What to Wear at Work – Cracking the Office Dress Code

Search with Ctrl + F Last updated: 2022-08-14

Whether you’re planning for an interview or starting a new job, knowing what to wear at work can be a challenge even for the most fashion conscious among us.   Today’s flexible,  trendy and digital work environments pose a particular challenge as many people are no longer working in a traditional office setting, so the question is often posed as to whether a dress code is even necessary at all?

So how do you know how to dress appropriately as work environments continue to evolve?  The folks at T.M. Lewin have created an infographic on how to cut through the clutter and crack the dress codes of today so that you can arrive at work both confident and fashionable from head to toe, no matter what work environment you are in.  The infographic below discusses the five business dress types and when it’s appropriate to wear them:

Business Formal – Whenever you need to impress, such as going for an important interview, always dress in business formal clothing.  Women looking to dress smarter and sharper should choose a trouser suit or a conservative length skirt in a neutral, dark color. This can be accompanied by a white collared dress shirt as shown as shown here, modest accessories, dark tights and neutral colored closed toe heels. For men, a two or three piece suit in neutral dark colors with a white or plain shirt is recommended.  You could match this with a solid colored unflashy tie and some accessories such cuff links or a watch.

Business Professional – Dressing in business professional is recommended for meetings with important new customers or giving client presentations.   Business professional for women can be a conservative length skirt in modest colors matched with a solid color top or blouse. Dark or nude tights with neutral colored closed toe heels is recommended. Business formal for men is always dark colored suits in subtle conservative patterns or pressed suit trousers paired with a matching jacket. Accompany the suit with a formal shirt in traditional patterns with a brightly colored or conservative patterned tie as shown here. T.M. Lewin recommends avoiding dressing more than 1 level up from your office dress code to avoid being overdressed.

Business Casual – Business casual is one of the more common, every day dress styles for the office or casual off-site events. T.M. Lewin recommends dressing in business casual even if you work from home as this will not only help get you into work mode but you will always be prepared for that unexpected video conference call.  Business casual for women involves dressing in skirts or trouser suits accompanied with blouses in solid colors or subtle patterns.  Closed toe heel shoes, flats or loafers and use of more casual jewelry is recommended.  Men could wear suit trousers with formal shirts in any color and pullovers with collared shirts. Ties are optional.

Small Business Casual – Every small business  is different when it comes to dress code and often times you may have to wear many hats when working for a small company.  Therefore, having the flexibility and wardrobe to alternate between dress levels may be required.  Generally speaking though, small business casual for women allows for a more casual dress style and even fabrics such as cotton or dark denim accompanied with blouses in a variety of colors and patterns are appropriate.  It is not recommended that men wear jeans unless explicitly stated such as on designated casual days. Even if denim is okay at your company, T.M. Lewin recommends sticking to dark colors, as shown in the infographic below, and straight legged styles.

Creative – Sometimes the way you dress at work depends less on the company you work for but more on the particular department or office environment you work in.  For example, if you work in an engineering or research and development department, the dress style may be extremely casual and you may have more leeway to wear your most casual of clothes. On the other extreme, if you work in a sales and marketing department where you are interfacing with customers on a regular basis, you will spend most of your days wearing your business professional outfits.  It’s best to take note of what the majority of other employees are wearing, notes T.M. Lewin,  but that doesn’t mean you can’t be creative, stylish and trendy according to your own particular personality and style.

Infographic courtesy of T.M. Lewin.