How to Dress: A Guide for Corporate Attire and Apparel
In all first meetings, whether it is casual or business, a person’s looks play a large part in forming the initial impression about them. This goes far beyond just clothing and includes grooming and unconscious body language. Impressions formed by the first few glances of a person impact thoughts about their personality, diligence and intelligence. First impressions tend to last a while and can be hard to shake off. When it comes to work and business, it definitely pays to find out about the company’s culture and dress code and determine how people at your level dress. A tip for dressing for job interviews is to dress as one would for a client meeting: a little more formally than day-to-day business wear. This will help project an attitude of confidence and professionalism.
General Dress Guidelines and Tips
- Clothing and accessories should be neat, smart and subtle. This also applies to hairstyle and perfume. Do not let the interviewer be sidetracked by showy apparel. They should be paying attention to your answers to their questions.
- Hairstyles should be chosen to be well-groomed and tidy. Don’t use a style that allows hair to hang in front of your face as the constant brushing away motions can be distracting.
- Any visible piercings should be removed, including tongue piercings.
- Cover any tattoos either with clothing or with concealer makeup.
- Clothing should be laundered and ironed. Always make sure that it fits properly and that adjustments are not needed when sitting, walking or leaning over.
- Research clothing suitable for business environments and request feedback from people who have some authority to comment on such styles.
- For the first week or two, observe what other employees generally wear to get an overall impression of the dress code. Watch out for some who may tend to ignore the dress code though. If in doubt, use simple but stylish pieces.
Dress Tips for Men
- A suit in shades of black, gray or dark blue, in either a solid color or with pinstripes is acceptable for formal business-wear.
- The shirt should be a light color or a crisp white when the suit is dark. The sleeves of the shirt and blazer should reach the wrist. Do not roll up shirtsleeves as it can be viewed as informal.
- Ties should be made of silk or a similar material and can include a color and print which provide an attractive contrast when viewed against the shirt and blazer. Stay away from loud patterns, cartoon characters and novelty prints.
- Choose socks to match the color of the pants or shoes. They should reach around the height of the calf. Socks made from natural materials will aid in wicking away excess moisture.
- Shoes should be somewhat formal and always cleaned with a good shoe polish. When unsure, choose black leather shoes with laces since they can easily go with most styles.
- The style of the belt should compliment the material and style of the shoes.
- Keep haircuts short and well maintained, and always shave any facial hair.
- Jewelry for men should generally be limited to one ring on each hand at most, and a formal style watch. Avoid earrings and necklaces. A necklace with a religious symbol should be tucked inside the shirt so as not to be visible.
- Wear a long formal wear coat over the suit. This can normally be omitted in summer.
- Choose a light and fresh body spray. For colognes, either use a light variety in a small amount or none at all. Make sure that the fragrance is not overpowering and test it out a day before the interview by asking for someone’s feedback.
- The briefcase should complement the overall look. Choose a smart case or portfolio in a dark color.
Dress Tips for Women
- A suit with a skirt or pants, or a business dress is acceptable for women’s business wear.
- Skirts should normally fall to the knees but can also be just a little bit above or below. Make sure that the skirt is not too tight or that it does not feature a high slit. If the skirt is see-through, wear a slip underneath.
- When wearing a skirt or pants, the top layer should be a well-tailored buttoned shirt or sweater. Do not choose a top that is too tight, low-cut or see-through. The color and pattern of the top should be subtle and complimentary. Avoid garish colors.
- When wearing a skirt, always wear stockings underneath. Stockings should not feature any print but they may be sheer to some degree. Black, grey or a skin-colored pair is acceptable. Bring along an extra pair as a backup if the original stockings tear.
- Choose a light perfume in small amounts or a fresh body spray. Avoid heavy, floral perfumes.
- Makeup should be a light and neutral daytime look. Keep nails well trimmed and glossed with a clear or light polish.
- Carry either a handbag or a briefcase, but not both.
- Shoes should be flat or with low heels. Make sure to clean them in advance. Avoid very high heels or shoes that are difficult to walk in, and also refrain from choosing sandals and evening shoes with open toes.
- Accessories, such as scarves or belts, should be simple and chosen to compliment the look.
- Keep the jewelry simple and reasonable. A single modest stud or small hoop on each ear is normally acceptable for women. A classic necklace or a simple ring and watch can complete the look. Take care not to wear too much jewelry.
Dressing on a Budget
- Shop in advance and set a budget. Don’t get sidetracked when shopping and keep in mind that items purchased should look professional and ideally compliment each other.
- Try to find pieces that can work in several different outfits or that can be combined for professional and casual business looks.
- Determine which neutral color suits you best, but also be careful not to only purchase items in that color. Look for other colors that complement and contrast.
- Find different styles of shirts or blouses that can offer a subtle variety in your look. For example, pinstripes on a man’s shirt, or an understated ruffle on a woman’s blouse can add interest to the outfit.
- Purchase ties, belts, scarves and pieces of jewelry to brighten up an outfit.
- Look for a few items that work well in any season, such as a light wool blazer.
Doing Your Research
A general rule of thumb is to always dress slightly above the position that you are currently in or one that you may be interviewed for. Most company websites or human resources departments will be able to offer some insight into the dress code. When transferring to a new field or industry, consult employment agencies, professionals or even friends and family who may be knowledgeable. Most customer service industries such as insurance, banking and law require more formal dress than creative fields like IT, advertising, design or sales. Despite these differences, it is best to approach an interview in formal attire. This conveys to the interviewer that the candidate is serious about the position and can be counted on to appear professionally in the job. When starting in a new job, the supervising boss or HR manager can help supply information (usually printed) on the official company dress code regulations. For the first few days, dress more conservatively until you have become more comfortable in understanding the dress code.
Dress Code Policies and Law
Dress codes are put in place by companies to help lay down certain acceptable standards for apparel and appearance by employees. It also reflects on the company as a whole, especially when employees are required to meet customers or clients. Failure to comply with a company’s dress code would usually result in a couple of verbal warnings by the immediate supervisor or boss. Additional infractions would be raised to formal warnings by the human resources department with the possibility of suspension or firing. Although there is no federal law that addresses specific dress code violations, companies are permitted to enforce dress codes among employees both for work place safety as well as a business interest.