Are Jeans Business Casual For Women? One Of Life's Mysteries Revealed (Photos)
The dos and don'ts of denim in the workplace
I still remember what I wore on the first day of my first-ever internship: black dress pants, cute flats, and a tailored blouse. As I waited in the lobby to meet my boss, the other interns shuffled in. The guys were all rocking khakis and button downs (surprise, surprise), and my lone female counterpart was wearing a tailored blouse, cute flats, and to my horror, black jeans. I had a brief panic attack on her behalf - the welcome email from HR had clearly said we should all be dressed business casual.
Surely jeans didn't qualify… or did they?
I learned a major lesson that day: dress codes like business casual are highly context dependent.
So, are jeans appropriate business casual attire or not?
The short answer is they can be. A lot has changed since my internship nearly 10 years ago. American workplaces continue to relax their dress codes, and jeans (and even leggings) at the office are becoming more and more common. That said, whether or not you should rock denim depends on 1) the situation, i.e. where you work and the occasion and 2) the type of jeans and how you wear them. (And if all this talk about dress codes and jeans has you going nuts, check out these remote jobs where you're free to wear shorts, jeans, or no pants at all!)
When Not To Wear Jeans?
Interviews, first days, or if you work in an industry where the men dress like this:
Photo Credit: @midtownuniform(Looking at you, finance and consulting)
When To Wear Jeans?
If most people (not just the tech team) are dressed like this:
If you're dealing with a startup or tech company known for their less-than-business-casual attire, then jeans might be exactly the right choice for your interview/first day. That said, it still doesn't hurt to look a bit nicer by opting for casual slacks and a fitted top. Just because your interviewer's rocking a hoodie and a beard doesn't mean you have to...
Still not sure what your (potential) employer considers business casual?
If you're on the fence, go with a skirt or slacks so you don't have to wonder if you've done business casual right; you can hide your nerves behind a killer outfit. And let's be honest - a pair of tailored but loose fitting trousers are way more comfortable than suffocating skinny jeans anyway.
When Else Can You Wear Jeans?
Just about any other time!
Outside of the aforementioned industries and situations, there's no reason you can't incorporate jeans in your business casual rotation. The key, however, is to continue looking professional while you do.
Follow these tips to master the art of business casual denim:
1. Dress them up, not down - Balance casual bottoms with dressier tops and accessories, or pair your jeans with a blazer to create a crisp, professional look. A pair of heels or dressy flats can also help ensure your jeans don't look too casual.
Photo Credit: Ann Taylor
2. Keep it neat - Make sure your jeans are free of any rips or tears (even the intentional ones), and steer clear of bleached or heavily faded looks.
Photo Credit: Levi's
3. Find your fit - Unfortunately, as women, we're constantly playing Goldie Lox with our clothes - not too loose or too tight… just right. The same is true with jeans in the workplace. You want them to be fitted and flattering, but not so tight as to be uncomfortable or impractical (as someone who once ripped her pants wide open while squatting to lift a box in the office, trust me on this).
*Quick Tip* - when you're trying on jeans (or any clothes for the office), don't just walk around - sit down! If you feel your butt hanging out, go for a different pair. After all, you'll likely be seated most of the day and you don't want to be constantly worrying that your underwear's exposed.
4. Go dark - As a general rule, darker blue jeans look much more polished than light ones. And some black jeans are nearly indistinguishable from slacks.
Photo Credit: Levi's
Photo Credit: Ann Taylor
Wrapping It Up
So, should my coworker have shown up in jeans on day one? Probably not. Was it the end of the world because she did? Definitely not. They were black, professional looking jeans and she clearly had put effort into her appearance.
As the definition of business casual continues to evolve and companies disregard business casual altogether in favor a more laid-back vibe, the most important thing is that you continue to feel comfortable. Whether that means blending in or standing out, dressing up or dressing down, make sure that you like how you look and feel good about yourself. Because while it's true that when you look good, you feel good, it's also true that when you feel good, you look good.
And again, if office dress codes have you stressed out, consider these remote jobs where you can wear whatever kind of pants you want, or none at all!
- Network with top executives even if you aren't looking for a new role
- First look at flexible, work-from-home, in-office roles
- Join live chats led by expert women in your field and beyond
Kiana Labuhn, Recruiter at S&P Global, shares an exclusive take on the most important tips to keep in mind when preparing for an interview.
How Bumble’s Director of Engineering Learned to Be Herself at Work—and Encourages Team Members to Do the Same
Rose Hitchcock found out she was pregnant with her third child halfway through the process of interviewing to be Director of Engineering at Bumble.
