It used to be that business casual for women meant a vaguely depressing lineup of black, navy and gray slacks and sweaters that left little room for interpretation. Luckily, today’s working lady has infinitely more options when it comes to looking professional. But how do you know when to be comfortable versus when to actually dress up? All while trying not to look like you’re trying too hard? We break down seven work-ready outfits that’ll make this whole business-casual thing make more sense. (And for more work and play style inspiration check out our fashion Pinterest board.)

RELATED: 8 Smart Tips for Maximizing the Life Of Your Clothes

business casual outfits statement blouse

A statement blouse with high-waisted pants

Just because it’s business casual doesn’t mean it has to be stuffy. Pair an interesting top (like this bell-sleeved one) with some super-flattering high-rise pants for a look that means business but isn’t boring.

Get the look: Free People blouse ($98); Banana Republic pants ($120)

business 7

A sleek sheath topped with blazer

Blazers might typically be reserved for wearing atop pants and blouses, but we love the idea of mixing it up and throwing a double-breasted version over a classic work sheath. Add an equally beautiful bag and you’re ready to take on the world. Or at least Monday's big presentation.

Get the look: Maggy London sheath ($118); Citizen's Mark blazer ($450)

RELATED: 5 Dresses You’ll Never Regret Buying

business 6

A monochromatic sweater and pencil skirt

How do you look like you’re wearing a dress without actually wearing a dress? By buying separates in the same color to achieve a streamlined, lengthening look. This way, you’ll also own two versatile pieces (that can be made into a ton of different outfits) instead of one. Win-win. And it's perfect for that midweek slump when you have no idea what to wear.

Get the look: Ann Taylor sweater ($50) and skirt ($89)

RELATED: 5 Outfits That Are Universally Flattering On Everybody

business 2

A shell top tucked into cropped pants

Well, isn’t this chic? For a modest summer option (especially on a relaxed Friday), look for a shell top that has a high neck. You’ll be glad for the sleeveless cut when it’s warmer outside (and then you can easily throw on a sweater or jacket in the AC). Wear one tucked into a pair of loose but crisp cropped pants and finish the look off with killer pointy-toed heels. (Baby-size purse optional.)

Get the look: Club Monaco top ($119) and pants ($180)

business 3

Culottes with a belted button-down

One of the great things about culottes is that they look like a midi skirt but are basically glorified shorts. (Fooled ya.) Try them out with an oversize white button-down belted around the narrowest part of your torso for an updated take on a classic business-y look. Equal parts flattering and comfortable.

Get the look: Vince Camuto culottes ($53); Equipment button-down ($198)

business 5

A printed button-down and slim pencil skirt

Button-downs and pencil skirts don’t seem groundbreaking until you update them in fun prints or colors. The above look is work-appropriate, doesn’t take itself too seriously and is perfect for spring and summer.

Get the look: Tory Burch button-down ($278); J.Crew skirt ($80)

business 8

A midi pencil skirt with a button-down

Now, for those days that you need to step it up just a notch but don’t want to get into full-on suit territory, try this. You can never go wrong with a white button-down for work, and wearing one with a midi pencil skirt just shows further polish (and an eye for trends).

Get the look: Ming Wang skirt ($180); Treasure & Bond button-down ($69)

RELATED: The Only 15 Items You Need to Build the Perfect Wardrobe

From Around The Web