What to Wear to Work (2023)

Skirt or slacks? Tights or bare legs? Sandals or pumps? These are the questions you might find yourself asking each morning as you select work attire. And, depending on the dress code your company enforces, you could be spot on – or woefully off-base in your fashion choices.

According to a survey by Salary.com, only 55% of workplaces have a dress code. If your new employee orientation didn’t cover it, contact HR to ask about the official policy. Even if your orientation manual tells you to dress “business casual,” though, what exactly does that mean? What is acceptable – and what isn’t?

Dress Codes

There are typically four types of corporate dress codes: business formal, business professional, business casual, and casual. Here are some general tips for both men and women for each category. Stick close to the basics and ensure that you’re always dressed appropriately.

1. Business Formal

What to Wear to Work (1)

If you work in law, regularly meet with executives, or otherwise hold a high-level position, you might be asked to come dressed “business formal” or in “boardroom attire.” This is the highest level of professional dress.

What to Wear to Work (2)
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(Video) 5 TIPS TO LOOK BETTER AT WORK | How To Look Good in the Office | Men's Professional Attire

For Men:

  • A tailored one-, two-, or three-buttonsuit in a solid, neutral color like black, gray, or navy.
  • Ties and other accessories should be both modest in color and style – solid, brighter colors (a red tie, for example), or patterned muted neutrals (a navy plaid tie)– as well as high-end in quality. No novelty ties, such as sports team patterns.
  • White, collared button-up shirts.
  • Shoes should be closed-toe oxfordsin brown or black, not loafers.
  • Hair should be well-groomed.In general, short hair is most acceptable. Check with HR to see if tied-back long hair is also acceptable.
  • Nails should be clipped short, clean, and buffed. Don’t be shy about getting regular professional manicures.

For Women:

  • A well-cut pantsuit or skirt suit in a conservative neutral color, such as black, navy, or brown.
  • Whitebutton-ups with a collar.
  • Closed-toe heelsin a neutral color such as taupe, black, grey, or brown.
  • Tights, preferably in a dark color.
  • Conservative accessories – for instance, diamond studs rather than chandelier earrings.
  • Well-groomed hair worn in a conservative cut, such as a bob or soft layers.
  • Skirts never more than two finger-widths above the knees.
  • Well-groomed, neutral nails that are either clear coated, or painted with a beige-toned polish.

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2. Business Professional

What to Wear to Work (3)

A step down from business formal, business professional clothing is still neat, conservative, and traditional, if a little more loose when it comes to color or pattern. Business professional is also sometimes called “traditional business.” Expect to present a professional appearance everyday, injecting personality into your outfits with your accessories and color choices.


For Men:

  • A one- or two-button suit. Suit colorsshould still be conservative, but you have more leeway with pattern – aconservative stripe or check, for instance.
  • Pressed, lighter-colored dress pants worn with a sports jacket.
  • Conservative ties, but feel free to introduce colors and patterns. For example, you can feel free to wear a blue-striped, professional tie, but no novelty ties.
  • High-end accessories, such as watches (preferably silver, gold, or white gold)and cuff links, if necessary.
  • Shirts should be collared button-ups, but can be colored, as long as the color is fairly conservative. Blue, burgundy, or gray all work well.
  • Shoes should be conservatively colored oxfords or polished loafers in black or brown.
  • Hair and nails should be groomed, but check with HR on acceptable hairstyles.

For Women:

  • A suit or skirt, top, and jacket in a conservative neutral color, such as black, brown, or navy.
  • Collared button-up shirts that may be any solid color.
  • Dark or nude-colored hosiery.
  • Closed-toe pumpsin a neutral color such as black or brown.
  • Larger, more noticeable jewelry – as long as it’s not distracting. Think along the lines of one statement necklace or a chunky watch. High quality is preferred.
  • Skirts never more than two finger-widths above the knees.
  • Well-groomed, neutral nails. May be clear coat or beige.
  • Hair should be neat and groomed, but check with HR on acceptable cuts and colors.

