Interpreting Corporate Dress Codes: Business Casual

by: Danielle Ternyila, Zyia Active Independent Rep

While “Casual Fridays” may hold a special place in our hearts, the need for business casual is not completely unwarranted in the business world. Various dress codes can be placed and enforced in the workplace, and as the employee, it is our concern to abide by these policies and present ourselves with the appropriate level of professionalism.

Business Casual is a very common dress code I have found myself building wardrobes around since high school when I started visiting my mom’s office after school for my first “part-time” gig. While all companies decide on their own dress codes to describe in the sacred employee handbook, there are keywords that can easily indicate the expectations of the company, so you can understand exactly what is appropriate and what will not be for your new job (or just the ‘new you’ if you’re just on your next shopping bender for your ole’ 9-5!)

Dress Conservative

#813 Lilac Parallel Tank

Unless your role and company requires you to stand out (perhaps a fashion designer or a Queen), most dress codes will strive for conservative attire, meaning more formal and modest clothing choices. This refers not to just how revealing a piece is but also adherence to tradition and the tone that has already been set; if most people in the office wear blazers and jackets, you should also wear something similar.

Most people also gravitate toward neutral colors, tans, whites, or blacks and navy’s, that tend to blend in among the crowd and are easy to style, but this doesn’t mean you have to completely shy away from your favorite pink blouse or a stand-out dress that still aligns with your business casual company policies. When I want to dress my most modest, I go to the Parallel Tank first, for example, as it provides great coverage, has a full-length hem, and gentle support that flatters but does cling to your figure.

Customer-Serving Employees/Events Should Present Clear and Presentable in Appearance

#688 Black Everywhere Pants

It’s important to represent the company as your best self, so when you know you will be seeing customers or clients, it is essential that you dress most professional in these instances. Your best business casual wardrobe should include suits/skirts, dress pants, dresses, jackets/blazers, cardigans, and your nicest blouses.

In other words, look tidy and put together, not like you just ran from your third-shift position as a hockey referee and through the sprinklers before you clock in to the office. To make my own life easier, I always reach for my Everywhere Pants in these instances (above) because they are anti-wrinkle and water resistant, so they always look great, even if I had to run through the parking lot to make it to a meeting and spilled some tea a while back in the car.

Smart Casual Is Preferred

#5094 Distressed Blue Ankle Cinch Hi-Rise 7/8 24″

If your office boosts a smart casual dress code as opposed to the business casual you’ve grown accustomed to, appreciate the balance between a polished business professional look in the comfort of more casual pieces. Smart casual refers to something just a little bit more casual than the other offices before, quite progressive for a post-pandemic world! You can incorporate some of your more casual and comfortable articles of clothing into your office outfits while still dressing your best.

I’d expect in a smart casual office setting, you could get away with something like the Distressed Blue Ankle Cinch Hi-Rise in my activewear boutique (above) and a nice bootie, or you could even a pair of comfortable slip-on’s and a long cardigan.

No Yoga/Sweat Pants

#1096 Black Metallic Light n Tight Hi-Rise 7/8 24″

This is not a policy I take lightly as a part-time activewear rep, and there is a fine line between properly accessorizing athleisure wear for the office and stinking up the cubicles in your old alma mater sweats. When we see yoga pants listed on the no-no list, that indicates that it is important to be at your most presentable; booty-enhancing or bright tight leggings are a few of the things HR wants to avoid, but matte leggings paired with a lengthy sweater dress or Metallic Light N Tights (above) add a touch of personality to a draping blouse and cardigan that can look just as business casual as your dress slacks and cardigan.

Be considerate in what you are wearing if you do choose to seek the comfort of athleisure wear in your business casual wardrobe. My rule of thumb for leggings, specifically, is to cover the bum and pair with more conservator blouse or cardigan options to avoid any scrutiny.

Take a Deeper Look Into the Specifics

If you’re ever unsure about your dress code, there is nothing smarter than simply asking your HR representative for some guidance; that’s what they are there for, and if anything else, to dress for success, some suggest you dress like your boss; mimic their fashion choices in your own.