She told the team at the social media and dating app and that didn't change their plans to hire her. "They were completely fine with it, really supportive," says Rose.
You've met some of them—maybe they're your family, friends, classmates, or coworkers, or perhaps you identify as neurodivergent yourself.
Sharing inclusivity, not stereotypes, at Raytheon Technologies<p><br></p><p>"Raytheon Technologies and our Raytheon Alliance for Diverse Abilities (RADA) Employee Resource Group (ERG) is committed to trying to bring focus on invisible disabilities, as they are among the most misunderstood. Autism/neurodiversity isn't a mental illness and we recognize how important it is to bring awareness, be inclusive of everyone and avoid stereotypes. During Autism Awareness Month RADA is featuring a multi-regional presentation about Autism Awareness & Acceptance, as well as neurodiversity overall. The presentation is focused on educational information, including what Autistic people want in terms of inclusion and meaningful work, as well as dispelling common misconceptions."</p><p><em>Learn more about </em><a href="https://powertofly.com/companies/raytheon-technologies" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer"><em>Raytheon Technologies</em></a>.</p>
Hiring a world-class workforce at the National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency<p>"The National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency recently launched the Neurodiverse Federal Workforce (NFW) pilot program, a collaborative effort between NGA, MITRE, and Melwood. The NFW pilot aims to help government agencies hire neurodiverse talent for U.S. Federal Government agencies. 'NGA mission success is contingent on a world-class workforce with a wide diversity of opinions and expertise,' said NGA Deputy Director Dr. Stacey Dixon. 'Neurodiverse talent can bring new perspectives to the NGA workforce and make important contributions to the mission.' The pilot is a great learning opportunity for NGA to continue to grow and improve our first-class workforce."</p><p>Learn more from the podcast "<a href="https://www.podcastone.com/episode/The-National-Geospatial-Intelligence-Agency-takes-workforce-diversity-in-a-new-direction" target="_blank">The National Geospatial Intelligence Agency Takes Workforce Diversity In A New Direction</a>"</p><p><em>Learn more about the </em><a href="https://powertofly.com/companies/national-geospatial-intelligence-agency" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer"><em>National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency</em></a><em>.</em></p>
Supporting each individual's preferred environment at Elastic<p>"We distribute anonymous surveys that allow anyone, including neurodiverse folks, to address potential barriers that we should address.</p><p>Our accessibility working group acts as an employee resource as well as an equity-seeking team that works to create and develop a disability inclusive workplace at Elastic.</p><p>The majority of our Elasticians work from home. Our hope is that this empowers neurodiverse employees, including those who may be on the spectrum, to have more control over their environment so that they can manage noise and light sensitivity, control their personal space, and manage their own schedule to reduce anxiety."</p><p><em>Learn more about </em><a href="https://powertofly.com/companies/elastic" target="_blank"><em>Elastic</em></a><em>.</em></p>
Pioneering neurodiversity at Freddie Mac<p>"Freddie Mac values the insights and different perspectives that result from employees bringing their authentic selves to work. Our Office of Inclusive Engagement works with several organizations to identify qualified candidates, consider them for suitable roles and pair them with mentors who can help them adapt to an evolving new normal. In 2020, we evolved our neurodiversity internship initiative into a more robust training, education and hiring process called 'Neurodiversity at Work' to directly place candidates with Autism Spectrum Disorders into full-time roles."</p><p><em>Learn more about </em><a href="https://powertofly.com/companies/freddie-mac" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer"><em>Freddie Mac</em></a><em>.</em></p>
Decoding inclusion at MongoDB<img class="rm-lazyloadable-image rm-shortcode" lazy-loadable="true" data-runner-src="https://assets.rebelmouse.io/eyJhbGciOiJIUzI1NiIsInR5cCI6IkpXVCJ9.eyJpbWFnZSI6Imh0dHBzOi8vYXNzZXRzLnJibC5tcy8yNTk0NzE2OC9vcmlnaW4ucG5nIiwiZXhwaXJlc19hdCI6MTYzMDY3MTY2MH0.Q-ko6g65MC-epHBrx_vr6k9v-lSawHH5jfhPWOVTozI/img.png?width=980" id="a4487" width="1112" height="626" data-rm-shortcode-id="a686a88d639ff3a91a5a4f6b455ce0cc" data-rm-shortcode-name="rebelmouse-image" /><p>"MongoDB supports the neurodivergent community through interview accommodations, providing new hires the opportunity to select equipment and denote special requests, and onboarding checklists broken down into useful sections. To raise awareness about neurodiversity in the workplace, we have a learning and development (L&D) platform which has content on collaborating with different working styles. Our L&D Program focuses on building skills in managing teams inclusively. We also host Decoding Inclusion, a series of events aimed at building community and sharing foundational knowledge about D&I topics, including neurodiversity, to further our understanding of differences."</p><p><a href="https://www.mongodb.com/blog/post/why-now-cool-time-different-steph-johnson" target="_blank">Read more about how MongoDB celebrates difference in this interview with their VP of Corporate Comms</a></p><p><em>Learn more about </em><a href="https://powertofly.com/companies/mongodb" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer"><em>MongoDB</em></a><em>.</em></p>
