When entering the workforce for the first time or switching jobs, figuring out what to wear and when to wear it can be a struggle! Work attire can differentiate between companies, job types, seasons, and occasions. In this article, we will explore 4 different business fashion dress codes and when to wear them.
Casual business attire might be worn if you work in an informal office where many of your co-workers may wear t-shirts, jeans, etc. However, even if your workplace has a casual dress code, you should avoid dressing down when meeting with clients or in interviews. Things you can wear in a casual work environment include: t-shirts, blouses, sweaters, jeans, cropped pants, or khakis. Shoes may include sneakers, low heels, or sandals. Casual does not mean inappropriate or sloppy, so make sure to avoid wearing stained, wrinkled, overly revealing, or offensive clothes. The following pictures show two examples of casual attire.
Smart casual is another form of casual business attire but with a stylish twist. This dress option incorporates trendy pieces to elevate a casual outfit into a more semi-formal one. This dress code is often very similar with casual and business casual attire, however the main difference is the incorporation of trends and statement pieces for jewelry/accessories, as this makes you look cleaner and more put together than casual, while allowing more flexibility than business casual. Smart casual is a very versatile dress code with lots of options! Some items include dresses, sweaters, trousers, skirts, blouses, heels, flats, jewelry, and scarves. Footwear can remain casual as well -- flats and open toed shoes are appropriate.
Business casual is very common in many offices and is a great default dress code when unsure what to wear to a particular setting. Business casual is a step down from a business professional look but is still very polished and professional. Business casual is suitable for luncheons, meetings, and the like. It is often seen at technology companies, as well as marketing or public relations departments. Common business casual clothing items include dress pants, khakis, blouses, and tailored blazers that achieve a balance between professional and relaxed. In terms of footwear, stay away from open-toed shoes and stick with either flats or low heels. Opt for neutral colors such as in a business professional dress code, but you can add small pops of color through accessories.
Business professional attire is generally a more conservative and formal look to portray yourself in a professional manner. This dress code is more traditional and is very common in industries such as accounting, banking, finance, government, or law. Typically, women can wear a skirt or dress of appropriate length with pantyhose, a neat top, a blazer, a pantsuit, appropriate heels (typically no higher than 3 inches is a good rule of thumb), or tidy flats. Minimal jewelry and belts can be used to accessorize! When dressing in business professional attire it is recommended to stick with more neutral colors such as black, grey, tan, navy blue and white. This dress code is very typical for interviews and high-level meetings.
Generally, an interview calls for business professional attire. The more important thing to consider when you're dressing for a job interview is that you need to look professional and polished regardless of the type of position you're seeking. As college students, this is very important because it shows that you know how to behave professionally. How you dress yourself for an interview will give off a particular first impression and you want this to be a positive one! I’m sure you all have heard the saying, “Dress for success,” or “Dress for the job you want, not the job you have.” Keep these in minding when deciding upon your interview attire.
Now that you know the different kinds of business dress codes, you may be wondering how do I know which to follow? After being hired by a company the easiest way to figure out the dress code is to just ask! It may feel awkward, but feel free to ask your interviewer, supervisor, or human resources representative because it would be a lot more awkward showing up underdressed or overdressed!
As more and more companies switch to telecommuting many interviews may take place over zoom or videoconference. Remember, you still need to look professional even if it is just what is seen on the screen. For example, sweats and slippers on the bottom are okay, but you need to retain a professional, clean, showered, and polished look on top as you would normally. However, if an interview is taking place over a video conference it is most likely unnecessary to wear business professional attire such as wearing a full suit, but you must still look presentable by wearing a nice blouse and some jewelry.
As members of CWIB, we are so lucky to have a big, supportive group of women to back us up and give us advice. If you’re still feeling unsure about your workplace attire, don’t be afraid to ask anyone with job or internship experience! Reach out to friends and co-workers to get their advice on which styles would help employers perceive you best when interviewing or at various business events! Don’t forget to have fun with your personal style! Personalize your outfits in ways that represent who you are, while sticking to the guideline presented in this article.
By: Lindsay Barnes