We’d like to rejoice when we discover a new workplace or a professional conference is business casual (sure, we can rock a suit, but who wants to every day), but the ambiguity surrounding the concept for women is oftentimes more stress-inducing than anything. Although the definition of business casual differs slightly from industry to industry, there are some common threads (pun definitely intended), so you can dress to impress even as you add more of your unique flair to your work wardrobe. Read on to see five women who are equal parts successful and stylish give us their takes on business casual, so you can stop stressing and start shopping.

A happy businesswoman smile as she looks out her office window

1. Christina May, founder of Illumine8 Marketing & PR: “In general, it’s easier to define what isn’t appropriate than what is. Jeans are fine, but distressed jeans are not. Skirts are fine, but shorts can be questionable — they need to be an appropriate length. The advice I give is if you have to ask if something is appropriate, it probably isn’t. Business casual clothing doesn’t have to be a huge departure from your regular wardrobe. Cute tops can be paired with blazers for a work look, as an example.”

She Recommends:LOFT, Banana Republic, J.Crew, and White House Black Market

2. Anna Wood, career coach and founder of Brains Over Blonde: “When in doubt, dress business casual. It’s much better to show up overdressed than underdressed. I always keep a blazer with me in my car or bag. If you have a blazer with you at all times, you’re always ready. If you run into a VIP or get a last minute invite to an event, just pop on the blazer, and it will instantly up your game. Business casual means looking professional and polished while still being comfortable and relaxed and incorporating your own sense of style. And accessories are encouraged to show your personality!”

She Recommends:Express, Vince, and Theory

A confident woman wearing a blazer crosses her arms

3. Colleen Babul, stylist operations manager for Snap+Style Business: “My best advice is to take cues from another well-respected woman in your office who is more senior to see how she dresses on business casual days. A good rule of thumb, if you are not sure, is to start by pairing something casual with a more traditional piece. For example, pair jeans with a blouse and a blazer or a t-shirt with dress pants and pumps. This creates a nice balance and is still polished and professional.”

She Recommends:Michael Kors, Anine Bing, Eloquii, and AUrate

4. Judith Samson, attorney and founder of Bra Bridge: “Women shouldn’t have to look like men to appear businesslike. I recommend always having a few pairs of nice-fitting pants that are not jeans and mixing those up with different tops and blouses featuring prints. Because prints generally have multiple colors, it makes it easy to combine colors and jewelry. With regard to shoes, the open-toed variety can still fit into the business-casual category, as long as they have an overall dressier look (and your toes are well manicured). Anything bordering on flip flops, slip-ons, or on-the-go walking sandals is still a no-no.”

She Recommends:T.J. Maxx and Chico’s

5. Janet Lamwatthananon, career advice expert for ZipRecruiter: “You want to look polished but not stuffy. Advertising, communications, media, and technology are four industries where many, if not most, employees rock business casual attire every day. In terms of what to look for, dark jeans (unripped and properly fitted, of course!) and knee-length skirts are my go-to bases. Tops should also fit well and provide enough coverage. You can never go wrong with a neutral top — or if you’re feeling a bit more adventurous, put on a blouse that’s a pop of color.”

She Recommends:Zara

What’s your favorite business casual ensemble? Tweet us a link @BritandCo!

(Photos via Getty)

Brit + Co may at times use affiliate links to promote products sold by others, but always offers genuine editorial recommendations.