If you've ever had an office job, I'm sure you've heard the phrase "business casual" get thrown around. But what does that really mean? Dressing for the workplace can be tricky (especially in the summer months), and looking appropriate for the job is daunting when you aren't given explicit instructions on what to wear. I'll show you how to get past these tricky regulations for dressing, with the guidance of Jessica Alba, who has this style down.
If you want to wear suit pieces... keep them separate.
A full suit isn't business casual, no matter how cute and fashion-forward it is. Keep your suit seperates seperate! A pencil skirt is fine worn with a blouse tucked in or even a cute tee, dressed up with dainty jewelry, and the same goes with trousers. Wide-leg trousers with a blouse and heels make an easy and perfectly appropriate outfit. Similarly, if you have a great blazer, you can use it to dress up denim, make a summery dress or skirt more office-ready, or even wear with casual printed pants.
If you want to wear shorts... keep the length to your fingertips (at least).
It's hard to avoid shorts in the summer, and certain kinds of shorts are office-appropriate, but the longer, the better. The same goes for short skirts; if they reach your fingertips, they're okay. If you feel awkward about the length of a longer skirt or shorts, balance them out with a sleeveless top. This should go without saying, but denim shorts are too casual for the office, and cutoffs are NEVER business casual. When the weather cools, opaque tights under shorts are another way to make them office-appropriate.
If you want to wear denim... stick with darkwash.
First of all, don't wear denim to the office on your first day, and check out what other people are wearing; if they say business casual but no one's wearing denim, steer clear. That being said, jeans can be business casual, but you have to keep in mind that you're dressing the denim up, not wearing them as is, no matter how cute or trendy they are. Only wear your pairs that are in the best shape without fraying, fading, rips or patches, and pick a pair that's darkwash or, better yet, black denim.
If you want to wear a sleeveless blouse... keep it high-necked.
By sleeveless, I'm not calling a strappy cami office-appropriate, unless you can guarantee that you'll never take that blazer or cardigan off all day. A sleeveless blouse is appropriate for the summer, but it's best if it extends to the edge of your shoulders; anything that can qualify as strappy isn't appropriate worn alone. No cleavage should ever be shown at the office, but keep your neckline especially high to balance a sleeveless cut; just below or at your collarbones is ideal, or go super trendy with a turtleneck.
All summer... wear linen and cute cotton pants or jumpsuits.
Those soft cotton or linen pants that are so comfortable and look like a mix between a pajama pant and trousers? That aren't jeans, aren't quite suit pants? Those are your best friends for summer office casual. Dress them up with blouses and heels or chic flats, pair with a blazer for a non-suit suit, and you'll feel breezy, cool, and work-appropriate. Treat a jumpsuit similarly, layering blouses over strappy jumpsuits or keeping a blazer buttoned over.
Or... try a matching top and bottoms over a traditional suit!
Matching combos are super cute and a fashion-forward twist on the suit, and can be just as work-appropriate. Try a high-waisted skirt, pants, or culottes, with a matching cropped top, as long as there is no midriff showing. Make sure that not only does the top cover the waistband of the skirt or pants, but gives an extra inch or two of fabric so that if you reach for something, the whole office doesn't see your belly.
Some general tips...
* Pay attention to what other people are wearing. If your coworkers wear shorts that are shorter than I suggested and are making them look appropriate, you can too. If you see one person wearing the exception and they're the only one, don't join them unless a superior gives you the go-ahead (which is rare).
* If you wear something that sounds appropriate on paper but doesn't feel quite right in your office environment, pay attention to what it might be that's making you feel inappropriate. Is the dress too formal? Too casual? Does your skirt feel a little too short compared to everyone else's? Is that top too pilled or worn? Forgive yourself for a mistake, as "business casual" is the vaguest of guidelines, and don't make it again.
* Simple heels, blazers, button-up blouses, and classic jewelry are all easy ways to make something look more work-appropriate. If you have a sundress that's modest enough to wear but you want to make it more office-ready, add a blazer or structured jacket and heels.