Professional Attire

What is Professional Attire?

A poor first impression is a difficult obstacle to overcome. Proper professional (business formal) attire is critical to creating a great first impression, and it can play an important role in your career progression. Likewise, dressing in proper professional attire at business events and meetings can give you an edge with decision makers, whether you are trying to climb the corporate ladder or create new professional opportunities.

In short, professional attire is still the ever classic suit and, according to various surveys conducted, it remains the most appropriate choice for business events and meetings.

Business Formal

  • A conservative, well-fitting skirt or pant suit in dark blue, black, gray, pinstripe, or dark brown
  • A professionally laundered and conservative blouse or dress shirt and matching tie
  • and natural colored hosiery
  • Shoes should be traditional business style, such as closed toe, closed heel conservative pumps or shined dress shoes
  • Hair should be neatly groomed with long hair pulled up or back
  • Freshly shaven face with hair that is recently trimmed
  • Moderate conservative and non-distracting jewelry
  • Minimal make-up (applied for daytime standards)

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What is Business Casual?

Business casual can be confusing for a lot of people. It is not a business suit, but it is not jeans and a t-shirt either. Instead, it is somewhere in between and, depending on your company’s policies, it can vary. There are certain times when business casual would be appropriate and it is best to follow the guidelines set forth by the company or based on the type of event.  If you are unsure, it is always best to ask the sponsor or host of the event what is the expected attire.

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Business Casual

  • Neatly pressed casual pants (khakis) or skirts (knee length) in solid with darker colors preferred (black, gray, navy, brown and khaki). If wearing a skirt, it is recommended to wear hose (note: this is determined by location or venue and climate).
  • Shirts/blouses should be tailored to fit with no undergarments/cleavage showing. The shirt can be long-sleeved or short sleeved with a collar (long-sleeved shirts can appear more conservative). Polo shirts are acceptable in most business casual situations.
  • Ties are optional for collared shirts (lean towards a conservative tie).
  • The outfit should not be too tight or too loose and a skirt should not be too short or revealing.
  • Complement the outfit with a sweater or use sweater sets that are appropriate for business casual occasions. A structured blazer can also compliment the look, but not required.
  • Shoes should be closed toe and closed heel conservative shoes, however this can be inclusive of sandals that are classy and conservative. Shoes should be in good repair and can be comfortable, but not flip flops or athletic shoes.
  • Hair should be clean and neatly groomed with a freshly shaven face.
  • Moderate conservative, non-distracting jewelry and minimal make-up (applied for daytime standards).
  • Check socks in bright daylight to be sure they are a matching pair. Socks, shoes and belt should match in color.

What Not to Wear

These are items to steer clear of in any business situation or at any business-related event. As a general rule, choose a style that is tailored and classic and you will do just fine.

As a general rule do not wear...

  • Clothing that does not fit properly or clothing that is wrinkled
  • Strong perfume or cologne, but always wear deodorant
  • Distracting jewelry or accessories
  • Attire that exposes visible tattoos or piercings
  • Clothing that smells of smoke
  • Clothing that is too much of anything (e.g. too loose, too revealing, too tight, etc..) – at the end of the day, it is just too much
  • Clothing or shoes that are in disrepair
  • Ripped or oversized jeans, sweatpants, or shorts
  • Clothing that shows or exposes undergarments
  • Hats
  • Muscle shirts, tank tops or any shirt that is too tight