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Business Attire and Outfit Guide for Men & Women

 – Business Attire – 

The clothing you wear in a professional situation is known as business attire. You may pick how to dress for a job or a meeting depending on the type of office you work in.

business attire

From “casual” to “business formal,” there are various levels of business clothing. You can choose the right professional dress based on the situation.

In this article, we’ll inspect the different business attire, examples of clothing types, and everything you need to know about it. 

What Is a Business Attire?

Business attire is the wardrobe appropriate for the workplace. Business attire can contain many different types of clothing, each of which may be appropriate in certain circumstances and inappropriate in others.

For example, at your place of work, a suit may be appropriate for a job interview but too formal for everyday business.

Employees who want to fit in well at their workplace wear the clothing that is expected and adhere to the company’s standard of appropriate business attire.

Key Takeaways

  • Business attire is the clothing that is acceptable at work.
  • Business attire can influence the impression of your boss, coworkers, and customers about your capabilities and professionalism.
  • Appropriate business attire can vary from company to company and even from job to job within that company.
  • There are several levels of formality, ranging from casual to business formal.

How Does Business Attire Work?

A written company dress code often dictates business attire, which can explain what is acceptable clothing and what is not.

The level of formality of business attire varies depending on the workplace and is usually described in the dress code if there is one.

However, you don’t need an official dress code to understand what makes up appropriate business attire in your workplace. You can form a good idea of what is appropriate by just looking around you.

For example, if you are a graphic designer at a midsize firm, you may be expected to wear casual or business casual attire.

A sweater or button-down shirt, dress pants, leather shoes, and a watch would be appropriate for a man or woman in that environment.

Your wardrobe pieces for work should be of good quality, clean, and neatly pressed, if necessary.

Benefits of Business Attire

business attire

Business attire conveys to your colleagues, bosses, and customers or clients your level of professionalism and dedication.

When you keep your focus on your performance and not your fashion sense, you make a good impression and send a message about your priorities at work.

Cultivating your image can help you present yourself in the best light, and wearing the appropriate business attire is part of that image.

Your attire has implications for how you are viewed in your workplace—for better or worse.

Showing up poorly dressed, wearing clothing that’s sloppy, revealing, or otherwise inappropriate, will send the wrong kind of message to your managers and coworkers.

By following these guidelines, you can look professional in your selected business attire at your workplace.

Understand the standard that is expected, dress according to these guidelines, and assemble a wardrobe that is attractive and comfortable.

Types of Business Attire

business attire

Below is an outline of the most common types of business attire:

1. Casual

Casual business attire is informal clothing worn not only in most business settings but also in many settings outside of work.

You might wear casual clothing if you work in an informal office where others wear things like T-shirts, jeans, and open-toed shoes. You should avoid wearing a casual dress with clients and in interviews, even if the office is casual overall.

Casual for Women

Casual dress for women includes items like T-shirts, blouses, and sweaters on top. Bottoms might include jeans, cropped pants, or shorts. Also, casual shoes can include sneakers, low heels, or sandals.

Casual for Men

Casual dress for men might include items like T-shirts, button-down shirts, or sweaters on top. Bottoms might include jeans, khaki pants, or shorts. Casual shoes can include sneakers, loafers, or sandals.

2. Smart Casual

businesses attire

Smart casual is another form of casual business attire with a stylish twist. You might include more trendy pieces of clothing if dressing in smart casual.

This type of business attire is appropriate for more flexible offices including informal settings. You might also choose to wear smart casual in an interview for a more informal office.

This way, you fit in with their informal dress code while still maintaining a clean, professional look that communicates that you care about your appearance.

Smart Casual for Women

Smart casual for women might include items like blazers, dresses, sweaters, trousers, skirts, blouses, heels, flats, jewelry, and scarves.

  • A jacket or dressy sweater
  • Dress pants or skirt
  • Blouse, shirt, top, or turtleneck
  • Hose
  • Dress shoes
  • Accessories as described in traditional business attire

Smart Casual for Men

Smart casual for men includes items like sports jackets, ties, khakis, button-down shirts, polos, dress shoes, boots, clean sneakers, and belts.

