Dress for Success: The Ultimate Guide to Professional Dressing

Dress for Success interviewing girl

When you’ve got a job or internship interview, or even a class presentation, you probably have enough to stress about. Ideally you want to focus and channel your energy into your work and preparation, not obsessing about the way you look or what you’re wearing. Have no fear, we’re here to help you dress for success! There are definitely do’s and don’ts to professional dressing. Keep these handy tips in your back pocket when you’re getting ready for that big interview or presentation and you’re sure to rock it like a #girlboss.

Dress for Success Option #1: Business Professional

For interviews in particular, when not specified, dressing business professional is always your safest option. This usually entails a full business suit, in a subtle color, with minimal accessorization. We all have chunky necklaces and pairs of dangly earrings that we’re attached to, but for professional environments, they’re usually not your best bet. If you want to accessorize, wear stud earrings, a simple wristwatch, and a string of pearls.

As far as your actual outfit goes, business professional generally includes a black, grey, or navy pant or skirt suit, with a conservative blouse or shell underneath. This means tops that are fitted,  not low-cut or revealing, and aren’t flashy or overly patterned. The best kinds of shoes are likewise simple black or navy flats or heels. I personally prefer heels, I feel like the boost in height and click-clack of them give me some extra confidence!

Moderately priced suits, shells, and shoes can be found at department stores. Even though it might make you feel like the 1950s, hose seal the look when you’re rocking a business professional skirt suit. They give your legs a polished look, make your heels more comfortable, and are super cheap at most drugstores. They reap so many benefits to complete your ensemble!

When you dress business professional, you should end up looking something like this: Rocking our blazers, pencil skirts, shells, hose, and heels! As a bonus, we’re power posing to get in the zone!
Dress for Success Formal

Dress for Success Option #2: Business Casual

A lot of interviews, and even jobs themselves, will specify that they want you to dress business casual. This is especially relevant to startup companies and small companies, who pride themselves on not being corporate environments full of perfectly dry-cleaned suits. When you dress business casual, you can ditch the blazer, hose, and shell. Instead, pair your pencil skirt or suit slacks with a colorful or patterned blouse, statement necklace, and pair of heels or flats. You still want to look professional and put-together, but you don’t have to aim as subdued or conservative. You can be a little more vibrant and funky looking, and likely more in tune with your personal style!

Don’t mistake “business casual” for simply “casual.” You can definitely dress a little more loosely and incorporate a wider range of colors, bolder accessories, and some more comfortable footwear. Avoid wearing things like jeans or flip-flops. Save that for hanging out with friends or just going to class. When you dress business casual, you should end up looking something like this:
 rocking sweaters with pencil skirts, some statement jewelry, and flats.

Dress for Success Casual

Dress for Success Option #3: Everything in Between

If you have to give a class presentation or attend a school conference of some sort, the last thing your nervous self wants to do is be itching in a pencil skirt. For these kinds of events, you don’t need to dress business professional or casual, a simple dress or slacks and a nice top will do the trick. Again, you don’t want to venture into anything low-cut or revealing, nothing that could be deemed as inappropriate, but for stuff like this, you have a lot of flexibility. Put your personality into it, and wear what makes you feel comfortable, confident, and happy. Those are really the only rules! Below is a picture of me in an outfit I recently wore to present a PowerPoint to a 200 person lecture class! I felt great in it:
Dress for Success Business

Dressing for success shouldn’t be complicated. Hopefully this guide can help make it fun, accessible, and most importantly, you. Go get ‘em, girl!