Over the last few decades, business casual has become the default dress code of many workplaces. At first glance, you may imagine that this move away from more formal business dress codes has made getting ready for work more convenient, but that's not always the case. The more casual a dress code, the more options it makes available—and the more options you have, the harder it can be to find an outfit that's just right. Fortunately, you have an ally in this fight in the form of the women's sweater.
Sweaters will absolutely work for a business casual wardrobe. You may wonder—are sweaters business casual? We answer with a resounding yes! In a business landscape that is increasingly going suit-optional, the sweater is stepping up to take the suit jacket's place. And thanks to the great diversity of sweater types available today, you can count on them for almost any business casual setting or scenario. Follow the story to learn why sweaters work perfectly for a business casual dress code.
For one example, consider the V-neck sweater (we recommend the V-neck over its crewneck cousin, as the latter is sportier and more casual. Unless we're talking cashmere—in that case, any style goes). By wearing the V-neck sweater with a collared shirt or fitted blouse with slacks or a pencil skirt, you can instantly create a sharp, put-together business look without the need to wear a full dress or a pant suit.
Another excellent option is the turtleneck. A turtleneck in a finer, lighter weight fabric such as a cotton-modal blend or silk presents a professional look, and its high amount of coverage gives it a serious aesthetic without being a piece of formal wear itself. Turtlenecks can easily be paired to chinos or pencil skirts, and instantly elevated by blazers or suit jackets if the setting or scenario at work calls for it. You can pair your turtleneck with a hopsack blue blazer for a less-formal look with preppy origins or wear it with a solid navy or black blazer for a look that is more formal and contemporary.
The turtleneck sweater proves a natural companion to the blazer—but sometimes the sweater and the blazer can be found in the same package. Consider the fleece blazer. This hybrid garment is cut closer to the body for a more tailored fit and includes classic blazer details such as lapels, a buttoned front and hip pockets, but is made from cozy fleece for a softer, more unstructured look that perfectly matches with a business casual dress code. Match it to a button-front shirt, a blouse and a pair of chinos or women's jeans.
Certain sweaters contain a degree of built in formality that allows them to be worn on their own with chinos or slacks as part of a business casual look. In particular we're talking about long-sleeve drape cardigans and V-neck ruffle sweaters. In both examples, the more fitted shape and extra visual flair give them the presence needed to anchor a business casual look entirely on their own. Most any cardigan can be worn over work dresses for warmth and style.
As we mentioned earlier, any cashmere sweater imparts instant elegance to your look. A cashmere cardigan over a dress shirt is always a work-worthy look, or you can wear one over any turtleneck or mock neck. Even a cashmere pullover in a crew, scoop, or V-neck style is dressy enough to wear on its own with slacks or a skirt. For added warmth and to prevent perspiration from getting on your sweater, wear a silk-interlock thermal shirt underneath. Women’s thermal tops come in different sleeve lengths, neck styles, and colors, so you can find a style that doesn’t show through your sweater.
Now that we’ve talked about sweater styles, let’s discuss colors and prints. When it comes to creating a business casual look for work, color can make a difference. For the most formal, businesslike style choose a sweater in a versatile neutral color. Black and navy are universally flattering and go with virtually any color bottoms, whether you’re wearing a skirt or pants. Shades of beige, camel, and tan also work well for the office.
You can wear bright sweaters to work if you pair them with neutral pieces. For example, a vibrant red or royal blue sweater pairs well with black slacks or a skirt and black shoes. Add a black handbag to accessorize your look to allow your sweater color to take center stage. Prints can work too, whether you prefer stripes, paisley, or an animal print. Layer a leopard-print cardigan over a black turtleneck and black bottoms for a fierce look that’s still office-appropriate.
So far, we've focused on the aesthetic reasons for working sweaters into your business casual rotation, but there's also the matter of convenience. If your career involves frequent travel, the ability to wear sweaters in business casual contexts can be a great convenience. It's difficult to pack tailored clothing away in your luggage without it coming out looking wrinkled and worse-for-wear upon arrival. In contrast, sweaters fold away easily and don't wrinkle and crease so easily.
Sweaters also provide a solution for the occasional work place clothing emergency. If you've happened to dribble a bit of coffee onto your white blouse before the start of your presentation, you could always pull on a V-neck sweater for an instant fix. An acrylic/nylon-blend sweater is ideal for folding and tucking into a canvas tote bag just in case—the fabric is wrinkle-resistant so it looks smooth and ready to wear even after being in your bag.
Now that you know that women’s sweaters are business casual, you’re ready to create plenty of office-ready outfits with new pieces and those already in your closet.