Your company’s dress code affects both your employees and your customers, although not always in the same way. While some employees might feel more productive in casual attire, customers might prefer to put their trust to a company with a well-dressed staff. To help with this, we asked experts and searched the internet for tips on how to guide your employees in finding the right balance to work fashion while staying true to your company’s brand.
Here are the top 25 office attire ideas from the pros.
1. Add a Third Piece to Your Ensemble
Jenn McConville, Freelance Stylist and Fashion Expert, JennMcConville.com
This is my favorite and it’s so easy. You must wear a top and bottom to leave the house fully dressed (these are pieces “one” and “two”). Adding a “third piece” is the simplest way to pull your look together. A third piece could be a blazer, cardigan, scarf or statement accessory like a necklace, tie or belt.
Same rule applies for dresses. The dress piece one, a jacket and scarf or belt make for pieces two and three. Once you start following this, you’ll quickly see and feel the difference in your style and your confidence.
2. Invest in Comfortable Footwear
Marissa Rizzuto, Founder, The FashIN
Sport a nice pair of black joggers. Joggers have become a staple and honestly can be pulled off in an office setting with the right pairings. Stick with a jersey or cotton blend fabric, so they have a more dressy tone. Pair with a crisp button down, blazer and great pair of ankle booties or heels. Total comfort but still completely stylish.
You should also invest in a pair of pointy flats. For those days when your feet just can’t take it anymore, pointy flats still give you a sophisticated look without sacrificing comfort. They are also great for any activities after work, such as a date or happy hour. Pointy flats look fantastic with everything, including wide-leg pants and long maxi skirts.
3. Encourage Your Staff to Leave a Change of Clothes in the Office
Dave Rook, CMO, JP Griffin Group
One of the best pieces of advice we can offer any company that is trying to institute a policy on office attire is to simply request that everyone leave a change of clothes at the office in the event of the unexpected. Perhaps it’s an unannounced client visit to the office on casual Fridays, or the opportunity to tag along on a high-powered pitch meeting. It might even be a surprise invitation to play a round of golf or attend a yoga session with the CEO when someone cancels last minute. Having a change of clothes (or a few) at the office makes every employee versatile and ready to acclimate to any situation.
4. Let Job Interview Attire Serve as a Benchmark
Danielle Kunkle Roberts, Co-Founder, Boomer Benefits
We tell our new employees to look in the mirror and ask themselves these questions about each piece of their work wardrobe, including shoes: “Would you wear this outfit to a job interview?” If the answer is no, then that outfit doesn’t have any place in our business casual work environment except on casual Fridays. This one piece of advice has seemed to communicate the dress code more effectively than our whole employee handbook, which goes over in detail what is allowed and not allowed.
5. Follow Your Customer’s Lead
Jenny Hester, Director of Marketing, LIVE Design Group
Follow your customer’s lead and dress slightly more formal. Show them you understand them, relate to them, and value them while working toward gaining their respect. If your target client is a more formal, professional executive, suit and tie is likely the best option for you. For clients in a more relaxed setting, maybe business casual is something you should consider. Showing up to a meeting in an office of jeans- and sneaker-wearing Millennials while you are wearing a suit will show them you are out of touch with them and did not take the time to learn about them.
6. Always “Dress for Success” While at the Office
Timothy G. Wiedman, D.B.A., SHRM-CP, PHR Emeritus, Associate Prof. of Management & Human Resources (Retired), Doane University
You’ll rarely get a second chance to make a lasting first impression. Given the competition these days, it can be very difficult for employees to make the promotion list in the first place. So why would anybody want to risk underdressing at the office? Dressing up makes most people feel more confident about themselves, and that confidence will positively impact their tone of voice and general demeanor during interactions with the boss. Further, confidence is a trait that most employers value, and it can set one candidate for promotion apart from the others. Finally, if you’re unsure of the attire that the boss would deem acceptable, simply follow the style of dress that the boss exhibits on a daily basis. While you may seem to be overdressing a bit in the eyes of your colleagues, the opinion of one’s boss is what matters the most.
7. Dress Casual but Still Look Professional
Kerry Wekelo, HR Director, Actualize Consulting
I would say never wear T-shirts, workout clothes, or jeans with holes in them. We had a consultant rock this look when our client changed to jeans on Fridays, which did not bode well with the client nor our professional reputation. Wear dark-colored blue or black jeans that are professionally hemmed and free of wrinkles. Couple it with a shirt or blouse you feel comfortable meeting a client in. Add shoes to dress up the jeans to complete the look. If your employer allows jeans, always still look professional.
