Business dress code guide & suitable outfits for the office

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Who of us vintage loving ladies doesn’t know this? We love our vintage and retro outfits, but at the office, we have to stick to certain dress codes. So what to do if we would love to wear our petticoat dresses all day long, but have to abide by dress codes like Business Formal, Smart Casual, or even Casual? In this blog post, I’m going to give you an overview of the different business dress codes and show you some suitable vintage inspired outfit ideas.

I decided to always show you a more modern, timeless business outfit with only a few retro elements, and a classy vintage look for the office.

Retro inspired Business Outfits: The Basics

RetroCat in einem Büro-Outfit im Retro-Stil mit Furla-Tasche

Regardless of the existing dress codes, there are a few practical things I wouldn’t miss at office. One of them is a pair of chic black pumps that are comfy enough to walk in them the whole day. Furthermore, I recommend to invest in a huge tote bag which fits your laptop or tablet. And of course a lovely watch and some subtle pearl earrings are always a good idea.

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Dress code Business Formal / Business Attire

The dress code Business Formal, sometimes also called Business Attire, or simply Business is formal and representative. Business Formal dictates the well-known and classy business/office wear. For men, this means a suit (whereby the suits gets darker as the position gets higher), shirt, tie, dark socks, and elegant leather shoes.

Women usually wear a trouser suit, a plain shift dress, a pencil skirt with a matching blazer in combination with classy shoes (closed and not higher than seven cm), and nude-coloured stockings or tights. Colours like white, cream, navy, grey, and black are the best choice. The common rule suggests: Dress/skirt should have at least knee-length. However, power women like Amal Clooney, for example, show that nowadays shorter skirts can be suitable for business as well.

Blouses should have long sleevles, unless one is wearing a blazer on top. Nevertheless, this depends on the business you are working in. I personally think that blouses with short sleeves can look reputable and chic as well. In case of doubt, I recommend to always take an elegant blazer with you that you can throw over your outfit, if necessary. 😉

Business Formal: Modern Business Outfit

Fashion-Bloggerin RetroCat in einem Business Formal Büro-Outfit

RetroCat in einem grauen Retro-Kleid von Miss Candyfloss - perfekt fürs Büro

Dark shift dresses are a solid choice if the dress code is Business Formal. I own two different types: One with short sleeves by Traffic People for warmer days, and one with long sleeves by Miss Candyfloss for autumn/winter. I team the dresses with black shoes, nude-coloured stockings, and a huge handbag.

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Business Formal: Vintage inspired Business Outfit

Bloggerin RetroCat mit Bleistiftrock und Jive Blouse

Vintage-Bloggerin RetroCat in einem Büro-Outfit im Retro-Stil

The vintage alternative consists of a knee-length pencil skirt in either beige or a dark colour like navy or black. I team the skirt with a blouse like teh Jive Blouse (get it here) by The Seamstress of Bloomsbury for summer. In winter, I choose a blouse with long sleeves. On top, I usually wear a blazer. Instead of seamed stockings, I recommend RHTs by Secrets in Lace (get them here). Colour-matching shoes finish this vintage inspired business outfit.

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Business Formal: A Combination with Trousers

Fashion-Bloggerin RetroCat mit einem Büro-Outfit im Retro-Stil bestehend aus Stoffhose und Blazer

For everyone who prefers trousers, I recommend high waist trousers with a wide leg which I would team with a blouse, blazer, tote bag, and sublte accessories.

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Dresscode Business Casual

The word “casual” in the dress code Business Casual is a bit irritating in my opinion. This dress codes allows more liberties than Business Formal, indeed, however it still quite formal. The outfit should appear respectable, but never overdressed. This style often is prescribed for business trips or business meals.

Allowed are pleat-front trousers and pencil skirts in combination with blouses. Knee-length, subtle dresses are a great choice as well. Beside classy pumps, it’s also allowed to wear loafers, or lace-up shoes. How much accessories one should wear depends on the occasion: is it a business dinner, lunch, or trip? It’s okay if the outfit has some fashionable details, however, it should still look elegant and not too conspicuous.

