Is it just me or has “business casual” become a whole lot more casual in the last few years?  I started dressing business casual way back in 1999 when I started taking practicum courses as an Occupational Therapy student.  I had no money back then and a much smaller wardrobe (! – I had not discovered thrifting), but I still understood that no matter how small your wardrobe or budget, you don’t wear jeans except on Fridays (and even then, you dress them up) and you never wear lounge or active wear to work.  Once I graduated and started working as a professional in a school setting, I found this to be a sufficiently broad dress code!  I also noted that my administrators and supervisors tended to be more business and less casual.

Fast forward 18 years and I still hold fast to my early understanding of business casual but more and more I see people dressing down at work and I’m not sure I like it – feels like a slippery slope to sweatpants!  Now, I work in a preschool and kindergarten school environment; I laid on the floor a few times today, there was paint, there was snot, there were indoor and outdoor shoes…  I get why some of my younger colleagues wear jeans throughout the week – but none of them only wear jeans and none wear the dreaded yoga pants to work.  If you substituted “to the office” in place of “to work” that might re-frame business casual!  Treat your workplace like “the office” and show it some respect, and what’s more important, command respect!

Feeling pumped now?!! Good, because I commanded respect today in … green joggers – HA!

How do you like the snow filter?
I wish! It’s no filter – March 8th and still snowing and -31 degrees!!!!

This OOTD leads to me a few tips for old-school business casual

  1. As mentioned, dressed up jeans on Fridays and NEVER yoga pants and the like.
  2. Wear one “casual” piece at a time.
  3. Polish your look off with accessories.

Let’s talk about No. 2…  I consider my “joggers” the casual piece here.  The fabric is not sweat pant material and that makes a big difference.  I wouldn’t wear them to work EVER if they were!  Still, if I paired these with sneakers and a tee, it would come off as weekend wear.  Instead I wore a tailored tee in blousey fabric (again, not t-shirt material) and suede ankle boots.  If you want to wear a tee, no problem, but that becomes your one and the rest of your outfit should be business – trousers, skirt, blazer, etc.  This “one at a time” rule is the same advice I gave to women transitioning to a corporate wardrobe.  And BTW, thrifting has changed my blazer game.  I had exactly one blazer before and now I have several – most were about $6 or less.  I recommend thrifting a few blazers precisely so you have something to mix with your graphic tees and casual bottoms and still keep it business casual.  Now for No. 3…

This $2.80 cashmere and silk butterfly-print pashmina might be one of my favourite purchases yet!

Notice I’m wearing a necklace and a scarf and bracelets and earrings.  Accessories make you look put together and there’s no excuse not to wear them when they’re less than a double-double!  You don’t have to wear as many as I do… for example, take a look at today’s Pinspired March shot… She’s only wearing a simple delicate necklace but that’s enough!

Didn’t end up wearing the sandals to work because I didn’t want to break my ankles. 

I could have added a blazer or cardi but I was running late knew I would work up a sweat liked my ensemble as is!

No matter what you do for work, you’ll (almost) never regret dressing up but you may regret dressing down so consider my 3 tips, enjoy your Lulu’s on the weekend and go thrifting if you need to!  You’re welcome for the excuse!

P.S. Don’t forget to head over to Instagram – I’m posting daily #pinspiredmarch side-by-side shots with my Pinspiration and it’s pretty… amusing!


  1. I am excited to learn you are a fellow OT! Made my morning:)

    • nicole

      OTs UNITE!!!! I heart OT, as much or more than thrifting believe it or not and that’s saying something! #borntobeOT

  2. I completely agree! Business casual for me has always been dress pants (or a skirt) and jeans on Friday. Even dress pants that had the denim/chambray material look to them were frowned on in one office I worked at. Recently I saw a blogger who posted a – in her words – “business casual” style that was distressed jeans, a t-shirt, and blazer – I couldn’t believe that would be considered business casual!! Glad to see I’m not the only one in this “old fashioned” way of thinking 😉

    • nicole

      Yes, I have a great pair of chambray pants but only wore them to work on a super casual hands-on physical PD day. They feel too much like pajamas, just can’t take myself seriously at work in them, so how can my clients?! I should have specified this but distressed jeans at work are also a huge NO in my opinion and leggings can work if and only if they are dressed up with a dress or tunic, great footwear and accessories. I know some will disagree with me but I don’t care. Besides, I always get compliments from the ‘tellers of truth’ when I’m dressed more professionally – THE KIDS!

  3. I think this has been my favorite post so far. I work in a casual office, most of us wear jeans daily. But I try to dress up my jeans (as you mentioned above) with dressy tops, accessories and nice shoes. Recently we hired a few younger employees that think it is ok to wear yoga pants to work. One even wore an exercise crop top with an open jacket. This is way too casual and distracting to other employees and customers. It makes me uncomfortable and embarrassed to see these young women dressed in inappropriate workwear. I tried giving one young woman a few pieces of clothing I no longer wear, to suggest she care more about how she looks, but she doesn’t wear them. What to do???

    • nicole

      That is totally unacceptable IMHO. What do do? I would hope a supervisor would kindly enforce an appropriate dress code. These are difficult conversations but apparently necessary. Either that or print out this post and leave it on her desk. LOL Jeans are appropriate in many work places nowadays but as you say, dressed up. I don’t think we do ourselves any favours professionally by dressing so casually. Somehow, polished dressing – jeans or not- seems to be a reflection of manners, grace, poise and professionalism (whatever that entails in one’s particular role). Let’s not bow to the lowest common denominator here – let’s restore business casual!! #canigetanamen

  4. I’m so glad I found this!! I work in schools; mostly k-8 visiting several buildings a week as an instructional coach. I’m soooo irritated by my young teachers’ clothing choices. Leggings are not pants!!! And lularoe might be the worst thing that ever happened teachers.

    • nicole

      I’m with you. Too casual and I’m living proof that you can wear nice things without spending much so there’s no real monetary risk of your clothes getting wrecked. That being said, I don’t wear my precious one-of-a-kind finds to work! I believe it reflects professionalism. Maybe you can instruct them on that!!!