Note that, smart casual business attire is just a step down from traditional, formal attire.

  • Sports jacket with a tie, dress pants, and button-down or traditional business shirt or nice turtleneck
  • Dress shoes
  • Accessories as described in traditional business attire

    3. Business Casual

    Business casual is a common form of dress worn in many offices. While many classic business staples are used in business casual wear, there are casual elements included like khakis.

    business attire

    Business casual is appropriate for many interviews, client meetings, and office settings. Because it is not very casual and also not very formal, this is usually an appropriate way to dress if you’re unsure about the setting.

    Business Casual for Women

    For business casual, women can wear pencil skirts, blouses, button-down shirts, trousers, khakis, blazers and sweaters. They can accessorize with simple jewelry and belts. Shoes can include flats, loafers, mules, boots or heels.

    • Nice pants or skirt
    • Blouse, top, or sweater
    • Vest
    • Occasionally an informal jacket
    • Attractive leather shoes and accessories

    Business Casual for Men

    For business casual, men can wear trousers, slacks, khakis, button-downs, polos, or sports coats. Jackets and ties are optional but can be used to accessorize. Business casual shoes include loafers, lifestyle sneakers (with leather or canvas), oxfords, or boots.

    Business casual attire is slightly more casual than smart casual and permits more comfortable cuts and fabrics.2

    • Khakis or dress pants
    • Shirts with collars or golf or polo shirts
    • Sweaters
    • Vests
    • Occasionally an informal jacket and tie
    • Attractive leather shoes and accessories

      4. Business Professional

      Business professional is a traditional form of attire used in more conservative settings or companies with strict dress codes.

      You might wear business professionals in industries like accounting, banking, finance, government, or the law. Business professional clothes should be well-fitted and may be tailored to fit you specifically.

      Business Professional for Women

      When dressing for a business professional, women should wear tidy dresses, skirts, or slacks. Tops should include neat button-down shirts or blouses with a blazer.

      businesses attire

      Business professional shoes include classic heels no higher than three inches, loafers, or tidy flats. Women can accessorize with minimal jewelry and belts.

      Business Professional for Men

      When dressing for business professionals, men should wear a dark-colored (gray, navy) suit and tie. The tie should be simple, avoiding bright colors or busy patterns.

      Men should wear a button-down shirt (preferably white or light-blue) and belt. Pair with a professional, closed-toed shoe like an oxford or loafer.

      5. Business Formal

      Business formal is reserved for the most formal settings such as award ceremonies, special dinners, benefits, or other important evening events. Also, business formal is similar to “black tie,” but should be reserved to maintain professionalism.

      Business Formal for Women

      For business formal, women might wear a dark pants suit, skirt suit, or suit dress. In some cases, a long evening dress may be appropriate.

      Shoe options include formal flats, heels, oxfords, or loafers. Minimalist jewelry can be appropriate.

      • Skirt suit
      • Pantsuit
      • Formal business blouse or top
      • Stockings
      • Closed-toe leather shoes
      • Conservative business accessories such as a briefcase or a leather folder for pads of paper
      • Subtle jewelry, makeup, and perfume

      Business Formal for Men

      For business formal, men might wear clothing similar to “business professional”—a dark suit and tie. For this setting, a black suit is appropriate with a light button-down shirt.

      Wear oxford or loafer shoes with clean lines. Avoid wearing brown shoes if you select a black suit. Accessorize with belts, a tie clip, or small, minimal cuff links.

      • Formal suit, tie, and business shirt
      • Upscale sports jacket, dress pants, tie, and business shirt
      • Leather dress shoes
      • Conservative leather accessories such as a briefcase or portfolio
      • Watches and cologne should be subtle

        6. Gender-neutral Professional Dress

        There are several ways of dressing for the workplace and different degrees of formality that do not adhere to a gender binary.

        businesses wear

        You can dress gender-neutral elements up or down depending on the situation for which you’re dressing. For a casual dress, jeans, sweaters, and shirts are all great options.