8. Take Your Cue from the Leadership Team
Kim Fredrich, The Stylish Marketer
Office dressing can be tricky. You want to use clothing to communicate your personality while still fitting within your industry’s (and clients’!) expectations. Start with what the leadership team are wearing in your organization. Then follow these simple rules:
- Get it tailored. Even the most expensive clothes won’t flatter when they don’t fit
- Shop for details that set you apart
- Pay attention to your footwear
- Spend on the details that matter
You should be able to pull off an inexpensive shirt if you pair it with a well-fitting, well-made pair of pants and you’ve got some great shoes.
9. Dress Comfortably While Staying Professional
Jack Sepetjian, Co-CEO, Anto Beverly Hills
The majority of our clientele are businessmen and executives who are in the office five or six days a week. Bespoke shirts provide men and women shirts made with the perfect fit to their body, giving them one less thing to worry about in the morning. Solid colored shirts, mainly in whites and blues, are wardrobe essentials for the office. They can always be dressed down for a more business casual approach with denim jeans or khakis, or they can be worn more formally with a suit or skirt for women.
Having shirts made from a stretch cotton is also an essential part of office wear, as it gives room for a more breathable shirt. A basic cotton shirt made with quality and fit in mind will always be one of the best options to have. Also go for fabrics that are less wrinkle-resistant, like twill.
10. Accessorize as Part of Your Personal Brand
Nela Dunato, Brand Designer, Nela Dunato Art & Design
Some professions may be allowed greater freedom than others. Even if your workplace or profession is pretty rigid and wouldn’t welcome stepping out of the usual suit and tie combination, you can express your personality with bold colored accessories such as ties, hairbands, scarves, eyeglasses, or belts. What’s great about accessories is that you can wear them all the time—unlike clothes that we do need to wash and rotate between uses, your accessory can be a permanent part of your outfit, and people will start to associate it with your personal brand.
11. Go for a Classic, Conservative Look
Jacquelyn Youst, President, Pennsylvania Academy of Protocol
Neutrals are the best color option for shirts. Choose classic colors that show professionalism. Always choose conservative colors, such as black, blue, and gray. When it comes to any accessory, less is more. For example, a high-quality fashion scarf is a must-have accessory, but stick with classic subtle prints.
Men’s attire should include traditional navy blue, black, and charcoal business suits…and opt for white or light blue shirts. It is critical to remain within the bounds of professional taste.
12. Focus on Power Dressing
Nina Vir, Founder and CEO, Daily Dress Me
By definition, power dressing is wearing whatever makes you feel most confident. Even though office dress codes have loosened up over the last decade, there’s a certain level of refinement that comes with an outfit that makes you look and feel confident. The tech world’s sense of power dressing is a hoodie and Allbirds—the more inconspicuous you look, the more important you are. Personally, I like my power looks to be a reflection of the strongest aspects of my personality: original, unexpected, and polished. In my role as founder of Daily Dress Me, I have to play in the technology sector, the fashion world, and the traditional business setting. I love all three worlds, and all the styles that come along with it. So, while I have a handful of statement jackets and on-trend shoes, I also own a killer pair of faux leather leggings that are perfect for the right startup event.
13. Set Expectations Right from the Interview Stage
Ryan Bonnici, CMO, G2 Crowd
At the end of the day, no one size fits all. It all boils down to the company culture; it depends on the company you’re working for, your role, and the CEO. For a dressier interview, you can’t go wrong with fitted pants or simple jeans, a nice fitted, tailored jacket, and then a button-up shirt. Oftentimes for new candidates, there’s a tendency to overdress. To wear a full suit—and even potentially a tie—might give away that you’re not from the industry because it’s so rare that you would see someone in a full suit, let alone a full suit and a tie.
Overall, you need to be mindful of making sure you’re rounding out your outfit. So if you’re wearing professional chinos and a blazer, then you might feel comfortable wearing a T-shirt under the blazer because everything else can dress you up. If you’re going with jeans and a more casual blazer, I might say to dress that up with a nice white shirt.
14. Work with Neutral Monochromatic Colors
Marissa Ryan, Co-Founder/CMO, VisualFizz
My favorite professional style is wearing neutral or monochromatic colors (usually black) with one really eye-catching accessory or piece—usually a vibrant pair of shoes, a watch, or statement necklace or earrings. I have found that bright colors can be somewhat distracting, especially in client meetings, so I prefer to create a brand for myself as I would for a client website—professional, sleek, and modern, with a pop of something memorable. This way, people will focus on what I say, not what I wear, while I still look fashionable and on brand.
15. Don’t Be Afraid to Wear a Bold Color or Think Outside the Box
Shanda Foster, Freelance Sports Writer, Playaction Radio
For many years, women in business have been tasked with the job of dressing for the job. That always meant dressing like your mother in order to look non-threatening. It’s 2018 now, and with the popularity of Scandal’s Olivia Pope and Michelle Obama, you can take risks in your wardrobe. I love bold colors and for me, that helps me express who I am without having to default to attire that may be deemed risqué in the office.
