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dress all the way up
The 12 Business Professional Pieces Every Working Woman Needs
Yakobchuk Olena/AdobeStock
AnnaMarie Houlis
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Journalist & travel blogger
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Business professional — it's a term that's thrown around a lot in regards to women's workplace wardrobes. Business professional refers to a style of workwear that's for more conservative careers and companies. Here are some examples of business professional outfits you could wear to work one day, yourself!

What is the difference between business professional vs. business casual?

First of all, you're probably wondering what the difference is between business professional and business casual. And there is quite a big difference!

While business casual refers to a more relaxed style of workwear that usually flies in liberal workplaces like startups and creative companies (think: jeans or slacks and a blouse), business professional refers to a more conservative style of workwear (think: blazers with skirts and pant suits).

You can always get away with dressing on the more business professional side than you can with dressing on the business casual side — as it's better to be dressed up than to be dressed down. But it's also important that you stay mindful of your company culture and do your best to fit the bill. While individual expressionism is important in making you you so you can be your best version of yourself on the job, you want to appear professional, conscious and part of something bigger when you're on the job.

Now that you understand the difference between business professional and business casual, you might be wondering, what is formal business? Formal business refers to one step above business professional — a very dressy workplace where you'll likely always have to wear pant suits or skirt suits, dresses with heels or other formal outfits.

You might be asking yourself, Are flats business professional? Yes and no! Depending on your workplace and the kind of flats you have, flats are business professional. Most of the time, a simple pair of flats paired with a dress or slacks and blouse are indeed business professional.

What does it mean to dress business professional?

Again, business professional simply means dressing in a highly professional manner. In most industries, wearing something that is business professional usually means wearing a pant suit, a skirt suit, slacks with a blouse and blazer or something similar.

So, does business professional require a jacket? The answer is not always (though you can never go wrong with one!). Business professional, of course, will vary by industry and company. But, generally speaking, if a company tells you that they are business professional and expects you to dress that way, you should lean on the side of dressy. You can always make your look unique with jewelry, shoes, bags, hairstyles, make-up and other accessories!

What are some examples of business professional outfits?

Here are some examples of business professional outfits that could inspire you when thinking about your own workplace wardrobe.

Tops

1. A Light Jacket

Photo via Instagram/@Tinas_mark

A light jacket sweater is a professional look that'll also keep you warm in notoriously chilly offices. Pair it with a blouse and a pair of slacks or a skirt to keep you looking the part and comfortable.

2. Turtleneck

Photo via Instagram/@nyejahdavis

You can never go wrong with a turtleneck in the cooler months — and even a sleeveless turtleneck paired with a light blazer in the warmer months. A nice turtleneck will pair well with any kinds of bottoms — a skirt or a pair of slacks.

3. Button-up Shirt

Photo via Instagram/@femininity.personified

A button-up shirt is a classic staple for the working woman. Pair it with some slacks or a skirt, and dress it up to make it uniquely you with some jewelry and accessories.

Jackets

4. Color-Blocked Blazers

Photo via Instagram/@renoa.official

A color-blocked blazer is a fun way to pop some personality into your business professional look. You can have some fun with an otherwise traditional staple piece.

5. Colorful Blazer

Photo via Instagram/@25again

Likewise, a colorful blazer can add some flair to your fashion sense. It's still business professional, but it's fun!

6. Patterned Blazer

Photo via Instagram/@MoonticaOfficial

A patterned blazer is a professional look. You can wear it over a simple outfit to add a layer of texture.

Bottoms

7. Vintage Trousers

Photo via Instagram/@Retold_Vintage

Vintage trousers have always been a work wardrobe staple — that's why they've been around long enough to be considered vintage!

8. Black Slacks

Photo via Instagram/@j.elizabethbeauty

Who doesn't love a great pair of black pants? They're a staple you can't live without. Black pants go with arguably almost everything in your wardrobe, and you can dress them up or down, which makes them a perfect piece for your business professional wardrobe.

9. Pencil Skirt

Photo via Instagram/@pearls_and_curls

A pencil skirt can go a long way in dressing up any outfit — whether you pair it with a button-up shirt or a blouse. You can find them in all sorts of colors and patterns but, for a business professional office, it's best to stick with neutral colors like black and navy. 

Shoes & Accessories

10. Pumps

Photo via Instagram/@SarahFlint_NYC

When in doubt, always go with a classic pair of pumps to get that perfect business professional look at work. Choose a slightly shorter heel like these so that you have an easier time walking around the office and navigating your commute. You'll be a lot more comfortable throughout the workday that way, as well! You can go with a classic black heel or pick a fun color like these red ones to personalize your look.

11. Professional Briefcase

Photo via Instagram/@_neveme

Swap your purse for a briefcase when you're at the office. You can carry all of your materials you need for work, as well as your personal belongings inside. It'll automatically make any outfit look that much more business-ready.

12. Flats

Photo via Instagram/@BaredFootwear

Flats, flats, flats — you can never have too many. They're a lifesaver, aren't they? Choose a dressier pair of flats for your business professional look — like these ones with an ankle strap and wooden platform. Otherwise, flats can easily look too informal if you choose too plain of a ballerina slipper style.

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AnnaMarie Houlis is a feminist, a freelance journalist and an adventure aficionado with an affinity for impulsive solo travel. She spends her days writing about women’s empowerment from around the world. You can follow her work on her blog, HerReport.org, and follow her journeys on Instagram @her_report, Twitter @herreportand Facebook. 

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