This is an important topic for me since I am trying to work my way into a more professional office environment and to pursue a graduate degree in business. Technically I am supposed to wear business casual, but that category has a great variety of definitions.
I researched business and business casual dress in preparation. In my mind I wanted a bit softer colors, no suit coat, and more variety in blouse colors and styles but otherwise like business formal/professional. When I saw in actuality what others wore and what fit me and looked again online I relaxed this a bit out of wardrobe necessity. Neutral non-pencil skirts, a teal dress, a grey dress, sweaters.
Oh, yes. Pants are not business formal/regular business or whatever you want to call it. . . . neither are dresses. Dark skirt-suits with white/light blouses and skirt hitting the knee, pantyhose, leather moderate heeled pumps with closed toes, and simple, classic jewelry is the outfit expected/required.
And what I need to work toward . . . you know, dress like the job you want not the job you have.
I want to wear pencil skirts and suits (I have gorgeous silk blend cocoa skirt-suit I bought consigned, but looks new which I want to have altered to fit) in softer colors (brown is not business formal nor is lighter grey) with silk blouses, silk knit tops perhaps. Keep dreaming, you will have to get the job you want first to pay for all that :/
And oh, the pantyhose drama. You have to have it match your skin or it is extremely unprofessional and tacky. Also, you have to have a ton on hand because of runs. I have to order online to get pantyhose to both match my skin and not run easily. I tried wearing Berkshire 4415 which come in a variety of colors. They seem sturdier; obviously they will run if snagged, but they do not feel as fragile as some which seem to run if touched . . . or looked at! The downsize is that they are not super-stretchy; they are crisp and the feet are shaped and can pool a bit although I think they improved with washing. I gave up after I ruined all my pairs of this brand and switched to tights for the winter, but I will have to try again for spring. I think I will just have to be satisfied with only a couple wears.
No make-up is almost as unprofessional as too much or tacky make-up. I usually wear foundation, powder, and mascara, sometimes light eyeliner. I have more difficulty with my hair. When I straighten it, the style can last several days, but the days that I do not use heat (trying to be gentle on my hair here; I already have a frizz problem, especially since I have to pull back my bangs since I am growing them out, again) I am hit or miss; I need to pick a few styles and stick with them. I feel like hair makes or breaks one’s look.
I also am trying to minimize my preparation time without harming my look. I am just a pokey person in the morning, so I feel if I streamline my process a bit more, I could cut off some time.