16. Make as Much Use of Your Regular Wardrobe
Christina L May, Founder and CMO, Illumine8 Marketing & PR
Business attire is tricky to navigate because the term has a different meaning in every industry. Business clothing doesn’t have to be a huge departure from your regular wardrobe. Weekend or casual tops can be paired with blazers for a work look, as an example. You can change the entire look of a dress or jumper by layering a sweater or cardigan over the top and cinching with a belt. Never underestimate accessories for taking your casual wear up a notch, such as a scarf or a statement belt. I also recommend investing in timeless basics such as a navy blazer, nude heels and flats, black sheath dress and a crisp white dress shirt.
17. Dress Appropriately for Your Business Environment
Robin Schwartz, Managing Partner, MFG Jobs
Office attire should be clean, presentable and appropriate for a business environment. For example, T-shirts with slogans should always be avoided, as should clothing that shows too much skin (muscle shirts, cropped tops, or anything with a spaghetti strap). Clothing that resembles what you would wear to the gym should also not be worn in the office. Above all, your attire should always adhere to the safety standards of your workplace and never put you or anyone else in jeopardy. Shoes that should be saved for the weekend include your beach flip flops and slippers (yes, slippers!). Your work footwear should match the presentable way you should dress.
18. Dress with Making a Good Impression in Mind
Saud Ibrahim, Digital Marketing Manager, The Jacket Maker
The idea behind a proper or good work outfit will differ depending on various factors like industry, culture, and roles. No matter the circumstances, a good attire is something that looks good, boosts confidence, and makes life easier. First impressions are extremely important for standing out in a proper way, so don’t be afraid to express yourself in terms of your dressing and presentation. For starters, just know the limitations that you can’t wear, like ripped, torn, wrinkled or flashy. After limitations, everything is fair game. One good idea to dress properly is that your outfit should reflect the role you aspire to be in.
19. Be Specific When Outlining Dress Code in the Handbook
Zondra Wilson, Founder and CEO, Blu Skin Care, LLC
When summertime rolls around, somebody always gets a little carried away and shows up at the office in shorts or a mini skirt. Other summer wardrobe offenders to watch for include tank tops (men included), tube tops, sheer dresses, and micro-miniskirts. Spell out what is acceptable and what is not in your employee handbook, using as many details as possible (for instance, list specific types of clothing and specify how short is too short).
20. Have Safety in Mind When Choosing Your Attire
Jessica Dalka, Owner, Chicago Planner Magazine
My tip is don’t wear anything you could fall down the stairs in. If you can’t maneuver in your own clothes, or if you were to trip and expose yourself in a way you’d consider unprofessional, chances are you shouldn’t wear it to work.
21. Dress for the Next Role You Want
Suzanne Brown, Founder/CEO, Oksuzi Marketing
How you dress is directly linked to your personal brand, which should reflect who you are and what you stand for. What you wear is the first hint of that personal brand, and it tells people what you stand for in the work environment. An even better way to think about it is to dress for the next role you want, which is often a step up. Start showing how you’re ready for the next level well before you get there. Your manager and maybe even senior leadership will take note of that, especially if you’re not doing it.
It’s normal for companies to include dress code in their employee handbook, but not all small businesses have this prepared even well after they have hired their first group of employees. This doesn’t mean, however, that you can’t set your expectation on how they dress for work. Take a look at this article explaining the degrees of formality in business attire and choose what you think works for your company.
Business casual has been interpreted in so many ways and relies heavily on company culture. What one industry may consider acceptable can be inappropriate for another, so in order to keep the guesswork out of your employees’ work attire, it’s best that you set clear guidelines on what you deem appropriate for your workplace. Here’s a guide to business casual to help you get started.
It may seem like women have it easier when it comes to expressing their personal style in the workplace, but a wider range of options can also mean higher chances of missing the mark. Business casual for women can be confusing, so setting guidelines for your female employees actually helps make the task of dressing for work easier for them. Check out this quick guide to give you ideas on business casual for women.
It’s not unusual for employees to want a more casual look at work during the summer, but this also invites the possibility of your staff coming to work a little bit more underdressed than you’d like. So even before the season arrives, remind your employees of your guidelines on summer office fashion to make sure their updated their wardrobe falls within your company’s standards.
Over to You
While it’s true that the concept of proper dress code in the workplace is dynamic, businesses remain aware of how their staff also represents their brand. This is where our list of tips from the experts can help business owners set office attire guidelines that will present the company in the right way to their customers.
Did we miss out on your favorite office attire ideas? Share them with us in the comments!