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Dress for Success: Navigating Workplace Dress Codes For Your Success

Picture source : Deskimo

Dressing for work can be tricky, whether you’re in the office or working remotely. Every office has a different dress code and culture, and the rise of remote and hybrid work brought about by the pandemic has accelerated changes and norms. Even if your internship has a dress code, it may not be up to date with fashion and social views, which always makes it difficult to know what to wear. Most experts agree that dressing more comfortably, with less formality, is a good thing. The good news is that building a work wardrobe doesn't have to be complicated or expensive.

If you ask someone what the dress code at their office is, they’ll generally give you one of four dress codes: business professional, business casual, smart casual or casual. This guide is designed to help you navigate dressing for your professional environment, how to gain confidence in asking for help and how to build a work-ready wardrobe.

Business Professional

Business professionals wear the "classic" style of dressing to work: vest and tie. This dress code is characterized by its conservative character. Keep it simple and don't think too much about it. Experts' expectations are the most standard: wherever you go, the expectations are generally the same:

  • Charcoal or navy suits (pant suits or skirt suits) where the jacket matches the pants/skirt

  • Button down shirts (always tucked in for a clean look)

  • A necktie, bowtie or some other simple accessory

  • Dress shoes, black or brown (depending on your suit)

This dress code is aimed at simplicity so there is no need to buy a large number of clothes. Get an outfit or two and build around that. Buy a few matching button-down shirts, tights (if you're wearing a skirt) and a pair of dress shoes to match your suit. Taking care of business attire can be time consuming and expensive. This dress code isn't very common and probably won't be an everyday requirement, but it can be recommended for special occasions (like big events or important meetings). Formal business is the next step on the professional level: just apply the same principles you apply to professionals, but keep it as clear and simple as possible. It's time to pick out the best clothes you own.

Business Casual

One of the most common dress codes among American workers is the wardrobe you might associate with all your favorite work comedies (“The Office,” “Parks and Recreation.”). For the professional commuter, it's best to keep this dress code simple but it allows you more freedom in mixing things up. This is also the most difficult to set up as it varies a lot depending on the workplace. Start simple and adjust as you get a feel for your new workspace.

  • Dress pants or skirts

  • Professional dresses

  • Professional shirts and sweaters

  • Nice shoes or loafers

  • Neckties usually optional

Casual style is right there from the name, so you may not need to go to the department store to find nice outfits to wear to work. You can get a few timeless pieces that go well together. Casual office style helps you express yourself in a professional wardrobe. Patterned or printed shirts, pants, fun colors, stylish accessories, a sport jacket or blazer can all elevate your work attire. There are also more comfortable yet professional shoe options available for all genders that can make your feet walk or work your day easier. As always, make sure you get the hang of things before getting too crazy!

Smart Casual

Smart casual is the least “defined” of the four basic dress codes. There are no hard and fast rules, it's more about feeling "dressed" to work without special clothing. Don't be afraid to dress up often at the office, especially for large meetings or important events. The key to this is to have a "casual" look and dress to look more professional.

  • Dark jeans or casual pants

  • Dresses and skirts

  • Untucked shirts and more casual sweaters

  • Nice shoes

For this, it's best to just take your current wardrobe and spruce it up a bit. Choose the cleanest, simplest clothes and add a few touches to elevate them. Pair your jeans with business shoes, wear a sport jacket over a regular button-down, add some nicer shirts or pants to pair with your casual clothes.


The minimal-to-no-dress-code dress code, casual is exactly what it sounds like: come as you are! The trick here is to find the line between being comfortable and being too comfortable. Normal means different things in different offices, so always remember to ask if you're unsure. A casual workplace makes it easy to stand out if you want to impress. But make sure you really get the hang of it before you start overdressing: it can make people uncomfortable if you start appearing in a suit while everyone else is wearing shorts.

  • Jeans or casual pants

  • Dresses and skirts

  • Comfortable shoes

  • T-shirts, hoodies and button-down shirts

It is the most popular wardrobe; you don't need to buy anything special or new to match your new office. Just make sure that all the clothes you wear are snug and clean. The most important part of this dress code is making sure you don't go overboard in your casual wear. If you're planning on mixing things up, dress modestly on certain days of the week or wear your favorite outfit to help you feel more confident during the day.

Source : The Washington Center

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