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Quick Guide to Formal/Business Attire (With Examples)

Here's what this article will cover:

  1. What can be described as professional business attire?
  2. Why does business attire work?
  3. Formal business attire
  4. Men's business professional attire
  5. Professional women's business attire
  6. Smart business casuals
  7. Men's smart business casual attire
  8. Smart casual women's outfits
  9. Business casual attire
  10. Men's business casual attire
  11. Business casual women's outfits
  12. Casuals for work
  13. Casual men's attire
  14. Women's casual attire
  15. Gender-neutral professional dress
  16. Trivia
  17. What not to wear to work?
  18. What each color represents
  19. Tips for business attire
  20. Advantages of wearing business attire
  21. What to wear to an interview?

They do say, “First impression is the last impression,” and while standing out does make us noticeable, it may not be such a good idea at times.

As a software developer, Perry would always opt for casuals over formals. However, when the time came to attend an interview, his t-shirt and jeans weren't that well received. Yes, the company had a casual working environment. Despite sharing these views, they didn't appreciate Perry's interview attire quite that much. In fact, their discontent was evident on their faces.

Do you think there is a reason for such a reaction?

Think of it this way. Have you ever appeared for a pool party in a tuxedo or for a funeral in beach clothing? Just like any sensible adult, you wouldn't make such a mistake as it would not only taint your image, but will also cause others to question you.

Dressing up in business attire or business casual attire is an important factor in attending an interview that no one mentions. While your witty responses and analytical thinking are well-received, your impression - not so much!

You do not require incredible aesthetic sense or a background in fashion to know how to dress appropriately for an interview. All you need is to figure out which business professional attire should be worn at an interview.

"You can have anything if you dress for it." – Edith Head.

What can be described as professional business attire?

While employees aren't discriminated against based on their clothing, however, they are expected to appear for work in attire appropriate for the workplace. This helps maintain workplace decorum while ensuring a sense of discipline among employees. If you wish to understand which clothing in your closet can be described as business formal attire, it would be that one suit at the back of your wardrobe which you never use.

In case your workplace doesn't really believe in formals, a pair of jeans with a semi-casual shirt can also be described as your business professional attire. The selection of this clothing style is completely dependent on the place you are working in.

Why does business attire work?

As Mary was rummaging through her closet looking for the perfect women's business attire, her lack of knowledge on being work-appropriate wasn't helping her much. She had worked from home most of her professional life, so she was unaware of how to avoid a weird gaze from hiring managers or interviewers.

The dilemma that Mary is facing isn't that uncommon. While applicants know what they need to wear, many either overdo it or appear as though they aren't even trying. Comprehending what you should be wearing to work is a major crisis that will require some experience and knowledge to overcome. Taking up interview prep courses may do the trick.

However, why is it that you need to dress up a particular way? Why can't you work in whatever you find first in your wardrobe? The answer to your question is simple. Your attire must exude confidence and professionalism. This is one reason why the organization sets a certain dress code for its employees to adhere to. While some are strict about formals at the workplace, others offer some leeway in the way you present yourself.

For example, graphic designers or software developers are never expected to appear in formal business clothing at work. Similarly, sales managers or data analysts aren't supposed to suddenly wear a Yeezy to work!

Technical interview prep mock classes and professional interview prep courses cover these essentials too.

Formal business attire

So when walking into organizations that prefer to see its employees well-dressed and confident, jeans are definitely a no-no. You need attire that conveys that you are a sensible individual, dedicated towards your work, and are willing to use your analytical abilities for the development of the company.

Coming up with such a business formal outfit that relays this message can be difficult.

Keep reading to find out what to wear in an interview to appear professional.

Men's business professional attire

While the choices for men are few, however, there are certain mandates that you need to follow to appear professional.

  • A proper suit of solid colors such as black, blue, etc. Try colors that are more sober and easy on the eyes. Pair your suit with a business shirt and a tie.
  • In case suits aren't your thing, you can also choose to go for business shirts paired with formal trousers.
  • For shoes, opt for faux leather formal. If you wish to avoid leather or leather replicas, you can also opt for formal footwear with a leather finish.
  • To carry your documents and other important files, keep a leather briefcase handy along with a portfolio.
  • Men are always recommended to go for cologne that isn't too strong, or else, you may end up repelling your interviewers rather than impressing them.
  • Elevate your outlook with formal watches. Avoid leather bands as they are more semi-formal than professional.

Professional women's business attire

Unlike men's business professional attire, an average woman has a vast wardrobe of styles to choose from. The variety allows the women to choose an attire that best describes their zeal towards work while ensuring they feel comfortable.