        For shoes, you might choose trendy sneakers, sandals, or loafers. You might choose slacks, trousers, or neat chinos for more formal forms of dress.

        Options for tops include sweaters, button-downs, or shirts with cardigans. Shoes might include loafers, oxfords, or stylish lace-up shoes.

        Pantsuits are a great option for any formal setting. These can be paired with flat or slightly heeled oxfords or loafers.

        7. Casual

        If you want to dress appropriately in a casual workplace, you may find yourself wearing jeans and other casual wear.

        Men:

        • Casual pants
        • Jeans
        • Shirt, with or without collar
        • Sweater
        • Vest
        • Sweatshirt
        • Casual shoes

        Women:

        • Casual pants
        • Jeans
        • Casual skirt
        • Blouse, top, or sweater
        • Vest
        • Sweatshirt
        • Casual shoes

        Even with a casual business attire dress code, some articles of clothing are almost always inappropriate, no matter the workplace, including ripped or shredded clothing, flip-flops, beachwear, and tops that reveal the midriff.

        Difference Between Business Professional vs. Business Casual 

        Even if you were paying attention to people’s outfits on your interview day, it’s still a good idea to ask about what employees typically wear.

        businesses wear

        Who knows—maybe you interviewed on a dress-down workday. It’s best not to make any assumptions. Instead, check in with Human Resources or your new manager. 

        The phrase means different things to different employers. In some cases, business casual attire means pressed khakis and a button-down long-sleeved shirt. To other companies, it might mean dress jeans and a polo shirt. 

        Take a look at the following guidelines for appropriate attire for interviewing and for dressing in business casual.

        Business Attire Tips

        When deciding how to dress for certain situations, there are a few things to consider:

        • If you work in an office, pay close attention to the way people dress. While the office may be casual, you might notice that people in leadership positions dress slightly more formally. You may choose to dress similarly to the people who hold the position you would like to reach.

        • If you’re going to an interview, check the company’s “About Us” page and social media profiles for clues about their culture. They might have pictures or videos about their offices where you can see how employees typically dress. If you’re still unsure, ask your recruiter or another contact what they recommend you wear to be successful in the interview.

        • If you’re going to a business meeting, ask your colleagues who may know or have met with this same person about how their offices operate and how you can appear respectful and professional during your meeting with them.

        • In any setting, avoid overly large or busy accessories, heels that are four inches or higher, and any clothing with profanity or possibly offensive imagery or phrases.

        • You might use different styles of business attire for different settings or occasions. Pay attention to the dress code, if applicable. If not, look to other people’s style of dress or ask around if needed.

        • Dressing appropriately can help you be seen as a professional employee who cares about your success in the role.

        Business Dress Outfit Tips 

        businesses wear

        Business Attire for Interviews for Women

        • Solid color, conservative suit with a coordinated blouse, moderate shoes, tan or light pantyhose, limited jewelry
        • A neat, professional hairstyle, manicured nails, light makeup, little or no perfume

        Business Attire for Interviews for Men

        • A solid color, conservative suit, long-sleeved shirt, conservative tie, dark socks, professional shoes
        • A neat hairstyle, trimmed nails, little or no cologne or aftershave

        Business Casual Attire for Women

        • Khaki, corduroy, twill, or cotton pants or skirts, neatly pressed
        • Sweaters, twinsets, cardigans, polo shirts, or knit shirts
        • Solid colors work better than bright patterns

        Business Casual Attire for Men

        • Khaki, gabardine, or cotton pants, neatly pressed
        • Cotton long-sleeved button-down shirts, pressed, polo shirts, or knit shirts with a collar
        • Sweaters
        • Leather shoes and belt
        • Tie optional

        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.

        businesses wear

        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.

        If this information was useful to you, do well to share it with friends and loved ones and drop your comments below.

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