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Dress for Success

When in a professional environment, it is of the utmost importance that you dress appropriately. Dressing the right way shows others that you mean business. The way you dress can make or break any speech, presentation, or job interview. You want to make a good impression in these settings! This page is designed to give you some tips and tricks for how to dress in business casual and business formal settings.

Business Casual Attire

The type of business dress that you will see most frequently is business casual. Most businesses require their employees to dress in business casual. Most professors require business casual attire for students when they are giving a speech or presentation. This type of attire could also be worn for casual networking events. Examples include khaki pants, button downs or polo shirts, skirts and dresses, and dress shoes.

Business Casual Clothing

  • Make sure your clothes fit appropriately
  • Slacks should not be too tight or baggy
  • Skirts and dresses should be at an appropriate length
    • No more than approximately two inches above the knee cap
  • Bright colors and patterns should be avoided, as they can be distracting
  • Avoid leggings, sweatpants and other forms of “athleisure” wear
    Make sure no undergarments are visible

Business Casual Shoes

  • Do not wear street shoes, sneakers, or heels over two inches
  • Wear shoes that are comfortable and easy to walk in (ex: oxfords, loafers, flats or small heels)
  • In some settings, certain styles of open-toed shoes may be appropriate
    • Do not wear Chacos or Tevas, only dress sandals or heels

Business Casual Accessories

  • Less is more with jewelry. Don’t wear dangling jewelry, such as hoop earrings or loud bracelets
  • A nice sweater can be worn with slacks in a business casual environment

Business Professional Attire

Though business professional attire is less common, it is still important to know how to dress for the occasion. One would usually wear business professional attire to a job interview, business presentation, or a more formal networking event.

Business Professional Clothing

  • Full suit, pants suit, skirted pantsuit, or a business dress
  • Skirts should fall right above or at the knee
  • All clothing items should be neutral colored (grey, brown, black, navy blue, etc.)
  • Refrain from using patterns
    • Suits may be pin-striped, but they need to be a light, neutral color
  • Button-down shirts should be tucked in
  • Do not wear a tuxedo or a formal bow tie

Business Professional Shoes

  • Wear neutral colored, closed-toed shoes
    • Oxfords, loafers, flats or small heels
  • Wear closed toed shoes. Open toed shoes will likely not be appropriate

Business Professional Accessories

  • Ties should be a neutral color
  • A belt and dress shoes that are the same color are ideal
  • Add a watch for a more professional look
  • Socks should be a dark, neutral color
  • If you choose to wear stockings or tights, make sure they are a neutral color and have no patterns
  • As with business casual attire, refrain from wearing any loud or dangly jewelry
  • If you choose to carry a bag, it should be neutral colored and match your outfit

These are general guidelines; standards of dress may vary between industries and companies. Research your environment prior to an interview, presentation, etc. and dress according to the company culture. When in doubt, dress in business professional attire.

For further guidelines and tips, check out The Center for Career Development.

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