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HOW TO DRESS BUSINESS CASUAL WITH LEGGINGS

by Tori Jones
bussiness casual

In this blog post, you’ll learn the hows and whys of incorporating leggings into your business casual outfits, transforming your wardrobe, and elevating your style. We will explore the myriad ways leggings can be paired with structured blazers, sophisticated tunics, and statement accessories to create a look that’s just as comfortable as it is professional.

So, this guide is for you whether you’re a seasoned corporate executive, an enterprising start-up maven, or a remote worker looking to add some panache to your Zoom call look. Together, we’ll redefine the boundaries of business casual. Buckle up and get ready to revolutionize your wardrobe as we break down the dos and don’ts, highlight the hottest combinations, and reveal the secret to making leggings work for you in a professional context.

Demystifying Business Casual

Graduating in an era when business professional and business casual dress codes dominated office culture, I saw firsthand how the corporate wardrobe consisted of suits, ties, and an array of formal wear. Business casual attire, however, walks a fine line, marrying the elegance of traditional wear with the comfort and flair of simple pieces.

Its interpretation can vary considerably across different industries, companies, and geographical locations. Most describe it as a blend of conservative yet relaxed attire suitable for the office environment.

In recent years, the acceptance of casual wear in corporate dress codes has risen significantly, making our work uniforms more diverse and dynamic. It can be perplexing when trying to incorporate informal items like leggings into your workwear, and that’s precisely what we’re about to tackle.

Having spent over eight years in the business casual realm in the U.S., I’ve noticed that while shorts and t-shirts are usually off-limits, for many, a typical business everyday wardrobe includes skirts, trousers, polished jeans, blouses, button-down shirts, or sweaters.

Let’s push the boundaries a bit, shall we? Let’s talk about styling leggings for work. Keep reading for some pro tips. And for more style inspirations, remember to follow me on Pinterest and Instagram!

The Great Legging Debate

Image Credit: https://lookbook.nu/look/8688757-Missguided-Bodysuit-Boohoo-Leather-Leggings

Now that we’ve cleared the air on business casual, it’s time to tackle a burning question: Are leggings considered business casual?

This issue has been a hot topic of debate and heavily depends on individual company or office dress codes. Always refer to your company’s policy and dress code when in doubt. Do they mention leggings? Some workplaces might expressly state whether leggings are acceptable or not.

If your dress code policy is silent about leggings, it opens a fresh avenue for exploring casual professional attire. Leggings can be a fantastic option, especially if they’re solid-colored and paired with a longer top to maintain a professional aesthetic.

While my own experience with leggings at work has been primarily positive (let’s be honest, nothing beats their comfort level!), I always pair them smartly with other pieces to keep my look professional.

The Professional’s Guide to Wearing Leggings at Work

Leggings can be a splendid choice for business casual attire when styled with a hint of modesty and elegance. They’re comfortable, incredibly versatile, and available in many styles to suit your unique fashion sense.

My go-to strategy for office-appropriate leggings involves opting for well-tailored, thick pairs. The golden rule is to avoid thin material like the plague – we certainly don’t want any surprises with see-through incidents!

Remember, while leggings can be a fabulous addition to your professional wardrobe, they’re not the same as pants or trousers. We need to steer clear of see-through, ripped, or gym-style leggings.

Maintaining a modest and professional image is paramount when including leggings in your office outfit, so I always pair them with a long, tunic-style top. It’s all about creating that balance!

Now, I know the uncertainty can be overwhelming when trying something new, and that’s completely okay. If you doubt whether your leggings (or any piece of clothing) are work-appropriate, give them a miss for the day. I’ve found this strategy to work best when constantly second-guessing an outfit.

Mastering the Art of Business Casual with Leggings: Dos and Don’ts

As we move forward in our journey of integrating leggings into the business casual sphere, here are some practical tips to remember.

D.O.:

  • Opt for leggings with thick material that guarantees zero transparency.
  •  Stick to full-length or just-above-the-ankle leggings for a professional vibe. Short, cropped ones can lean towards sporty.
  •  Layer up with professional pieces like blazers, sweater blazers, or cardigans.
  •  Pair with closed-toe shoes. Think loafers, flats, or ankle boots.
  •  Stick to dark colors. Black, charcoal, and navy leggings are perfect for business casual attire.