3. Business Casual

What to Wear to Work (4)

Business casual is one of the more common dress codes in North America, allowing employees to add personality to their workwear without looking unprofessional. In a business casual setting, you can expect a lot more in the way of color and accessories.

Still, the term “business casual” can mean different things to different organizations, so it’s always best to check for guidelines with HR instead of making assumptions. Note that sometimes business casual can also be called “executive casual.”

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For Men:

  • Can wear colored, collared button-ups in any color. Conservative patterns such as checks or stripes are acceptable too, worn with or without a tie. This short sleeve knit button down shirt from NiceStuff Clothing is a great example: comfortable yet elegant.
  • Ties should still be conservative in pattern.Avoid novelty ties, and choose patterns like dots, stripes, or checks. Most colors are acceptable.
  • Pullovers and sweaters worn over collared shirt. Choose solid, striped, or another conservatively patterned sweater. Primary and jewel-toned colors are best.
  • Dressy slacks, such as black dress pants or pressed khakis in the summer, worn with or without a sports jacket. I’m partial to the Naples Chino from 34 Heritage.
  • More casual accessories, such as a leather-band watch.
  • Shoes can be oxfords, loafers, or another comfortable yet dressy choice, in brown or black. Avoid sneakers.
  • May offer more leeway for hairstyles, allowing for longer hair (check with HR).
  • Nails should be clean and short.

For Women:

  • Business separates, rather than a full suit – a skirt worn with a cardigan or jacket, for example.
  • Colored shirts and blouses, rather than mandatory collared button-downs.Choose solid colors, or muted patterns like stripes or checks, and avoid low-cut shirts or bright patterns.
  • Slacks and khakis.
  • Larger jewelry, such as a statement necklace or large cuff-style watch. Doesn’t necessarily need to be the highest quality – gemstones and other casual materials are fine. Scarves may also be appropriate.
  • Shoes may be comfortable flats and loafers, as well as pumps, but should remain closed-toe.Can be any color, although black, brown, red, navy, and gray are among the most appropriate.
  • Nails should be well-groomed, but there can be a few restrictions on colors.
  • Hair can be more casual, with less conservative colors and even more noticeable (chunky or high-contrast) highlights generally acceptable. It should still be neatly styled, such as blow-dried, or in a ponytail or bun.

4. Casual

What to Wear to Work (5)

If you’re fortunate enough to work in a casual office, the trick is to avoid getting too casual or creative with your dress. According to the survey by Salary.com, your coworkers make specific judgements regarding your capability based on your clothes, which may extend to employers as well. By arriving to work in casual clothes that are still neat, pressed, and appropriate for the type of work you do, you can make surethat a casual dress code isn’t holding you back.

For Men:

(Video) What to Wear to Work - 5 Facts & Fashion Tips

  • Casual pants and slacks, but never jeans unless stipulated as acceptable by HR. If jeans are permitted, dark-wash, straight-cut only.
  • Collared polos or crew-neck sweaters and pullovers. The majority of colors and patterns are okay as long as they’re not a novelty pattern, such as a sports team logo.
  • Casual accessories, such as brightly colored watches.
  • Shoes that are clean. Sneakers are usually acceptable, as are loafers.
  • Hair and nails can be more casual. Nails should remain short and clean, andcasual offices generally allow for longer hairstyles and ponytails.

For Women:

  • Nicely fitted tops and blouses, although shirts should never be tight or revealing.
  • Slacks or skirts in more casual fabrics, such as cotton. If denim is permitted, dark-wash only. Avoid overly casual denim cuts, like cutoffs or flare jeans.
  • Skirts should remain at knee-length.
  • Open-toed shoes are permitted. Avoid casual shoes such as sneakers or flip-flops.
  • Casual accessories, such as scarves. Larger rings, bracelets, earrings, and necklaces are fine, and may be of any quality.
  • More leeway with hair length, style, and color.More adventurous styles and colors are typically fine.
  • Nails can be painted in brighter colors, or with any type of pattern. Avoid novelty characters or designs, or limit “louder” designs to one nail only.