  • If you wish to wear formals, then start off with a skirt suit as they not only allow you to appear confident but also express your femininity.
  • Want to create a statement? Then go for the traditional pantsuit for other than emitting rectitude, you can also feel comfortable in what you wear. Moving around in a women's business suit is easier and allows you to feel fierce.
  • A formal business top or blouse, paired with trousers or pencil skirts, is another option under women's professional clothes you can go for. It is a common choice, and you can never go wrong with it.
  • Always ensure to pair skirts with stockings. It may not be mentioned in the company business dress code; however, it is more appropriate to choose to wear them.
  • While peep-toes are comfortable - always choose close-toed shoes when dressing formally. In case you aren't comfortable in heels, flats will also do.
  • When accessorizing, try wearing light makeup and opt for subtle jewelry and perfume.
  • To carry your folders and documents, a leather briefcase or folder should do the job.

Smart business casuals

Perry wasn't too comfortable wearing formals to her interview. She did notice that many applicants were all suited up, but for her, it was a little too much. So, instead, she wanted a look that assisted her in creating an impression with her interviewers without bothering her comfort.

In Perry's case, the best way to go would be to opt for smart business casual attire. These outfits are styled to not only follow workplace dress code but, at the same time, not make the employee feel too buttoned up.

Men's smart business casual attire

While formals are appealing, they are far from comfortable. Appearing for an interview, meeting, or presentation is possible in formals; however, everyday work can be a bit difficult. While sales officials or company superiors will need to appear presentable, job positions that have nothing to do with appearance may offer you the leeway to dress in smart business casual outfits.

  • Pair a business shirt with dress trousers and avoid a tie. If you wish, opting for military color jackets can help you look smart yet casual at the same time.
  • When avoiding a suit, why not replace business shirts with turtlenecks as Steve Jobs may inspire into coming with some revolutionary idea.
  • For footwear, you can opt for dress shoes with a cap toe or wingtip, depending on the style you are going for.
  • A simple metal band watch, along with a leather briefcase and a portfolio, should be enough to make you look like you mean business.

Smart casual women's outfits

When dressing in smart casuals, a woman is presented with a vast wardrobe of choices. What's more, is that she has the option of mixing and matching to create that perfect look with her women's professional attire that helps her radiate with confidence.

  • Pairing dress trousers with a formal blouse along with a sweater is a smart casual look you cannot go wrong with. In case sweaters don't sit right with you, try solid color jackets.
  • When opting for dress shoes, go for close toes footwear such as ballerina flats or loafers as they make you feel comfortable yet professional at the same time.
  • Opt to carry leather briefcases or folders as per your requirement.
  • For makeup, go light and try opting for subtle accessories.
  • Light perfumes are always welcome.

Business casual attire

Your attire for the workplace is an option completely dependent on the dress code followed by your company. There are certain organizations that believe in allowing employees to appear a little more casual than others. In this case, certain business casual attire choices may reduce the amount of time you spend staring at your wardrobe. Let "what to wear?" indecisions end today.

Men's business casual attire

Are you looking to dress a tad bit more comfortably than smart casuals? Then business casual outfits may be able to help. As you read through the attire choices, it will surely intrigue you regarding the amount of experimentation you can do with these outfits.

  • For casual business looks, you pair your average polo t-shirts with khakis or even dress pants. Whatever makes you feel more comfortable is the way to go.
  • Replace your daily suits with sweaters, vests, or jackets. Opt for solid and subtle colors to look presentable.
  • If you are opting for shirts anyway, pair it with a tie to look more dapper.
  • Comfortable leather shoes and a briefcase is how you accessorize when choosing to dress in this style of clothing.

Business casual women's outfits

When dressing in business casuals, the women have the option of dragging out their pretty sweaters and attractive tops from one end of their closet. As the chances of experimenting increase, so does the level of comfort with these women's business outfits.

  • If you desire to look professional, presentable, and confident in your business casuals, then opt for a nice dress pant or pencil skirt with your pretty top or shirt.
  • Pairing your shirt or with a vest or even a sweater isn't such a bad idea. If you look it up, you will actually be creating a statement
  • In case you adore jackets, then opt for some solid yet subtle colors such as blue, black, pink, etc.
  • For shoes, you can choose leather footwear or ballerina flats as per your choice.

Casuals for work

There are certain organizations out there who do not believe in imprisoning employees in formal clothing. For them, casual outfits work as long as the workplace members are dressed appropriately. Such organizations believe that you don't need to look presentable to be qualified to perform a task.

Casual men's attire

As comfort is the only concerning point that you will have to bother with at this point, simply choose to let loose. You can opt to wear almost anything as long as you aren't breaking any dress code rules.

