Professional business attire should convey your credibility and competence, but also reflect some personality without going overboard. It is important to understand your office’s cultural norms for both business casual and “client-ready” days, as standards differ across states, occupations, and offices.
What is Business Attire?
Business attire is a formal dress code for many offices and corporate events. It denotes a professional style of dress that appears smart and sophisticated. For men, a suit is generally required. Women, on the other hand, can interpret business attire in a range of ways. While pantsuits and skirt suits are ideal, polished separates and business dresses can also work well.
Most common types of business attire:
Business Formal Attire
When you dress in business formal attire, you are dressing to impress. Business formal attire is an upgrade from your normal day-to-day professional outfits. Dressy evening events and award ceremonies may call for business formal dress. Men wear a dark colored suit over a dress shirt with a silk tie.
The shirt should be a French cut style and cufflinks can be worn. Silk or linen pocket squares are also a requirement for men. Dress shoes and matching dark pants complete the outfit. Formal business attire for women is a suit with a skirt while wearing pantyhose and closed toe pumps.
Business Professional Attire
When you dress in business professional attire, you are wearing generally conservative clothing to portray yourself in a professional manner. Business professional is similar to business formal, but does not necessarily mean you have to break out your best shoes and suit. Careers that may require business professional dress on a daily basis include finance, accounting and organizations that have a strict dress code policy.
Women can wear a skirt or pants suit with heels while men may wear a blazer or suit jacket, button down shirt, suit pants, a tie and dress shoes.
Business Casual Attire
When the dress code for your company is business casual, it means you do not need to wear a suit. However, it does not call for casual attire such as jeans and T-shirts. Women typically wear a collared shirt or sweater with dress pants and dress shoes or boots. Conservative dresses and skirts are also acceptable attire.
A man’s option for business casual includes a polo shirt, collared shirt or sweater. Khaki or dress pants along with dress shoes make up his business casual outfit. He does not need to wear a tie.
What Not to Wear
Regardless of gender, when the dress code is business casual, it’s not appropriate to wear your favorite old t-shirt, ripped jeans, and grubby sneakers. Keep in mind the “business” part of business casual, and leave your old comfortable clothes at home.
That said, when possible, you want to avoid choosing an outfit that makes you uncomfortable. That’s tough if the dress code is business attire and you’re used to going to work dressed in athleisure. But remember that you’re trying to create a good first impression; looking as though you’re wearing your older brother’s suit won’t help.
Does that mean skipping the suit altogether, even for employers with a more formal dress code? Not at all. But it does mean making sure that your interview attire fits and spending some time getting used to wearing it before the big day. If possible, spend a few hours walking, sitting, standing, etc., in the clothes you’ll wear to the interview. Just make sure to do so with enough time to get your outfit dry-cleaned, just in case.