What About Tattoos?

Tattoos and piercings in the workplace can affect you across all dress codes. Hopefully, any facial piercings (besides women’s ears) can be removed for professional wear, and tattoos can be easily hidden.

Unless you’re working in a casual office, or otherwise stated by HR, tattoos are typically best concealed during working hours. Try some of these tricks:

  • Wear pants to cover leg tattoos.
  • When wearing skirts, women should choose dark-colored opaque hose to cover leg tattoos.
  • Men should wear shirts that adequately cover ink.
  • Use accessories to strategically conceal tattoos, such as scarves for neck tattoos, or large watches to hide small wrist tattoos.
  • When in doubt, be upfront with HR. Let them know if you have tattoos and ask for their policy on tattoos and piercings so you’re perfectly clear on what is and isn’t appropriate.
What to Wear to Work (6)
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Final Word

Basic tips are the name of the game for deciphering corporate dress code, if only for the reason that your office might interpret “business casual” differently than another organization. In office dress codes, it’s always best to err on the side of caution and dress a little more formally than necessary until you have a better grasp of what is and isn’t acceptable at work. If your business clothing mantra is “clean, tailored, and professional,” it’s pretty hard to go wrong, regardless ofthe environment in which you work.

What type of dress code does your office use?


What to Wear to Work? ›

Wardrobe Basics for Women
  • Slacks, corduroys and khakis have a more classic look, while dress pants may be more contemporary.
  • Tailored blouses or dress shirts. Make sure that they aren't too revealing. ...
  • Well-fitting sweaters or cardigans.
  • Quality dresses or skirts, around knee-length.
  • Dress shoes.

What should I wear to work in 2022 today? ›

"Fashion is all about fun expression, and post-pandemic, your office attire can and should reflect that," she tells InStyle. "Wear things that bring you joy, like a Kelly green blazer and wide-leg jeans, or a playful patterned skirt set. For more saucy flair, walk on the wild side with a cutout top."

What should you not wear to work? ›

7 Things You Should Never Wear in the Workplace
  • Don't Wear Dirty or Wrinkled Clothes to Work. ...
  • Don't Wear Tight or Revealing Clothing to Work. ...
  • Don't Wear Work Clothing That Is Too Casual. ...
  • Don't Wear T-Shirts With Offensive Messages to Work. ...
  • Don't Wear Club Clothes to Work. ...
  • Don't Wear Clothes That Make It Difficult to Work.
Nov 20, 2019

What to wear to work that is casual? ›

Appropriate business casual dress typically includes slacks or khakis, dress shirt or blouse, open-collar or polo shirt, optional tie or seasonal sport coat, a dress or skirt at knee-length or below, a tailored blazer, knit shirt or sweater, and loafers or dress shoes that cover all or most of the foot.

What should I wear to work in 2021? ›

At the top of their what-to-wear-to-work lists in 2021: bold new glasses, patterned tops, updated pants (some that just pull on!), stackable jewelry, comfortable and stylish shoes.

How can I look cute at work? ›

How To Look Good in the Office | Men's Professional Attire - YouTube

How can I look stylish for work? ›


Is it OK to wear leggings to work? ›

Leggings can be business casual if your company allows them and you wear them the right way. When wearing leggings to work, the safest bet is to wear a neutral color underneath a dress or tunic top. Pairing the right shoes and accessories with leggings can also help dress them up.

What colors should you not wear to work? ›

Worst Colors to Wear to the Office

However, yellow is considered an unstable color, so it can be over-energizing for the office and make the wearer look weak. 2. Grey. Grey implies that people are passive, uninvolved and have a lack of energy.

Is showing your shoulders unprofessional? ›

Personal shopper Dana Asher Levin notes that not only can bare shoulders be distracting to co-workers, it is just an unprofessional look. “I have been working with Hollywood executives for the past 16 years and I think that image is more important than it's ever been,” she says.