DON’T:

  • Choose leggings that reveal too much. The “bend test” is your best friend here – if bending shows any skin, reconsider wearing them to the office.
  •  Opt for leggings with holes or rips. Office wear and spots don’t mix!
  •  Overdo it with busy patterns. Patterned leggings tend to look more like loungewear.
  •  Pair leggings with short tops. Always remember to cover your derriere when styling leggings for work!
  •  Neglect your undergarments. Given the form-fitting nature of leggings, selecting the right underwear is crucial!

A Practical Guide to Wearing Leggings in the Office

When dressing for work, it’s essential to consider a few key elements.

Firstly, always check if your intended outfit aligns with your company’s dress code. If there’s any uncertainty about the appropriateness, it’s better to play it safe and opt for something more formal.

Secondly, consider your schedule for the day. If your calendar flags an important meeting or special event, saving your leggings for a less formal day at the office might be wise.

Lastly, think about the impression your outfit will make. Are you aiming to portray a highly professional image, or are you aiming for a more laid-back, approachable vibe?

With these considerations in mind, let’s explore some outfit ideas that stylishly incorporate leggings into your business casual wardrobe.

Dressing Up Leggings with a Blazer

WEAR A BLAZER WITH LEGGINGS
Image credit: https://lookbook.nu/look/5883443-Windsor-Blazer-Fasphere-Leggings-Coach-The-Borough

Blazers and leggings – a match made in business casual heaven! A long-lined blazer instantly elevates the relaxed aura of leggings, making for an ideal office ensemble. Pair this outfit with classic loafers or a chic pair of flats, and remember your favorite jewelry pieces to add that final touch of sophistication.

The Tunic Blouse Ensemble

The Tunic Blouse Ensemble
Image credit: https://lookbook.nu/look/7989824-Long-Blouse-With-

Leggings paired with a beautiful flowy blouse make for a versatile office outfit that can transition effortlessly from day to night. Swap your daytime flats for a dazzling pair of pumps, and you’re ready for after-work socializing.

Leggings with a Business Casual Cardigan

Leggings with a Business Casual Cardigan
Image credit: https://lookbook.nu/look/8529475-H&M-Coat-Forever-21-Turtleneck-American-Apparel

There’s nothing like a stylish long cardigan and ankle boots to create the perfect Fall and Winter office look with leggings. I adore this long camel coatigan. It’s elevated and cozy, perfect for those chillier days in the office.

The Long Button-Down Look

LONG BUTTON DOWN
Image credit: https://lookbook.nu/look/7627488-Business-

There’s something timeless about a crisp white button-down shirt. Its simplicity and versatility make it an essential piece for business casual attire. After hours of hunting, I finally invested in the perfect one, which pairs beautifully with leggings!

The Knit Blazer Combo

Knit Blazer Combo

With dress codes becoming increasingly casual, a knit blazer is a must-have addition to your office wardrobe. It is paired with leggings and has chic comfort, perfect for informal meetings, lunch outings, and everyday workwear. Trust me; you’ll look stylish at home in your favorite loungewear.

The Sweater Vest and Leggings Pairing

SWEATER VEST WITH LEGGINGS
Image credit: https://lookbook.nu/look/8042394-H&M-Oversized-Sweater-Liu-Jo-Bag-Zara-Leggings

A long, slightly oversized sweater vest is one of my all-time favorite tops to wear with leggings for work. You can style it over a t-shirt in the Spring, a crisp white button-down in the Fall, or a cozy turtleneck in the Winter. To complete this versatile look, slip into your trusty loafers.

Armed with these outfit ideas, stepping into the office in your leggings should no longer be daunting. Remember, fashion is all about personal expression and comfort, so let’s make the most of it!

7 Ways To Style Leggings For A Professional Look? 

Let’s explore some specific ways you can style leggings for a professional look. Remember, the goal is to balance the casual nature of leggings with more structured and formal pieces. Here are some outfit ideas:

  1. Blazer and Leggings: A structured blazer can add a level of professionalism to your outfit. Pair your leggings with a blazer and a simple blouse. Opt for a blazer that’s a bit longer to add some coverage.
  2. Tunic Tops and Leggings: Tunics are a great option because they’re typically longer and offer coverage. Pair a sleek, structured tunic with your leggings. Finish off the look with a pair of ankle boots or loafers.
  3. Long Cardigan and Leggings: Pair your leggings with a long, chunky knit cardigan for a cozy yet professional look. Wear a simple blouse or a thin knit underneath.
  4. Button-Down Shirt and Leggings: A classic button-down shirt can easily make your leggings look office-ready. Opt for a longer shirt for more coverage. Add a statement belt for a cinched waist look and pair with heeled boots.
  5. Sweater Dress and Leggings: A chunky knit sweater dress paired with leggings can look effortlessly chic. Accessorize with a statement necklace or scarf.
  6. Shift Dress and Leggings: A simple, solid-color shift dress can pair beautifully with leggings. Add a pair of ballet flats or pumps to elevate the look.
  7. Layered Look with Leggings: For colder months, try layering a long sweater over a button-down shirt. Pair this with leggings and finish off with knee-high boots for a classy and comfortable ensemble.

Remember to stick with leggings in darker, more neutral colors like black, navy blue, or charcoal gray for a professional look. These colors are versatile and pair well with a variety of tops. Additionally, avoid leggings with loud prints or patterns for the office – solid colors are your best bet here.

By mixing and matching these pieces, you’ll be able to create a number of professional outfits featuring leggings.

Are Leggings Generally Considered Acceptable In A Business Casual Dress Code? 

The acceptability of leggings in a business casual environment can depend on several factors, including the specific workplace culture, the industry, and even the geographic location.

In more conservative or traditional industries and workplaces, such as law or finance, leggings may not be considered appropriate under a business casual dress code. However, in more relaxed or creative industries, like tech or advertising, leggings may be perfectly acceptable when styled appropriately.

Regardless of the industry, if leggings are allowed, it’s important to ensure that they are styled in a way that elevates them from their typical casual or athletic wear status. This usually involves pairing them with pieces like blazers, tunics, or long cardigans, and ensuring they are in good condition (not faded, thinning, or see-through).

When in doubt, always refer to your specific company’s dress code policy or consult with a manager or HR representative. And remember, it’s usually better to err on the side of dressing more formally if you’re unsure.

8 Other Wardrobe Staples For A Business Casual Wardrobe

Business casual wardrobes offer a good balance between formal business attire and weekend casual wear. Here’s a general list of clothing items typically included in a business casual wardrobe for different genders:

For Everyone:

  1. Blazers or Sports Coats: These can be worn with a variety of bottoms, adding an instant level of sophistication to any outfit.
  2. Polo Shirts or Button-Down Shirts: In solid colors or subtle patterns, these are classic business casual staples.
  3. Sweaters or Cardigans: Crewneck, V-neck, or button-up varieties can all work, depending on the rest of the outfit and the weather.
  4. Trousers, Chinos, or Khakis: These can be a good choice for business casual attire. They’re less formal than suit pants, but more formal than jeans.
  5. Closed-Toe Shoes: Oxfords, loafers, dress shoes, flats, and boots are generally accepted.

For Women Specifically:

  1. Dresses or Skirts: Keep lengths around the knee for the most universally accepted look.
  2. Blouses or Tops: These can be paired with skirts or pants. Neutral colors and subtle patterns are best.
  3. Leggings: As we’ve discussed, when styled correctly, leggings can be appropriate in some business casual environments.

While these are general guidelines, it’s important to remember that the definition of business casual can vary significantly from one workplace to another. Always make sure to understand your company’s specific dress code policy and observe what your colleagues wear to gauge what’s acceptable.

Conclusion

Hello again, fashion enthusiasts! We’ve walked the walk and talked the talk about incorporating leggings into your business casual wardrobe. Remember, balance is the key to pulling off leggings in a professional setting. Pair them with sophisticated pieces, such as blazers, tunics, button-down shirts, and cardigans. Opt for leggings made of thicker material in solid, darker hues, and ensure that they are not see-through or have visible rips or holes.

While leggings can undoubtedly add comfort and a modern touch to your office attire, always consider your company’s dress code, your day’s agenda, and the impression you want to convey. If there’s any doubt about the appropriateness of your leggings, it’s better to err on the side of caution.

Ultimately, your comfort and confidence in your outfit are the most critical aspects. After all, fashion should reflect your unique style and personality. Go ahead, try out these tips, experiment with your wardrobe, and continue to reinvent your business casual style with leggings. Remember to enjoy the journey of self-expression through fashion!

Feature image by Thought Catalog on Unsplash

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