Business Casual: Modern Outfit

Vintage-Bloggerin in einem Casual Business Outfit - perfekt für Geschäftsreisen

For business trips or meals, I recommend a sublte dark dress (the little black dress is always a good choice!) in combination with nude-coloured stockings and a matching handbag (mine is by Furla, get it here). On top, I’m wearing a white leather jacket as this looks a bit more relaxed and stylish than a classy blazer.

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Business Casual: Vintage Outfit

RetroCat mit einem Business Casual Outfit bestehend aus Bleistiftrock und schwarzer Jacke

RetroCat in einem Business Casual Outfit fürs Geschäftsessen am Abend

The retro version consists of a grey fishtail skirt and a black jacket. A chic handbag by Michael Kors, lace-up shoes as well as beret finish this look. For daytime, I choose a simple black blouse, in the evening it’s absolutely okay to wear something more fancy like a tie-neck blouse.

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Dress code Smart Casual

Smart Casual is another dress code that’s a bit tricky. The outfit should be suitable for the office, but in no way overdressed. In general, this dress codes means sophisticated everyday clothes. So an outfit that is suitable for the office, but also for the dinner after work.

A good base are pencil skirts or elegant trousers in combination with plain sweaters or tops and a casual blazer. Subtle dresses are a great choice as well. The outfit can definitely be a bit more fashionable, but shouldn’t be too fancy or revealing.

Smart Casual: Modern Business Outfit

Mode-Bloggerin RetroCat mit einem Katzenrock von Max Mara

This combination of a knitted cardigan by King Louie and a cute pencil skirt with kittens by Max Mara is stylish but still suitable for the office. An elegant knitted dress would be a great alternative. Black shoes as well as a huge handbag finish this business outfit.

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Smart Casual: Vintage Business Outfit

Vintage-Bloggerin RetroCat in einem Büro-Outfit im Retro-Stil von Vivien of Holloway

If you want your Smart Casual outfit to be a bit more retro, I recommend swing pants or cigarette pants in combination with a black, long-sleeved top. A matching jacket as well as sublte accessories finish the look.

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Dresscode Casual

Casual but with class and style – I guess this is the right description of the dress code Casual. Even neated jeans, colourful dresses, fancy accessories, sneakers, and open shoes are allowed. However, sheer blouses, very revealing garments, shorts, and destroyed jeans are still taboo.

Casual: Modern Business Outfit

Vintage-Bloggerin RetroCat in einem Casual Outfit im Retro-Stil

Although almost everything is allowed, I personally prefer classy and timeless outfits. For the ones who like more modern looks, I recommend high-waist cigarette pants or, in summer, capri pants in combination with a simple top.

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Casual: Vintage Business Outfit

RetroCat in einem Casual Outfit von The Seamstress of Bloomsbury

A skirt in combination with a top or blouse is a great choice as well. Of course, pencil skirts are great, but it’s also okay to choose a swing skirt. I personally wouldn’t wear very flared petticoat skirts, but this is up to each to decide.

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Dresscode Come as you are

RetroCat in einem "Come as you are" Outfit im Retro-Stil

The Dress code Come as you are is a bit irritating. It doesn’t mean everyone can wear whatever he or she wants. It rather means one doesn’t have to change outfit after the end of work, so one keeps on his or her business attire.

Dresscode Casual Friday

The Casual Friday has it’s roots in the America of the 1950s. Many employees started into their weekend-trip right after work on friday. Casual Friday was created that they didn’t have to change clothes after work. Nevertheless, it called Casual Friday, a proper business outfit is usually requested. It’s normally best to choose a combination of Business Casual and Smart Casual.

RetroCat in einem schicken Büro-Outfit mit Retro-Elementen

I hope this blogpost was helpful and offered some business outfit inspiration to you!

By the way: If you need more inspiration, I recommend the the series “Suits” (available on Netflix). 😉

Fashion-Bloggerin RetroCat in einem Business Attire Outfit mit Retro-Elementen


Vintage inspired business outfits and RetroCat's business dress code guide

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