Every office has a dress code, and this dress code often goes from formal to casual depending on the occupation you find yourself in or your level at your company. In case you missed it during orientation, you should ask your office HR what the office dress code is so you don’t commit fashion blunders that may be fatal to your career.
Basically, there are four common dress codes applied through all professions – business formal, business professional, business casual, and casual. We’ll be going through what each one means and general tips for men and women in each category so you can dress appropriately.
From the title, you can probably tell this is the most “serious” category of office dress codes. Usually, this will apply mostly to people who work in law, have to meet top executives regularly, and/or hold a high-level position at the office. .
For a business formal setting, men will most likely be required to wear a tailored one-, two-, or three-button suit in a solid, neutral color like black, gray, or navy with collared, button-up shirts in white or pastel colors. Ties and accessories should be solid, brighter colors, or patterned neutrals. Preferred shoes are closed-toe oxfords in brown or black. Ouch has a lot of great suits that are appropriate for a man who is required to dress for a business formal environment, like the one on the left.
When dressing for a business formal environment, women should wear a well-cut pantsuit or skirt suit in neutral colors like black, navy, or brown with button-up blouses in pastel colors. Skirts should never be more than two inches above the knee, and sometimes you may be required to wear tights/leggings beneath them.Preferred shoes are closed-toe heels in neutral colors like taupe, black, grey, or brown.
This is a subtle but noticeable step down from the business formal look. Dressing is still very neat, conservative, and traditional, but there is a little more freedom where it comes to colors and patterns.You can inject a little bit of personality into your professional appearance with your accessories and color choices. People who work in finance and accounting are more prone to be required to dress this way.
You still have to wear a one- or two-button suit in a conservative color, but you can choose to wear something with a pattern like stripes or check. In lieu of a suit, you can opt to wear light-colored dress pants with a sports jacket. You still can’t wear novelty ties, but you can play with more colors and patterns on your collared, button-up shirts.And, you can wear oxfords or polished loafers as long as the colors are conservative.
In a business professional environment, women may wear a skirt, shirts and blouses in any solid color, and a jacket as opposed to a full pants or skirt suit. Conservative colors still apply though. Because this dress code allows you inject a little bit more of your personality into your outfit, you can wear more noticeable jewelry – as long as it doesn’t distract you or your colleagues from work.
As business is taking a more creative shift, a lot more companies are implementing the business casual dress code. You still have to look professional, but you don’t necessarily have to wear a suit or jacket and tie.
More freedom applies in when choosing colors and patterns of shirts, but they still have to be collared and button-up; ties are optional. Instead of a blazer or suit, you can wear a sweater over your shirt. Colors and patterns should be solid and conservative. Bottoms can be dress pants or pressed khakis and your shoes should be dressy but comfortable.
Goodbye, suits, hello separates! You can wear pants or a skirt with a sweater or colored shits and blouses. Just make sure your blouses aren’t low-cut or distracting. Solid colors and muted patterns work best. You can also wear slacks and khakis, statement jewelry, and scarves.Those who aren’t huge fans of heels will be pleased to know you can wear flats and loafers – still closed-toe though.
In my office, we call this ‘casual but covered’. Your office HR may let you know exactly what is acceptable and what isn’t, but the general idea is to be comfortable without looking completely unprofessional. This means no revealing blouses, or bum shorts and no baggy trousers ans singlets. Although, what is okay to wear varies from office to office.
Bottoms are casual pants, slacks, or jeans, depending on what HR says is okay to wear. In the event that you can wear jeans to the office, it should be straight-cut. For shirts, you can wear polos, crew neck sweaters, and sometimes even t-shirts in a majority of colors and patterns. And sneakers are just as acceptable as loafers and dress shoes, provided they are clean.
For women, you should basically avoid outfits that are too tight and/or too revealing. You can wear more fabrics and colors, and more types of shoes as long as they aren’t slippers and still make your outfit look neat. You also have more leeway in terms of the accessories you wear.
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