Whether or not your workplace has a written dress code, you always want to look your best. The clothing you select sends an unspoken message about how seriously you take yourself and your career.
Even in fields where casual Friday is every day of the week, avoiding a fashion faux pas will help you in the future. With that in mind, here are a few simple tips to keep in mind regardless of your company’s dress code.
Women have more leeway than men when it comes to business formal. This style of dress code demands classic colors and accessories, as well as modest cuts.
A simple black dress with mid- to full-length sleeves works well. You’ll want to wear hose or leggings underneath. If that’s not your thing, imitate Hillary Clinton and opt for a pantsuit in a conservative color like red or dark blue.
Men have it somewhat easier with business formal. A standard three-piece suit works well for nearly any occasion. Keep attire professionally clean and ironed. Some conservative offices require jackets, but even if yours does not, keep it on during important meetings and presentations.
If you’re a woman starting a new job and you don’t know the code, opt for business casual your first day. This blends business formal with more laid-back fabrics such as denim. For example, pair a button-down shirt with a knee-length skirt and cute boots. You could also opt for khakis with a pair of comfortable, low-heeled loafers if heels aren’t comfortable by the end of the day.
Many of the same rules apply to men. A button-down shirt with a pair of khakis and loafers looks pulled together. Always wear socks with your shoes to decrease foot odor. If you opt to wear jeans, select those in a darker fabric and make sure they’re clean and well-pressed. Overly faded denim or pants with holes don’t cut it for this dress code.
Experts define smart casual as neater than a pair of sweat pants but less formal than a suit. That leaves a ton of room for imagination, especially if you’re a woman. You can let your inner Penelope Garcia, a la TV’s “Criminal Minds,” shine through with this dress code. Think of a tailored shirt and a pair of slacks with fun, chunky boots and big, bold earrings. Jeans and even lengthier shorts are acceptable in some offices.
Smart casual for men follows similar rules. In some offices, you can wear shorts in the summer — or year-round in warm climates. You can easily pull together a look by pairing a neat, ironed tee with a pair of tidy jeans, too. Yes, you can wear sneakers, as well, as long as they’re clean and in good repair.
This is the loosest of all dress codes. In a creative-casual work environment, anything goes — almost. It’s easier to focus on what not to wear in offices embracing such a dress code than what you should.
For women, this means passing on spaghetti straps or sleeveless tops that you don’t pair with a jacket or sweater. If you have to tug on your skirt every time you sit down, it’s usually too short to wear to the office. Either wear leggings underneath or save that mini for a club night.
As with women, it’s easier to focus on what not to wear in this loose type of environment. You can wear jeans with holes in the knees — but swipe left if they give you plumber crack. Though you can dress for comfort, avoid sloppy sweats and stained clothing of any type.
Unless you work as a political organizer, stay away from shirts declaring your stance on controversial issues. Likewise, avoid T-shirts with messages some could find offensive. When in doubt, err on the side of caution and opt for a plain shirt.
Look Your Best No Matter What the Dress Code
The clothes you wear send a message about how seriously you take yourself and your career. While today’s more casual workplaces don’t always require formal attire, you should always try to put your best fashion self forward each day.