Business attire refers to the clothing that employees wear to work. Depending on the workplace, various levels of business attire are expected and the norm. The dress codes range from traditional and formal to smart casual, business casual, and casual.
Employees who want to fit well in their workplace, wear the standard clothing that is expected, and often dictated by a written dress code. But, you don’t need an official dress code to understand what constitutes appropriate business attire in your workplace. Look at what your boss wears. Observe what other successful employees wear to work.
If you’re a new employee, ask when you receive your job offer what employees are expected to wear to work. Start out a new job by dressing just a little bit better than you believe is the norm to make a good first impression. First impressions are significant and you want yours to be memorable for its positive predictive message.
Workplace success guide books have suggested that employees need to dress for the job they want to have, not the job they have. I’m not sure how valid this is, but even in a business casual environment, executives usually dress slightly more formally. The total impression that you make on colleagues and bosses has implications for how you are viewed in your workplace.
How you dress is so simple to modify that career success and advancement should be more important than your need to express your individual, quirky personality at work. Business attire is important because it sends messages about you – fairly or unfairly - to customers, clients, bosses, company executives, and coworkers. People do judge you by your appearance.
Degrees of Formality in Business Attire
Traditional business attire consisted of:
- Women: skirt suits or pant suits with formal business blouses or tops, stockings, closed toe and heel leather shoes, and appropriate business accessories including a brief case, leather folder for pads of paper, and a conservative pen. Women were encouraged to keep jewelry, makeup, and perfume subtle and elegant.
Smart casual business attire, just a step down from traditional, consists of:
- Men: sports jacket with tie, dress pants, button down or traditional business shirt or nice turtleneck, dress shoes, and attractive accessories as described in traditional business attire.
- Women: jacket or dressy sweater, dress pants or skirt, blouse, shirt, top or turtleneck, hose, dress shoes, and accessories as described in traditional business attire.
Find an image gallery that illustrates smart casual business attire.
Business casual attire consists of:
- Men: khakis, dress, or Dockers-type pants, shirts or golf-type shirts with collars, sweaters, vests, occasionally an informal jacket and tie, and attractive leather shoes and accessories.
- Women: nice pants or skirts, blouses, tops, sweaters, vests, occasionally an informal jacket, and attractive leather shoes and accessories.
Casual business attire consists of:
- Men: casual pants and jeans, shirts with collars or not, sweaters, vests, sweat shirts, casual shoes including sandals and athletic wear.
- Women: casual pants, skirts, and jeans, blouses, tops, sweaters, vests, sweat shirts, casual shoes including sandals and athletic wear.
By following these guidelines, you can look professional in your selected business attire in your workplace. Just understand the standard that is expected, dress according to these guidelines, and assemble a wardrobe that is attractive and comfortable. Avoid looks that you would wear to a party, the beach, an athletic competition, house cleaning, or a club. Professional business attire doesn’t define an employee’s competence, but it goes a long way in influencing the impression of your boss, coworkers and customers about your capabilities and professionalism. Professional business attire is a must in any workplace.
Additional Resources About Dress Codes
- Dress Codes and Image Collection
- Sample Letter to Introduce a Dress Code.
- Sample Policy Receipt Acknowledgement Form.
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