Dressing for business casual

Business casual has the benefit of opening up a much wider choice for women when dressing for work, which creates some positives given you can create your own style and re purpose items that you would potentially wear outside of the office.


How has the way a woman dress for work changed over the years?
In the nineteenth century, women began to seek employment outside the home. Women at this time were mainly working class and were either working in factories or in a domestic capacity given their lack of access to education. The professions were male dominated so as women began to rise out of the factories and into the professional world it was expected for them to dress in a more masculine way to fit in.

The first designer power suit for women was created by Coco Chanel in 1920. This was a turning point for women. The Chanel power suit was a blend of masculinity and feminine sophistication which consisted of pencil skirts matched with a collarless button-up jackets. Come the 1940’s and suits with tailored pants were starting to emerge.

Fast forward to 1980 the height of power dressing, women evolved the power suit to portray their sense of confidence and power by including over the top shoulder pads that made you look like you were running on the field for a game of footy as opposed to the boardroom.

As we look back now, we can see that the power suit was more like a suit of armour, used to protect you from the day to day emotional battle and inequality that we are still dealing with today. It is seen as one of the most symbolic periods in fashion history.

That brings us to today and oh, how things have changed due to the recent pandemic.

We have gone from majority of businesses believing you need to be present in the office to be able to get a job done, to now, a large portion of women working from home.  

I believe what we will see post COVID is a hybrid of working from home and the office each week will emerge.

I feel confident dressing ‘business casual’ is going to be the norm, however, ‘business casual’ has a spectrum and some women will sit at the high heels conservative end of business casual and some will sit at the joggers, relaxed end of the spectrum and everything in between.

What does business casual mean?

Let us start with what we know. Wearing shorts, short sundresses and sandals is not business casual. Nor are large logo’s or graphics. When it comes to work attire it is safer to be more conservative. White sneakers paired with tailored pants or jacket look great and would be acceptable in most forward-thinking businesses.  If you work in a more conservative environment go with ballet flats or mid height heels. You can create a standard work uniform in the world of business casual and also reap the benefits of being able to re-purpose some or all of your items into your non work hours.

When creating your ‘business casual’ wardrobe you have a greater flexibility for creating a wardrobe that is based on your style and what you feel comfortable in.

Anything else I should consider when creating a business casual wardrobe?

  1. If jeans are acceptable for your business ensure that you stay clear of rips, very low waisted and lighter colours.
  2. Emphasise block colours. This gives you more flexibility to mix and match which is really the aim when creating your business casual work uniform.
  3. When starting in a new job focus on dressing more conservatively until you get a sense of the acceptable attire
  4. For job interviews lean more towards business attire, not necessarily a suit, but tailored items are a safe bet.

A successful business casual wardrobe is based on minimal items that are comfortable but provide a variety of combinations.

What One P garments for you recommend for business casual?

At One P we are designing for the ‘business casual’ spectrum as well as introducing lifestyle pieces that can be worn when working at home. Our merino tees and ponte pants are popular for a casual look, and our silk shirts are a big hit for video calls. 

As you get ready to head back to the office, be kind to yourself. Like most of us you may have put on a little extra weight and given what we have all been through this is totally normal.  Our wrap dresses are getting a lot of love!

With financial strain, body shape changes, we suggest you invest in pieces that are good quality and make you feel good about yourself each time you wear them – you deserve it.

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