What Is Considered Business Attire?

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Looking like a professional is essential to being respected and successful in business environments. Understanding what attire is appropriate in various business settings is expected of those who take their jobs and careers seriously; it further communicates to co-workers and superiors that you know how best to represent yourself and your company.

Men’s Formal Business Wear

Men’s formal (or “standard”) business wear dictates a conservative business suit, jacket or blazer in muted colors, a formal dress shirt buttoned to the collar and a complementary tie neatly tied and is usually required in conservative industries such as finance, accounting, law, investment and insurance. Accessories should include a matching belt, matching dress shoes, which are brightly polished, and optional cuff links and watch.

Men’s Casual Business Wear

Many business settings have opted for a more casual, approachable dress code that permits more personality than formal business attire. Men’s casual business wear, though less well-defined than formal business wear, includes a collared shirt without a tie or polo shirt, dress pants or khaki slacks and comfortable dress shoes. Sweaters are also permissible, but any choices should always be presented neatly.

Women’s Formal Business Wear

Formal business wear for women is frequently expected, even in semi-formal or casual settings, especially in industries traditionally dominated by men. Women’s formal business attire requires a business pantsuit or dress, or a knee-length shirt with blouse and jacket, and polished pumps with heels of at least 1 inch. Colors should be muted and conservative rather than flashy, as should any accessories. Avoid tight or short skirts, mini-skirts and open-toed shoes. Jewelry, accessories and perfume should be subtle and understated.

Women’s Casual Business Wear

Casual business attire for women offers options such as a button-down, collared shirt or blouse and/or sweater with khaki slacks, dress pants or a skirt and comfortable leather shoes or loafers. Coordinating subtle, high-quality accessories with your outfit demonstrates an attention to detail that conveys competence. All attire should appear neat and fit well, without signs of pinching.

Corporate Culture

The company that one works in often conveys its own unique dress code demands or modifications from those above. Expectations in dress vary among industries, sizes of companies and level of seniority within the company. When in doubt, it’s always best to dress slightly more formally than may be necessary. Over-dressing may make a positive impression on your peers or superiors—under-dressing is perceived as lacking professionalism, savvy or competence within the culture.