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According to thabalancecareers.com,
A dress code is a set of standards that companies develop to help provide their employees with guidance about what is appropriate to wear to work.
Every company will have a workplace dress code policy, even if the company says they don’t (ie a casual environment). During the interview or offer stage, make sure to ask about the dress code so you can be prepared. A good rule of thumb for trying to estimate formality is thinking about what the company does. A bank or law firm will most likely have a formal dress code because banking and legal services are pretty formal in nature. A startup or tech company will probably have a more relaxed, business casual dress code (since those companies are known for being a little more “chill”).
This could also be called boardroom attire, since it’s usually worn when meeting with executives or clients. Some good choices for a business formal outfit could be:
- Skirt suits or pantsuits with a jacket and formal blouse or top. Note: skirts should not be more than two finger widths above the knee
- Closed toed heels (not too high)
- Neutral colors like black, beige, navy, or grey
- Tights or pantyhose
- Minimal or conservative jewelry like diamond studs or a pearl necklace
A little bit less formal, business professional is also called traditional business. While it’s a step below formal, it’s almost the same as formal, but you can play around with some colors or patterns. Some examples of this dress code could be:
- A suit, a skirt and blouse, and a jacket
- Slacks and a nice button up top
- Tights or pantyhose
- Closed or open toed heels or flats
- Colors like black, brown, navy, grey, or red
- Larger jewelry, like a chunky necklace or small hoops
Smart casual has a confusing name but don’t worry, we’ll break it down for you. Suits are no longer required, but you’re still expected to look put together. Examples of smart casual include:
- Slacks, a skirt, or dress
- A jacket, blazer, or sweater
- A blouse, turtleneck, button up top, or shirt in various colors and patterns
- Heels, dress shoes, or flats
- “Fun” yet appropriate accessories like scarves and jewelry
One of the most common dress codes, business casual still requires some professionalism but offers more comfort and ability to have your own style. Examples include:
- Nice pants (khakis maybe), skirts, or dresses. Nice jeans may also be acceptable (check with HR)
- Blouses, tops, vests, polos, and sweaters in colors and patterns
- Dress shoes or flats
- Fun jewelry, scarves, belts
The most laid back attire you’ve got. You can wear:
- Casual pants or jeans
- Blouses, tops, sweaters, t-shirts, and sweatshirts
- Athletic wear (more “athleisure”)
- Casual shoes like converse or sandals
If you work somewhere with a job specific dress code, that means you have pieces of clothing that are required, probably for safety or uniformity. For example, my father needs nonslip shoes and scrubs when he works in the hospital. My friend has to wear her hair up and a lab coat when she works in the lab. When I worked in manufacturing, I had to wear PPE (personal protective equipment) when I was on the floor. Your employer should provide or at least let you know where to get your job specific pieces.
“Dress For Your Day”
This is a dress code policy that is becoming increasing popular. While it really isn’t its own dress code, but a blend of a few dress codes, don’t get tripped up. Be smart and realistic about what your day entails. If you’re just sitting at the office all day writing reports, a casual dress could be perfect. If there’s a chance you could be meeting with clients, maybe a business professional dress is better.
A final note: if you’re ever unsure about what to wear the first day, always be overdressed instead of underdressed. Being overdressed shows you care about the job enough to “dress up” and you’ll make a good impression.
Be on the lookout for more articles from the Women at Work Series in the future. Have a question you’d like to see covered with an article? Connect with us or reach out to Sierra on social media.