If you’ve recently started a new job at a company that lists “business casual” as their dress code, you likely have some questions. That’s totally fair because what business casual actually means is a bit tough to pin down. What is considered business casual varies by industry and then by the office as well since it’s largely impacted by the specific office culture where you’re working. That said, some items are clear “no’s,” while others are definite “yes’s,” and it’s safe to assume that most women’s sweaters will fall onto the “yes” side of that spectrum.
There are a few exceptions. For example, you’ll want to avoid wearing sweaters that are clearly intended for lounging (save those for cherished lazy Sundays!) as well as sweaters that feature prints, images, or slogans that clearly aren’t workplace friendly. And, of course, you’ll want to ensure you’re wearing sweaters that provide enough coverage to be office-appropriate.
Now that the stipulations are out of the way let’s get to the good news, which is that most sweater styles are great options for business casual office settings. And, if they’re not totally office-ready on their own, you can style them in ways to make them good to go. Read on for tips on styling your sweaters for the workplace, as well as our top picks for sweaters that are definitely business casual.
Having a few women’s cardigan sweaters in your work wardrobe is a must if you work in a business casual office. That’s because cardigan sweaters are perfect for layering over more casual tops to make them feel a bit more professional, like a scoop neck tee, or you can rock a cardigan with a slightly dressier top if you need the added warmth, like with a short-sleeve blouse. Cardigan sweaters are also ideal for layering over dresses or for simply keeping at your desk if your office tends to blast Arctic air conditioning year-round.
Opt for an open-front style cardigan, like a cashmere cocoon cardigan sweater, or a button-up style, like a button-up fine gauge cotton cardigan sweater. Either of these styles will add a touch of sophistication to any look, meaning you can work them into your rotation regardless of how “business” or “casual” is your business casual office.
Women’s tunic sweaters are another safe bet when it comes to sweaters for business casual looks, and it doesn’t hurt that they’re super flattering on every body type. There’s something about the tunic style that also makes these tops feel a bit more elegant and polished than your average sweater, so these are definite musts if your business casual office culture tends to be a bit on the dressier side.
For some suggestions for styling a tunic sweater for work, try pairing a comfy yet stylish cotton blend quarter-length sleeve mock neck cable tunic sweater in a neutral shade like ivory with plaid leggings or pants and black mules. Or, opt for a striking cotton blend split neck tunic sweater in a professional yet fun purple shade that you can rock with chinos or straight leg slacks and ballet flats.
Cashmere is a surefire way to add a touch of elegance and a polished feeling to any look, so a women's cashmere sweater is a perfect option for the office. Opt for a luxuriously soft and stylish cashmere rib funnel neck sweater that you can wear with slacks or even with black jeans if your office allows black denim as part of its dress code. Or, go with a classic crewneck cashmere sweater that you can wear as-is or layer over a button-up Oxford shirt (as a pro tip, adding a collared shirt layer under any sweater can instantly add a professional vibe to any outfit!).
Okay, so these might technically not be sweaters in the strictest sense, but we’d hate to leave such a perfect office outfit off of this list. Sweater dresses are great for any business casual work setting since they’re comfy enough to keep you feeling great all day while also being inherently dressy and professional looking.
You can opt to wear a knee-length long-sleeve crewneck sweater dress in a neutral shade like black or camel as-is or add a blazer layer if you have an important meeting on the agenda that day. A cowl neck or mock neck sweater dress is also an ideal option for the office since each provides the coverage you need to feel comfortable and look office-appropriate, all while being surprisingly low maintenance — they’re perfect for those mornings when you feel a bit rushed or want to look a little dressier without too much effort.
So, as we mentioned at the start of this article, most sweaters are A-OK for any business casual office. Just be sure to style them in a way that’s aligned with your office’s specific dress code and overall vibe!