Appropriate Tops According to Policy

  • Suits and/or coats and ties is a specific example your company may call out in their employee style guidelines, but it is also helps describe their expectations. For women, this can send mixed messages about what may be appropriate, though this can also indicate that blazers or cardigans will play an essential role in your closet. Be sure to consider what others wear around you in the office.
  • Polo, Crewneck, and Collared Tops are safe go-to’s for the office, but you could also consider high-neck blouses, sweaters, or button-up’s. What isn’t appropriate would be see-through or revealing pieces, t-shirts or “torn” looking tops, and anything showing distracting, inappropriate or racy graphics (even if it’s a really cool vintage band tee).

Appropriate Bottoms for Business Professionals

  • Casual Slacks would be considered pants or bottoms that resemble your traditional dress pants; they should not be tight-fitted or elastic like your gym sweats or clubbing outfits. If the dress code indicates for a more casual approach, this could also include a thoughtfully designed pair of denim bottoms, so long as they are not blue, tight, or appear casual in any way.
  • Dress Slacks specifically are a more formal pair of pants and shouldn’t be confused with jeans, yoga pants, or shorts.
  • Skirts and Dresses should be of an appropriate length; mini-skirts, skorts, or any tight little skirt better suited for a vacation to Miami Beach are never the answer, but with careful accessorizing and perhaps a pair of stockings, a long flowy or pencil skirt can be a great alternative to pants in the office.

Footwear for the Office

Flip-flops, crocs, mud boots, your hiking shoes, and smelly gym sneakers are not often acceptable in the office setting, but you could still get away with a stylish boot that goes with a nice jacket and blouse or your sparkling-like-new tennis shoes. Clean athletic shoes or more casual slip-on’s can also work, but be mindful of what others wear in the office too as a guide.

There remains the other shoes you can wear too: the heels, sandals, flats, or in the more casual setting some stylish boat shoes. Depending on the outfit you’re working with, I’m convinced you can make any shoe work, unless you work somewhere that requires closed toe or steel-dipped shoes (then don’t break any rules for your own safety!)

Casual Friday’s

Not every company chooses to have a dress-down day, but if your HR team does allow this, remember to continue dressing to impress in the most “business casual” fashion you can; this is still not the day to wear your track pants and old faded hoodies or funny T-shirts. Take advantage of this day by wearing your favorite jeans if that’s what you desire, but avoid drawing attention to yourself by getting too comfortable. If the CEO or President of your company bumped into you in the lunch room that day, would you feel appropriate in what you wore? Keep that in mind when you get yourself ready for another Fri-yay!

Take a look at some of my favorite office outfits and business casual must-haves from my activewear boutique.

What’s In My Suitcase: 3-Day Business Trip in the Back Bay

by: Danielle Ternyila, Zyia Active Independent Rep

Packing for a business trip used to be such a daunting task, with having to prepare for so many unknown variables, last minute dinners, and varied business-attire expectations. The one thing that will never change from city to city, however, is our desire to pack light and easy! I’ve learned along my way how to minimize luggage, so I’ll share how I packed this past week for a 3-day business trip to the beautiful city of Boston!

Pick Your Color Base

This is the first thing on my mind when packing, and for me it always revolves around the shoes. If you’ll be walking exhibit floors and large conference halls like me, focus on the footwear that will be carrying you everywhere. Once you know what shoes you’re bringing, you can start working on your color palette for work trip. Everything else you pack should revolve around those colors.

It’s better to pick a more neutral color that can be paired with a lot, rather than something vibrant and outstanding. For my late-March work trip to Boston, I went with a blush/nude tone that I could pair with whites and pinks; I packed my most comfortable strappy platform heels and a basic sneaker for outside the meetings, the gym, and walking around exploring.

Choose Versatility

This is where my White Grid Tank came in handy! This crop tank has a built-in bra to kill 2 birds with 1 stone. Everything I pack had to serve more than 1 purpose, so a bra/top in one is a no-brainer. Then I pull in some simple tanks and tops that can be styled for at least 2 different looks.

I packed the White Muscle Cubana Tank that has great ventilation and lots of coverage, so I wore that on Day 1 with joggers, which I swapped out for leggings to get some cardio in later. This top was also a comfy alternative to a PJ top and worked for a quick cardio session! It was comfy to drive up in, too.

I should also mention, I choose bras like the Grid Tank and our other Zyia sports bras because they also double as swim tops on the off chance I have time for a dip in the pool!

