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How to Dress Professional: What It Is and Why It's Important

Posted by Glassdoor Team

Career Advice Experts

Last Updated June 29, 2021

Guide Overview

What does it mean to dress professionally?When should you dress professionally?How to dress professional for men vs. womenTips for dressing professionallyBusiness professional attire vs. business casual attire

Guide Overview

Dressing professionally in the workplace

Dressing appropriately for a job interview, a networking event, or the first day in a new position is an important part of making a good impression and coming off as professional as possible. Dressing professionally often refers to a more formal workplace dress code and is most often seen and required in more traditional organizations. When it comes to job interviews, professional dress is the standard no matter what the company's overall dress code may be.

Here we explore what it means to dress professionally and why it's important, when you should dress professionally, tips for choosing the best outfits for this type of dress, and the difference between business professional attire and business casual attire.

What does it mean to dress professionally?

Dressing professionally often refers to a type of dress code that’s more formal than business casual or casual attire. This type of dress code is most often seen in traditional office settings like those in finance, accounting, and government organizations. This type of attire is also often expected at formal networking events, job fairs, and job interviews unless otherwise noted by the company.

There are several reasons why you should dress professionally, including that it:

  • Helps you make a good first impression on the job interviewer or networking professionals.
  • Can increase your self confidence by allowing you to come off as professional and confident.
  • Promotes respect from others.
  • Can improve your motivation and productivity in the workplace by encouraging you to get more things done.
  • Gives you a competitive edge over other candidates. Many hiring managers believe that how someone dresses directly affects their job and promotion potential.

When should you dress professionally?

There are several instances in which you should dress professionally, including when:

  • Attending more formal networking events.
  • Going to a job interview, unless specifically told otherwise by the hiring manager or recruiter.
  • Working in a traditional workplace setting that requires business professional attire.
  • Participating in meetings with clients or other outside individuals who are not part of your organization.
  • Making a formal presentation.
  • Ensuring you look professional when you’re unsure of the dress code of an event or interview.
  • Matching other individuals in your workplace who regularly wear business professional attire.
  • Participating in a video conference meeting or interview.
  • Attending a company event.
  • Attending a business dinner or lunch with a client.

If you’re unsure of the dress code for an interview or when starting a new job, consider reaching out to the human resources department of the company and inquiring about the preferred attire for that organization. This will ensure you dress appropriately and don’t under or overdress.

Learn more: What to Wear to An Interview

How to dress professional for men vs. women

Here are some attire examples for men to dress professionally:

  • One- or two-button suits with matching pants and jacket.
  • Collared long-sleeve shirts that are neatly pressed and paired with a simple solid, striped, or patterned tie.
  • Collared short-sleeve shirts with a sports jacket.
  • Dark or light slacks.
  • Dark dress shoes.
  • Oxford dress shoes.
  • Slip-on loafers.
  • Simple belts.
  • Minimum jewelry.
  • Socks that match the color of your slacks and shoes and come to mid-calf.
  • A well-groomed haircut.
  • Cuff links.
  • Neutral and simple belts.

The following are examples of business professional attire for women:

  • Business suits with a skirt and blazer.
  • Blouses that are not sleeveless.
  • Conservative professional dresses that reach at least the knee.
  • Slacks.
  • Low high heel shoes.
  • Flats.
  • Pumps.
  • Pantyhose or tights.
  • Minimal jewelry.
  • Collared button-down shirts.

Here are a few wardrobe items that are typically not acceptable in business professional settings:

  • Jeans.
  • Tank tops.
  • Shorts.
  • T-shirts.
  • Mini skirts.
  • Flip-flops.
  • Sandals.
  • Sneakers.
  • Oversized clothing.
  • Too-tight clothing.
  • Large or gaudy pieces of jewelry.
  • Casual dresses.
  • Polo shirts.

Learn more: Best Colors To Wear In A Job Interview

Tips for dressing professionally

Here are a few tips to keep in mind when choosing a business professional outfit:

  • Always opt for longer rather than shorter dresses and skirts.
  • Cover any visible tattoos if possible.
  • Do not wear body or facial piercings.
  • Choose jewelry and accessories that work with your outfit rather than those that are distracting.
  • Always wear clothing that is pressed and clean.
  • Choose clothes that are well-fitted and avoid wearing too-tight or too-loose attire.
  • Wear shoes that are polished and clean.
  • Wear your hair in a conservative style and a natural hair color.
  • Avoid wearing clothes that are transparent or revealing.
  • Wear tops that come to at least your biceps if you’re unsure if sleeveless blouses are allowed.
  • Avoid wearing strong perform or don’t wear any perfume.
  • Opt for neutral colors whenever possible.
  • Keep nails manicured, neat, and color them in a neutral nail polish if at all.
  • Wear natural or light makeup.
  • Choose quality over quantity when it comes to accessories.
  • Always consider what message your outfit is sending before wearing it.
  • Wear clothes that you feel confident in to avoid distraction or feeling uncomfortable while at work or in an interview.

Business professional attire vs. business casual attire

There are a few key differences between business professional attire and business casual attire. These differences include:

  • Business casual attire is most often seen in more relaxed work environments, such as tech companies and modern organizations, while business professional attire is a staple in most traditional organizations.
  • Business casual attire allows for more freedom of expression and gives employees the opportunity to show off their unique flare, while business professional attire does not.
  • Business casual attire is typically less expensive than business professional attire.
  • Business casual attire is typically more comfortable compared to business professional clothing.
  • Business casual attire often allows for more colorful clothing, while business professional attire typically requires neutral or solid colors and prints.

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