  • When dressing in casuals, simplicity is the key. So put on a pair of jeans or casual trousers along with any shirt or t-shirt. The choice is yours to make.
  • No need to spend your dollars on a suit when throwing on a sweater or vest is just about enough. If your workplace is too casual, then a hoodie may also be an available option.
  • Choose footwear that you are most comfortable with, from sneakers to sandals; it's up to you.

Women's casual attire

For workspaces that allow women to wear what they feel congenial in, you can choose to sport almost any outfit from your closet. You no longer need to bother yourself with buying women's business clothes such as pantsuits or pencil skirts. Just make sure that you adhere to simple appropriation rules, and you should be good to go.

  • Sport your casual pants or jeans along with a smart top or blouse may allow you to appear casual yet confident.
  • In case pants don't seem to appeal to your taste that much, then you can go for skirts as well. However, avoid flairs as they might be a little uncomfortable.
  • Sweatshirts are also an option when dressing casually as they help you to focus more on your work, target, and deadlines rather than how presentable you look.
  • Be it ballerina flats, loafers, sneakers, or even sandals; wear whatever allows you to be an efficient employee.
pexels-photo-3182743.jpeg

Gender-neutral professional dress

"Gender-neutral fashion does not start and end with the masculine for me" – Rae Spoon.

Usually, business attire is quite gender-neutral and doesn’t discriminate on the basis of body type. 

Keep reading to know more about the outfit choices you have in hand under this category.

  • A pair of dress trousers along with a shirt.
  • Polo t-shirt along with trousers and a vest.
  • Your average jeans paired with a shirt or a t-shirt
  • Replacing suits with blazers or jackets.

Trivia

What not to wear to work?

  • Flashy outfits (Stand out but not too much!)
  • Too many accessories (You need to impress them, not blind them!)
  • Animal prints (That’s a bit too much, isn’t it?)
  • Strong cologne
  • Heavy makeup

What each color represents

“Color is a power which directly influences the soul” – Wassily Kandinsky

  • RED

If you are opting to wear red, choose options that aren't too bright. While many may deflect from going for this color, they aren't aware of the statement it can help you create. Wearing red portrays that you are someone who is passionate about their work and is always ready to pursue the impossible.

  • GREEN

Green is also not a color that people often go for. It doesn't appeal to their taste. However, wearing this shade portrays that you are a sophisticated individual who strives for success. You are able to come up with money-making ideas with ease.

  • BLUE

You have probably opted for this option quite a few times as it was the safest color. However, did you know that wearing blue represents confidence and pictures you as a person that can inspire others to work with a zeal for success?

  • BLACK

Love the color black? Then choose to opt for black shirts for your next presentation as it represents sophistication and class. However, try adding some color to your overall look, as too much of it can make you appear depressing.

  • PINK

Want to look warm yet amicable at the same time? Then opt for the color pink. It will allow people to perceive you as an individual with an understanding of human nature who is capable of making decisions with a calm mind.  

  • BROWN

It is always a better option to avoid the color brown when buying shirts or t-shirts. The reason is that this color itself is quite dull.

  • PURPLE

Light shades of purple for your shirt or t-shirt may not be such a bad idea as it represents creativity and intuitiveness. Employees working in creative departments may choose to make a few purple additions to their wardrobe.

  • WHITE

You can never go wrong with white. If you aren't in the mood to experiment, always opt for a white t-shirt or shirt. It represents someone who is simple and clear-minded.

Tips for business attire

  • Try paying close attention to the way people are dressing around you.
  • Always check the company dress code before you decide to show up in something completely unacceptable.
  • If possible, ask your colleagues what you can and cannot wear.
  • Different styles of business attire are always acceptable.

Advantages of wearing business attire

  • Conveys your confidence and zeal to work.
  • Makes you look appropriate and presentable.
  • Helps you create a good impression with hiring managers, colleagues, and superiors.
  • Expresses that you give more priority to work rather than appeal.

What to wear to an interview?

  • Shirts with a proper tie, trousers, and a jacket.
  • Casual trousers with shirts and a vest.
  • For women, you can wear a top with a skirt or trousers.
  • Sweaters, along with jeans and a collared shirt, is also acceptable.

While options for being workspace-appropriate and presentable with your business attire are many, many fail to even be aware of how else they can experiment to appear confident while proving their professionalism. There is a saying, "you are what you wear." So, if you want to be sanguine, you need to look the part. However, remember to always be true to who you are as a person and a professional when dressing for work.

"Beauty began the moment you decided to be yourself" – Coco Chanel.

And that is a subtle yet brilliant piece of career advice, don’t you think?


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