In more and more workplaces, employees are dressing up. The shift to remote and hybrid working has only accelerated this trend, so you’re more likely to see khakis, sweaters, twinsets, polo shirts and even jeans in more companies than ever before. .
Not everywhere, however. What if you go to work in an office that has a “business attire” dress code? What does that mean?
To help you, we’ve put together a guide with tips on what to wear — and most importantly what not to wear – when working for a company with a stricter dress code.
That way, if you see the phrase “professional business attire” in an employee handbook or in a job posting on ZipRecruiter or a similar job site, you’ll know what to do.
What is professional business attire?
In a world where casual Fridays are starting to become casual work weeks in many workplaces, business attire is more traditional and conservative.
It’s a stricter dress code, meant to reflect a more conservative corporate culture. You are more likely to encounter this in industries such as accounting, banking, engineering, finance, government, or law.
Professional business attire generally means men’s suits, ties, dress pants, long-sleeved shirts, and dress shoes. For women, a professional wardrobe might include a tailored skirt-blazer combination, pantsuit, or knee-length professional dress.
Professional clothing absolutely has to fit well, and it can even be specially designed for you.
Differences with other dress codes
Business attire is more formal than casual attire, which includes comfortable but work-appropriate clothing.
For men, business casual attire usually means khakis, a button-up shirt, belt, and non-sporty shoes — and no tie. For women, business casual outfits typically include knee-length dresses and skirts, or a simple blouse and trouser combination, and closed-toe shoes.
However, professional business attire is less conservative than formal dress, which tends to be reserved for more formal occasions. Think award ceremonies, charity benefits, black-tie dinners, and more.
For men, formal attire means a dark suit, long-sleeved button-down shirt, tie, dress socks, dress shoes like Oxfords, and maybe even cufflinks. No bright colors.
For women, formal attire includes a dark trouser suit, skirt suit, or dress suit. Sometimes a long evening dress is appropriate. Business formal shoes can be formal heels or flats.
Business attire: what to wear for women
Business attire is all about making a good first impression.
Here is a list of appropriate business attire for women:
- business suit
- Professional dress, at or below the knee
- Oxford-style blouse in thicker fabric and not low-cut
- Fitted skirt-blazer set
- Closed shoes with low or moderate heels
- Beige or light socks
- Non-obtrusive jewelry
- Light makeup
- manicured nails
If you don’t know what to wear, don’t hesitate to ask. Check with your manager or Human Resources.
Business attire: what to wear for men
The key here is to avoid khakis or a polo shirt. Here is a list of appropriate business attire for men:
- A solid color suit – black, gray or navy blue – or maybe pinstripe
- Dress pants with a sports jacket
- Button-Up Shirt—White, Cream, or Light Pastel
- Simple and conservative tie – not too flashy
- Dark socks
- Dress shoes
- Neat hairstyle
- cut nails
What not to wear
Remember that a strict dress code is meant to reflect your company’s culture and values.
Resist the temptation to dress more casually. Business casual dress codes are becoming more common in today’s workplace, with surveys showing that at least half of all U.S. employers allow business casual dress on a daily basis.
Here is a list of clothes you should not wear for professional business dress code:
- Khakis, chinos or jeans
- A polo shirt
- Sweaters or cardigans
- Sports clothing
- T-shirts or tank tops
- Short skirts, tight dresses or low-cut tops
- Cargo pants or shorts
- Halter tops, crop tops or strapless tops
- Summer dresses
- Clothing with tears or holes
- Anything with neon colors
- Jewelry that is too flashy or distracting
- Athletic socks
- Sandals or flip flops
- open toe shoes
What to wear for an interview
When it comes to job interviews, we have a little extra advice.
First, you need to land an interview in the first place. Your best bet for doing so is to explore a massive and popular online job site like ZipRecruiter, the use of which is free for job seekers. You can search for jobs based on factors such as desired salary, location, or various keywords.
You can post a profile on the site for potential employers to see. You can post your CV, references, social media IDs or profile picture, among others. If a company likes your profile, they may invite you to apply for their job. And if you are interested, you can apply with one click.
An online job market like this is the most effective way to start a job search.
Next, what is your interview outfit? Interview attire is crucial.
How you look at the job interview is almost as important as your qualifications. Planning an outfit can be a tricky balancing act and another source of stress for some people.
You want to look sharp – but not pretentious or underdressed.
Consider industry trends when choosing your outfit. An interview in a company? Put on a suit. But that might be overkill for other industries.
The IT or advertising fields could be more laid back. The important thing is not to guess. Check the job listings or call ahead and ask. Ask a receptionist or HR.
Once you’ve decided what to wear, have it ready for bed—ironed and wrinkle-free. This will save you the hassle of the morning.
And yes, that even counts for a video interview.
In general, it’s better to dress up for an interview than to dress up.
Mike Brassfield ([email protected]listen)) is a lead writer for The Penny Hoarder. He works from home and owns exactly one suit.