Avoid Anything That Wrinkles

The key to a business-professional wardrobe in a suitcase is clothes that don’t wrinkle. I purposefully pack bottoms I know won’t wrinkle, like the lightweight Everywhere Pants from my Zyia Active boutique; I can wear any pair of these (in black, olive, or navy) more than 1 way too by pulling up the legs into a capri style for some versatility, but they pack so neat and small that I’ll usually pack more than 1 pair anyway.

For my corporate travel this week, I went with the Black and Olive colors, and I also threw in my Navy Perfection Joggers, which are another comfortable staple for a flight too. All of these bottoms resist wrinkling, are sweat-wicking, quick-dry for those rainy days or sweaty gym workouts (because after all, they are basically activewear), and all feature 2 functional deep pockets.

These 3 colors all pair well with the nude-blush color palette I have created for this early-Spring trip 😉

Minimize Extra’s

You’ll always have the urge to throw in a few extra pieces in case something comes up, plans change, or the weather disrupts things. Plan out your days and the outfits to accompany them, then see how you can pull together those pieces to create some different looks.

Replacing Insufficient Slacks With Work Pants We Really Want

by: Danielle Ternyila | Zyia Active Independent Rep

Why do women’s work pants, or most of our pants in general, not have pockets?

When you go to shop for new business casual looks to freshen your office wardrobe, do you feel like the sizes are all just lying to you? Nothing ever matches, they never fit the same from one pair to the next, or maybe they never fit right from the start but you settle on an oversized or squeezed fit to have something to wear.

I’ve longed for comfort in the office forever, and I know the problem isn’t the business casual dress code; it’s the clothing brands we limit ourselves to in the local mall to shop, and most of them aren’t thinking about you and your body when they design them. They don’t care if they dig into our stomaches to make our butts look a special way or if the pockets are just for show and never really open, or they’re only small enough for a nickel. That’s where Zyia Active comes in, with countless styles for your office attire that will actually comfort you and move with you all day!

Now that I have found a quality and reliable clothing brand I can trust, I’m excited to be a part of the company’s growth and help others feel their most confident in the workplace. Take my style quiz to start your personalized online shopping experience with me!

Everywhere Pants

These were my first purchase with this brand, and I’m still wearing the same pair years later looking good as new. There is something to be said about the incredible long lasting quality you can expect with this brand. The Everywhere Pants are a staple and are no doubt the comfortable flexible work pants you’ve been looking for. Yes, they really exist! The best part is these are women’s dress pants with 2 deep pockets!

  • Lightweight and wrinkle resistant for easy care and travel
  • No-roll flat waistband with metal tipped drawstring
  • Anti-chafe, sweat-wicking, breathable fabric for the best performance

Although worth checking out, the Everywhere Zipper Joggers! Similar to our pants but with an encased ankle cuff and stylish but functional zipper.

Perfection Joggers

Life-changing, I’d say. I never believed in joggers in the workplace until I met these, absolutely perfection! What makes these unique is the matte color to the fabric that makes them very office-friendly pants along with a gorgeous vertical seam down the front of each leg. The 2 pockets are deep enough for any phone, but are hidden well and don’t add bulk.

  • A 2.5-inch waistband and 3.5-inch ankle cuffs with an incredible 3-channel design
  • Premium matte fabric that can be dressed up or dressed down
  • Four-way stretch and sweat-wicking performance for when you’re on the move

Joggers in a Bottle 2

A silky lightweight jogger is all you need to feel comfortable and classy, especially in the sleek black color of our Joggers in a Bottle 2. Unlike some other jogger styles, there’s no drawstring, just a loose-fitted but flattering fit around your waist that flows down to a wide cuff around the ankles.

  • From the top, a soft, no-roll flat waistband with a thin encased elastic to keep them in place
  • To the bottom, a 4.5-inch wide and smooth ankle cuff
  • A relaxed and slouchy fit with a premium silky material you’ll never want to stop wearing

Don’t shop alone!

I’m your online shopping buddy. Fill out my style quiz here for my assistance in everything from picking the right style for you, finding the perfect size, checking out with the best deals possible, and don’t worry, I have your back too if you need to make any exchanges or returns!