What to Wear: Understanding Professional Dress Codes

It can be extremely difficult to figure out what to wear to certain professional events and what styles are the most appropriate or acceptable. Keep reading to differentiate the dress codes and determine when to wear each, as well as discover the most engaging color schemes for professional attire.


Dress Codes


It is always important to be comfortable and dress like yourself, whether the dress code is business professional or business casual. However, there are a few key differences and aspects to keep in mind.


Business Professional


In this section, the required combination of clothing, accessories & jewelry, and makeup for business professional events and conferences will be discussed.



In regards to clothing, you will want to be dressed in professional dress pants, within which you can pick between skinny or flared, or a professional skirt that ends right at or above your knees. It is important to make sure that your skirt is not exceptionally short. You can pair the pants or skirt of your choice with a nice top or blouse, preferably void of excessive patterns or bright colors. Opting for a neutral top color, and dressing for the event are key. If you are unsure about what is acceptable for the event you are attending, it is always a good idea to ask the organizers prior to planning. Business professional attire REQUIRES a blazer - ensure that it is correctly fitting, comfortable, and makes you feel empowered. Blazers are a staple in your closet, and you can never go wrong with wearing one.


Lastly, your shoes can be either professional heels limited to 2 inches or less and closed toe, or flats that are easy to walk in. Stick to shoes colored in either black, white, or neutral pink. Most business events and conferences will require a lot of walking, so keep that in mind when opting to pick a pair of shoes that will last you through the day.


With your accessories and jewelry, a good rule of thumb is to ‘keep it simple’. To pair with your outfit, you can add on small earrings (one piercing is best if you have multiple), a small and lightweight bracelet, and a necklace that ends right above the collar of your blouse. Makeup can be tricky since it is a way of expression and standing out. However, for professional events, it is best to keep it natural. Stick to light mascara, nude lip colors, and light perfumes or scents.


Business Casual


In this section, the required combination of clothing, accessories & jewelry, and makeup for business professional events and conferences will be discussed.



There are slight differences in clothing options between business professional and business casual attire. Professional dress pants are still required, but khakis are also acceptable and can be either tight or flared based on your preference. A nice top or blouse is best, sticking to the neutral shades standard. However, a button down or light patterns are considered normal in business casual. Blazer are NOT REQUIRED, but can always be added on because they are key to elevating your impression. Instead of a blazer, you can always choose to add a cardigan or sweater along with your top.


Lastly, shoes follow the same requirements as business professional, and should be closed-toed heels under 2 inches or flats that are either black, white, or neutral pink.


When to Wear What


It is always safest to dress according to your employee handbooks and the corporate culture. Keep in mind, however, that business professional is the required style for interviews, presentations, and large meetings.


Color Schemes


According to the Economic Times, navy blue, black, and gray are the best options to wear. It is always smart to avoid bright colors (such as greens, yellows, oranges, and any neon colors).


  1. Navy Blue: represents trust, calmness, responsibility (safest choice)

  2. Black: represents leadership skills and authority (best for managerial roles)

  3. Gray: represents independence and sophistication (never a distracting colors)


At the end of the day, make sure you abide by the guidelines and dress in a way that makes you feel comfortable, confident, empowered, and strong. Dress for success and you will find success!



By Ananya Kanuparthy