Over the last few decades, business casual has become the default dress code of many work places. 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. 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 more sporty and casual, unless we're talking cashmere – in that case, any style goes). By wearing the V-neck sweater or 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 to 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.
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.