What are the 6 types of casual attire? ›

  • Active Casual. (page 12, Casual Power, for detailed photos)
  • Rugged Casual. (page 13, Casual Power, for detailed photos)
  • Sporty Casual. page 14-15, Casual Power, for detailed photos.
  • Smart Casual. (page 16, Casual Power, for illustrations & photos)
  • Dressy Casual. ...
  • Business Casual.

What is smart casual for a woman? ›

Smart casual attire is a dress code that combines well-fitting, polished business wear with elements of casual attire—think blouses, polo shirts, button-downs, chinos, dress pants, dark-wash jeans, and polished, practical footwear.

How should I dress for an office job? ›

Shirts are collared and buttoned, and blouses should be conservative and professional. Slacks should be free from wrinkles and be in office-appropriate colors. Knee-length, simple dresses and skirts are appropriate for business professional. Flats including oxfords, loafers, and small heels 3 inches are ideal.

What should a woman wear to work? ›

For Women:
  • A suit or skirt, top, and jacket in a conservative neutral color, such as black, brown, or navy.
  • Collared button-up shirts that may be any solid color.
  • Dark or nude-colored hosiery.
  • Closed-toe pumps in a neutral color such as black or brown.
  • Larger, more noticeable jewelry – as long as it's not distracting.

What girls should wear to work? ›

Women can wear casual pants or skirts. Neither should be tight. Fabrics should be crisp; colors should generally be solid; navy, black, gray, brown and khaki are always safe bets. For the most business-like appearance, pants should be creased and tailored; neither extreme of tight or flowing.

How can I look professional everyday? ›

20 Effortless Ways to Dress Classy and Elegant Everyday
  1. Wear the right fit.
  2. Choose the right colors.
  3. Wear the right materials.
  4. Say hello to classy outfits.
  5. Avoid overexposing at work.
  6. Wear classic accessories.
  7. Wear chic undergarments.
  8. Don't forget shoes.

How can I look polished at work? ›

How to Look Polished in 15 Easy Steps
  1. Know what your daily life needs. What is this? ...
  2. Be realistic. ...
  3. Keep the full picture in mind. ...
  4. Use elevated basics. ...
  5. Don't forget layering pieces. ...
  6. Structure over slouch. ...
  7. Avoid visible wear and tear marks. ...
  8. Create a collection of go-to outfits.
Apr 1, 2021

How many outfits should I have for work? ›

To start, you should have enough pieces to create at least 2 weeks of different outfits, which could be 10 outfits if you work 5 days a week or 6 if you work 3 days a week. If you're okay with re-wearing the same outfit week to week, then you probably need even less pieces.

Can black leggings be business casual? ›

In general, business casual attire is clothing that is more relaxed than what you would wear to a job interview but still looks professional. Leggings can definitely be worn as part of a business casual outfit, especially with current trends like stirrup leggings and split hem leggings.

Can I wear sweatpants to work? ›

Tips on How to Wear Your Sweatpants right

Choose neutral-colored sweatpants like black, gray, tan, or navy. Make sure your sweatpants have a tapered leg for a good fit. Balance out the overall outfit. Wear a nice sweater or button-down shirt to take away from the fact that you're wearing sweatpants.

What colors are unprofessional? ›

Orange topped CareerBuilder's list for the absolute worst color to wear to a job interview, with 25 percent of respondents saying they associated the color with someone who's unprofessional.

What color makes you seem trustworthy? ›

Blue: Cool blue is perceived as trustworthy, dependable, fiscally responsible and secure. Strongly associated with the sky and sea, blue is serene and universally well-liked. Blue is an especially popular color with financial institutions, as its message of stability inspires trust.

What is the friendliest color? ›

Yellow. Yellow symbolizes happiness and warmth in almost all cultures. It's the color that grabs users' attention more than any other color. McDonald's and IKEA both use yellow in their branding to give off the feeling of friendliness and positivity.

