Totes with short top handles can get very heavy if you need to carry them on your arm. If the top doesn’t zip your belongings can fall out or be stolen. Shoulder handles are too cumbersome when walking with a phone, headphones, a heavy coat, etc. The tote shape is awkward when placed under the seat of an airplane.
I haven’t given up totes completely. I’m still on the journey for the perfect one and will share it with you when I find it.
Wow, that was some therapy. Thank you for listening (reading).
Elevated Backpacks are the Real Deal For Casual Work Wear
A sleek-looking backpack will not downgrade your look, but it will offer comfort and versatility.
As I alluded to above, backpacks are ideal for walking situations, so if you live in a city and walk to work, they enable you to hold an umbrella, go through a metro station, and hold a coffee and a door for someone. Hands-free is the way to be.
Backpacks also make perfect “personal items” on airplanes if you’re traveling for business (or in general). Your belongings stay secure through security, under the seat, and in the overhead bin.
I use my backpack for almost everything. It wipes clean, looks feminine and chic, and isn’t bulky.
Purchase your perfect grown-up backpack here:
- Cuyana Leather Backpack – click here – Beautiful Italian leather bucket-style backpack, very sleek
- Estarer Slim vegan leather backpack – click here – Elegant backpack with tassel detail
- LaBante London Acacia Unisex Vegan Laptop Backpack – click here – High-quality vegan leather bag that zips and is travel-friendly from an ethical company
- Leather zip backpack (beautiful color options) – click here – A fashionista’s work bag
- Stunning vintage-style leather backpack – click here – Vintage, collegiate vibes
Okay, wow. It was seriously hard for me not to go and purchase another backpack after going through that list. I have a thing with bags, obviously not just totes. Haha.
This Post Was About What to Wear to Work Casual
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