How to Dress Business Casual For Plus Size Women

Author: Neha Vispute

If your company has a business casual dress code, it can be difficult to pin down exactly what that means. If you wear plus size clothing, that adds another layer of complexity. It’s a lot to navigate. At least until now! Keep reading for all the information you need on building a business casual plus size wardrobe.

1. What Does Business Casual Mean For a Woman?

As a general rule, a business casual dress code allows women to wear clothing that is more comfortable for them, and to express themselves a bit. For example, it would usually be appropriate to wear a colorful piece of statement jewelry, or to wear a comfortable yet professional looking pair of shoes. 

Of course, the best place to look for guidance is with your team, and managers. You should be able to determine what is acceptable and what isn’t based on what others wear. Refer to your employee handbook when in doubt.

Once you know the guidelines, you can focus on what to wear that is flattering, and professional.

2. Think Business Separates Rather Than a Full Suit

With more formal dress codes, women are usually expected to wear a suit accessorized with matching pumps and conservative jewelry. In some ways, that makes shopping easier. You simply buy a suit, have it tailored, and buy the blouses and accessories to match.

Shopping for separates can be a bit complex at first. However, once you get the hang of the process, you can create some great mix and match sets. For example, you could purchase trousers, skirts, cardigans, and blazers in different colors. Then, you can mix and match them to create different looks.

3. Select Trousers in a Neutral Shade

A quality, heavy-weighted pair of trousers in a neutral color can really anchor an outfit. If they are well-fit, these pants can be flattering, and pair very well with a variety of tops, giving you license to express yourself more with some colour in jersey print tops. Be sure to shop around for the right fit. Nicely tailored pants should fit well without clinging or being too baggy. 

Many women choose black or navy because they believe these are the most slimming. Truthfully, fit and quality have more of an impact than hue.

4. Personalize Your Style With Colored Shirts And Blouses

Colorful tops give your wardrobe versatility. Swap out a top, shoes, and jewelry with the same blazer and skirt, for example, and you’ve got an almost new outfit. Here are some tips for a figure flattering fit.

  • Try items on in the store rather than choosing according to the label.
  • Use material with a slight stretch to flatter your curves.
  • Choose large size tops with darts or ruching to give the illusion of shape.
  • Use layering to slenderize and elongate.
  • Monochrome looks are flattering, but you should vary fabrics and textures.
  • Sit, stand, and move with your top on. This will help you ensure it doesn’t ride up, and that there is no gapping between buttons.

5. A Dress Can Work

A dress at the workplace can work well, especially low hanging jersey dresses for modesty or flirty translucent mesh trims that don't go over the top.

If you want something with more panache, abstract patterns on a dress rip up the handbook and help complete a flattering business look with a splash of casual elegance.

6. Use Stripes With Care

You may have heard that horizontal stripes are an absolute no, and that vertical stripes are slimming. In reality, it’s more complex than that. It turns out that the original research on this matter was very inconsistent

So, don’t limit your wearing of stripes to vertical only. Instead, follow these rules.

  • Lighter stripes on a dark background appear to be more slimming.
  • Stripes that have an inward angle can also help you appear to be more slender.
  • Thinner stripes are more flattering than wider stripes.
  • Stripes that extend from the bodice down over the hips create elongation which slims.

7. Try a Long Necklace For a Flattering Accent

A long necklace can also be used to create a long, vertical line. The best choice is a necklace with a long chain, and any charms, stones, or other accents at the bottom. This way you have a long straight line, before the necklace curves. Here are some other tips for using accessories to help flatter your look.

  • Large statement pieces can draw the right attention, while small jewelry gets lost. Worse, smaller pieces can make the surrounding area look larger.
  • Use chunky or stacked bracelets to draw attention down your arms to create an invisible line for the eyes to follow.
  • Fashion rings have the same impact.
  • Stick with one focal piece of jewelry.
  • Use a wider Obi or kimono style belt to create a waistline.
  • Wear a belt around the hips if you carry your weight in your midsection.
  • Even a slight heel will slim your silhouette.
  • Shoes with pointed toes are more slimming than rounded toes.
  • Ankle straps or ribbons can draw attention to larger calves and ankles.
  • Choose larger purses and bags for better proportions.

8. Complete The Look With Smarter Coats And Jackets

With business casual, you can often eschew blazers and jackets in favor of a more relaxed look. That doesn’t mean you should. Adding a smart, well-tailored jacket can really complete your look. While it may or may not be slimming, this will certainly give you a more ‘put together’ look. That is always flattering, and a black quilt coat can help to do this.

You can also choose coats and other outerwear to best flatter your figure. Coats and jackets that are hip length like trim jersey jackets or longer can create flattering lines. Be certain that your outerwear closes and fastens easily, even with multiple layers beneath.

Final Thoughts: Dress For Your Body Not Your Size

Before you choose clothing, know your body type. Women who are plus size can have many body shapes. Get your measurements. Try on clothing, then be prepared to invest in tailoring after to get the best fit. Purchase the best quality fabrics, and clothing from reputable designers. Ultimately, colors and patterns matter less than fit and quality.