Are skinny pants appropriate for work? ›

Skinny jeans

Classic and versatile, the skinny jean is a chic, sharp start to your work look. While your office may be casual, stick to a darker wash skinny jean for a more professional feel. Skinny jeans are also the most versatile when it comes to footwear.

Why are round neck shirts not allowed in office? ›

It is because most people think there is no professionalism in wearing them. During our holidays we use it very often and roam around all the streets and have a funny mind but if we wear them in office the managers may think it is inappropriate to wear or do things which we do at leisure time.

Should I dress up for work? ›

Dressing professionally helps you present a positive, professional image of your organization to others. Even if you dress casually or wear a uniform, making sure you look neat and put together can improve the reception you receive.

What is smart casual for work? ›

Smart casual is a less formal extension to business casual. While business casual is used for the office, smart casual is for everything outside of it. You can wear a plain, toned-down t-shirt for smart casual, any shirt that has a print of some sort is more of a casual look, not smart casual.

Are jeans OK for smart casual? ›

Yes, you can wear jeans

Contrary to popular belief, jeans are absolutely acceptable as smart-causal attire. If in doubt, go for a darker wash and a tailored fit. Add a heel to dress them up and add a white shirt for a classic pairing.

How should I wear my clothes to look smarter? ›

Always go with clean, well-fitting clothes such as a casual dress instead of baggy clothes like sweatpants and a hoodie. If you wear glasses, put them on to enhance your image and make yourself look smarter. Choose a pair of nice shoes that complement your outfit to tie your whole look together.

Can I wear sneakers for smart casual? ›

Yes, you can wear sneakers as part of a smart-casual dress code for women, men and gender-neutral styles. You can pair sneakers with jeans, khakis and chinos. You may even wear sneakers with some skirts for a more athletic smart-casual look for women.

What are the 4 dress codes? ›

If you ask someone what the dress code at their office is, they'll generally give you one of four dress codes: business professional, business casual, smart casual or casual. There are some other in-between dress codes, but these four generally cover the spectrum of what your average American wears to work every day.

Is there any dress code for office? ›

Clothes should still be pressed, neat, and appropriate for the type of work you do. For men, you can expect casual pants and slacks with collared polos or crew-neck sweaters. Women have the freedom to wear nicely-fitted tops and blouses, slacks or skirts. Fun patterns and colors are acceptable with a casual dress code.

What does your dress code say about you? ›

Your dressing sense reflects your personality, character, mood, style and what actually you are as an individual. People wearing gaudy clothes with loud make up are generally extroverts and love partying. You really can make out what sort of person an individual is by his/her dressing.

What are smart casual clothes? ›

Smart casual is an ambiguously defined Western dress code that is generally considered casual wear but with smart (in the sense of "well dressed") components of a proper lounge suit from traditional informal wear.

What should I wear first day of work? ›

Comfort, Utility, and Business Wear

Generally speaking, an employee should dress clean-cut and casual for their first day of work.

What skirt length is appropriate for work? ›

Skirts, Dresses, and Skirted Suits

Dress and skirt length should be no shorter than four inches above the knee, or a length at which you can sit comfortably in public.

What should I wear in the office now? ›

Going Back to the Office? Here Are 8 Outfits to Wear With Pieces You Already Own
  • A knit top + leather pants. laura.byrnes. ...
  • A dress + heels. chrissyford. ...
  • A trench coat + jeans. emilyschuman. ...
  • A sweater + skirt + loafers. ...
  • A pantsuit + heels. ...
  • A midi skirt + T-shirt. ...
  • A trench coat + trousers + loafers. ...
  • Trousers + a button-up.
Mar 20, 2022

What should I wear to work everyday? ›

Casual Dress Code

The key differentiators of business attire in a casual workplace include allowing employees to wear jeans, shorts, and athletic shoes daily. Additionally, clothing items such as t-shirts, sandals, and very informal pants and shirts are allowed.


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