Encouraging allyship at Folsom Labs<p>"At Folsom Labs, we are passionate about building a culture of acceptance and inclusion. Our goal is not just to spread autism awareness but to strive to be allies and elevate the voices of those with disabilities. Now more than ever, this is important as many are facing the added weight of mental health and wellness challenges due to the pandemic. Encouraging allyship throughout the community and building a culture where everyone can thrive are at the forefront of our current initiatives. We are proud to celebrate Autism Acceptance Month — to set a stage where we can celebrate our differences and continue to create a space of inclusion and support."</p><p><em>Learn more about </em><a href="https://powertofly.com/companies/folsom-labs" target="_blank"><em>Folsom Labs</em></a><em>.</em></p><em><br></em>
Recruiting for diverse problem solvers at Dell Technologies<video controls id="7ebf6" width="100%" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="d5c114fad218a953432630dfe99716b2" expand="1" feedbacks="true" mime_type="video/mp4" shortcode_id="1617842842194" site_id="17377755" url="https://roar-assets-auto.rbl.ms/runner%2F23124-Neurodiversity_Shortform_0325.mp4" videoControls="true"> <source src="https://roar-assets-auto.rbl.ms/runner%2F23124-Neurodiversity_Shortform_0325.mp4" type="video/mp4"> Your browser does not support the video tag. </video><p>"Dell's Neurodiversity Hiring Program provides professional development training, internships, and full-time career opportunities for neurodivergent job seekers. The program rethinks the traditional interview process by removing barriers that may limit an individual from fully showcasing their skills and capabilities. Additionally, program participants benefit from job coaching and mentorship provided by our community partners and True Ability ERG members.</p><p>A variety of critical positions across the company have been filled through the program. In doing so, we are bringing in diverse perspectives for problem solving that have helped us differentiate ourselves within the marketplace all while cultivating a culture of inclusion."</p><p><br></p><p><em>Learn more about </em><a href="https://powertofly.com/companies/dell-technologies" target="_blank"><em>Dell</em></a><em>.</em></p>
Supporting professionals with autism throughout their talent journey at Deloitte<p>"At Deloitte, everyone contributes to our diversity, equity, and inclusion efforts. Our inclusive culture, empowers all of us, including those with diverse abilities, to connect, belong, and grow. Deloitte's Autism@Work program supports our professionals with autism throughout their talent journey. A customized, autism-friendly assessment process helps draw out our candidates' strengths. Our employees have an internal Coach, an Onboarding Advisor, and access to external job coaching. Our Onboarding Mentor/Buddy Program pairs professionals with autism with other Deloitte colleagues/allies. Through Neurodiversity Training, our professionals can help support and manage our differently-abled professionals. We also have our Abilities First Business Resource Group for people with disabilities plus allies."</p><p><em>Learn more about </em><a href="https://powertofly.com/companies/deloitte1" target="_blank"><em>Deloitte</em></a><em>.</em></p>
Sharing stories to support awareness at Lockheed Martin<p>"Lockheed Martin shares employee stories internally to help others understand Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) and hosts internal events to support ASD awareness and education. The Able & Allies business resource group, whose mission is to build an environment that empowers employees with disabilities, has recently partnered with ASD advocacy organizations to offer resources to assist with managing the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic with persons who have ASD and their families. Missiles and Fire Control (MFC) is a member of the Florida Ability Inclusion Network and strives to educate employees and leaders on disabilities and recommend best practices to promote a disability-friendly workplace."</p><p><em>Learn more about </em><a href="https://powertofly.com/companies/lockheed-martin" target="_blank"><em>Lockheed Martin</em></a><em>.</em></p>
Kate Jhaveri does one thing every day that she suggests you try: belly laughs.
The EVP and Chief Marketing Officer at the NBA credits her two kids with much of that levity—"They're very silly and they, at least once a day, make me laugh out loud," she says—though she seeks to make those lighter connections with her team at work, too.