It only takes fifteen seconds to form that first impression, much of which is based on your appearance. In professional settings, your clothing sends a message about you, your organization and your position. The impression you make is critical, especially during first meetings.
- Suits/Dresses - A suit or tailored dress is the most professional attire. Choosing a conservative, classic style is a versatile and good investment. The best choice is a pure wool or wool-blended suit in black, navy or charcoal gray. Single-breasted styles are more conservative.
- Color/Pattern - Build your professional wardrobe around a neutral color.
- Shirts - Wear traditional cotton or cotton-blended shirts with long sleeves and straight or buttoned colors. White and light blue are recommended for interviews. Be sure to iron your shirt.
- Shoes - Make sure your shoes are clean, polished, and comfortable. The best shoes for interviews are either leather or simulated leather lace-up shoes, or closed-toed pumpls, with heels no higher than three inches. Choose dark colors like black or dark brown. If you're wearing a belt, your shoe color should match. Dress socks should match the color of your pants and reach mid-calf.
- Ties - Choose a silk tie with a solid color, a classic pattern such as stripes, or repetitive patterns in dark colors. The tie should just reach your belt buckle.
- Accessories - Coordinate handbags, belts and scarves with your outfit and choose neutral colors to coordinate with many outfits.
- Jewelry - Avoid dangling earrings, multiple rings and noisy bracelets. Choose small and simple jewelry that doesn't distract. Watches, wedding rings and conservative rings are appropriate. Remove facial jewelry.
- Hair - Go for clean, neat and controlled. Long hair should be pulled away from your face. A short, conservative hair style is the most professional.
- Nails - Aim for short and well-groomed. If wearing polish, use a neutral or clear shade.
- Makeup - Use a natural look that enhances your appearance, nothing too heavy.
- Grooming - Be sure your hair, nails and any facial hair are clean and well-groomed.
Business professional, business casual, casual Fridays, casual everyday. With so many different guidelines, it's no wonder there is confusion about what is appropriate to wear in professional work settings today. There is no longer one right answer to dressing for success. Many organizations now promote their casual work environment as a benefit to attract today's college graduates. At the same time, some organizations have had to set a stricter standards for the new casual dress code because they found that employees were taking the term casual to the extreme. So how do you as a young professional just entering the workforce find a happy medium between the gray pin stripe suit and your favorite pair of sweats? Follow these guidelines and you'll soon be on your way to dressing down with style.
General Guidelines for Business Casual
- Break out that ironing board because neatness still counts.
- Casual clothes should be clean and pressed, never sloppy.
- Business casual does not mean sportswear. You should still look like a professional.
- Use the couch potato test. If you would lie on the couch watching television for an hour in what you are wearing then it probably does not meet the definition of business casual.
- Business casual means more casual fabric choices. Cotton, linen, corduroy, rayon, and even denim can be appropriate.
- You will have a wider range of choices when it comes to color and pattern, but avoid being to bold or flashy.
- Ties are an individual touch and can still be worn in a business casual environment. There are a variety of nontraditional patterns and solids that can be worn with casual button down shirts that are solid or striped or that have a subtle pattern.
- Shoes should always be clean and polished, but choose a less conservative style like a loafer or plain oxford in leather or suede. Gym shoes are not usually acceptable for a professional setting so find out the guidelines in your office before making this choice.
- Khakis and corduroys are a good choices for slacks.
- Whether or not jeans are allowed, you may be able to incorporate denim into your outfit in other ways. Try a denim shirt, dress, or skirt. The darker the denim the more professional the look.
- While a suit or sport coat and tie were considered essential at one time, business casual has opened up many more possibilities. Try button-down shirts in stripes, checks, plaids, and denim, polo-style shirts, sweaters, turtlenecks, and vests. You can wear a tie with no sport coat or wear a sport coat with no tie.
- Wear a belt with slacks for the most polished appearance.
- Rather than a matched suit, separates are the way to go for a casual look.
- Slacks or skirt? Either is appropriate.
- Skirts can be a variety of lengths, just no shorter than right above the knee. Style and pattern are a matter of choice.
- Slacks range from khakis on the casual end to wool or wool blend on the dressier side. Choose solids, pin-stripes, tweeds, or glen plaid.