Your Guide to Professional Attire

Professional attireYou have the training and skills, you’ve updated your resume and now you’re looking for a job or maybe a promotion at work. Next step, upgrade your look. Are you dressing for the job you want? Do you look the part? If you want to be noticed, you need to dress for the job you want.

Dressing for the job you want not only sends a message to those around you, it impacts how you feel about yourself. When you look good, you feel better about yourself and that shows in your self-confidence.

Dressing for the job you want shows that you are professional and ready for more responsibility. Think about how you perceive others. Does how they look make a difference in how you treat them? Employers and recruiters recommend dressing professionally to get ahead at work.


What is professional dress

Appropriate professional dress will depend on the workplace. There are different levels of acceptable office attire ranging from very conservative to casual. It will depend on the position and industry you are working in.

If you are looking for a promotion at your current employer, pay attention to how your manager and her peers dress. You will want to dress similarly.

If you are going to be interviewing for jobs, look at what is appropriate for the industry and dress one level up. It is better to be a little overdressed than under-dressed. Interviews should be a step more formal.

Basic types of dress you will see include: business professional dress

  • Business professional (or business formal) will require a matching suit for either men or women. This is the most conservative level. Men should wear a dark suit with a white shirt and tie. Women should wear a slacks or skirt suit with a blouse. Think power suit. If you are working in the legal field or as a financial professional, chances are you’ll be wearing suits.
  • Business casual has the widest possible range. It can vary from workplace to workplace. Business casual still means professional and conservative, but  more relaxed than business professional. It generally means mixing more formal business pieces with less formal pieces. You can wear sweaters, shirts or blouses rather than a suit jacket. Dress slacks will be expected for men. Women can include dress slacks, skirts or dresses in their work wardrobe.
  • Casual work is the most similar to your everyday dress. While it means that jeans are appropriate, leave the gym wear at home (unless you are working in a gym). You still want to look professional – clean, modest and put together.
  • Uniforms make it easy for you. You know what you need to get and will always look prepared and appropriate.

The earlier you choose a career field, the sooner you will have an idea what type of work clothes you will need.



Building your work wardrobe

Now that you know that you need work clothes and what type you need, you probably want to know how to get it without breaking the bank. It is a process and an investment, but the key is to start with basics and build from there. If you can start building your wardrobe while you are still in school, you can spread the cost over a longer period of time. Keep your eyes open for sales and pick up a piece at a time.

Whether you need business professional or business casual attire, invest in dark colored basics for suits, slacks, skirts and jackets. You can’t go wrong with navy, black and gray. A white button down shirt is another necessity. If you find one that fits great, buy two.

When buying shoes, make sure they are comfortable for the job you will be doing. If you are on your feet a lot, comfort will be a necessity. Black is a neutral that will go with everything. For women, stick with a modest heel, not more than three inches. Flats can also work if you are not a fan of heels.

Invest as much as you can in your key pieces. Shoes and suits can last for a long time if they are good quality.


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Don’t forget to plan for that first impression when you are looking for a job, want a promotion or are meeting clients. Investing in your professional look will help you reach your career goals.