A Guide to Business Professional Attire (With Tips)

By Indeed Editorial Team

Updated July 1, 2022 | Published October 18, 2021

Updated July 1, 2022

Published October 18, 2021

The Indeed Editorial Team comprises a diverse and talented team of writers, researchers and subject matter experts equipped with Indeed's data and insights to deliver useful tips to help guide your career journey.

Wearing appropriate attire to any occasion can help you make a good impression and positively influence people's behaviour towards you. Dressing appropriately for various settings can be challenging, as different occasions have different expectations of how you dress. Understanding business professional attire can help you correctly dress for professional business settings. In this article, we discuss professional attire for business settings, outline elements of the professional business outfit, provide tips for wearing correct professional attire, and highlight how to maintain a professional business appearance.

What is business professional attire?

Business professional attire is a conservative dress style that companies with strict dress codes typically use. It is the standard dress code of any office unless the office adopts a different dress code. This style is traditional in sectors such as banking, accounting, government, finance, or law. The business professional dress code is similar to the business formal dress code, but the latter is typically for formal settings, like special dinners or award ceremonies.

Related: Various Types of Dress Code (With Factors That Affect It)

Elements of a professional business outfit

Here are some elements of a professional business outfit.

Professional business outfit for men

Here are the elements of a professional outfit for men for you to consider:

Suits

A professional business suit is an essential apparel for a professional business look. The suit is typically dark-coloured and is usually either charcoal grey or navy blue. You can choose lighter blues or greys in warmer weather. Ensure your professional business suits fit your body, as loose suits seem less professional. Some environments permit dark-coloured blazers or sweaters in place of a suit.

Shirts

Professional shirts are essential for professional business outfits. Preferable shirt colours include solid white or light or medium blues. Some environments permit shirts with subtle stripes, especially in a blue and white combination. Your shirt can be button-up or button-down, but some environments have preferences. The cuffs can be French or barrel, but ensure your cufflinks are professional.

Ties

Ties are a necessary part of a business professional outfit for men and can be solid, stripes, dots, plaid, or paisley. Dark-coloured ties are preferably regardless of the style to contrast the light-coloured shirt. Ties remain necessary despite wearing a sweater or a blazer. Ensure your tie's knot conceals your shirt's collar behind it.

Shoes

Business professional shoe options vary and include oxfords, whole cuts, cap toes, quarter-brogues, and monk straps. Dark-coloured shoes are typically most appropriate, with options being black, dark-brown, or burgundy. Leather is the popular choice for professional business shoes.

Accessories

Clothing accessories include belts, socks, and wristwatches. Matching your shoes with your belt is vital, and you can match your belt buckle with any other metal accessory you're wearing. Ensure your socks are dark, have conservative patterns, and match your pants. Briefcases are also typically preferable in business settings rather than backpacks. Wristwatches are optional, but they're best when matched with your cufflinks and your belt buckles if you opt for one.

Professional business outfit for women

Here are the elements of a professional outfit for women for you to consider:

Suits

Professional business suits comprise a blazer and a pair of pants or a skirt in matching materials. Neutral colours such as black, brown, or dark grey are preferable. Ensure your suit sleeves end at your wrist and that the blazer fits snugly on your shoulders. Skirts are best if they reach at least the top of your knees in length. If you choose to wear pants, their cuff can reach the midway of your shoes. Finally, ensure your blazer has a button closure in front, even if you prefer to leave it unfastened and ensure it is not too tight.

Shirts

Preferable shirt options for women include cotton blend, silk, or rayon. The shirt's colour or pattern is to match your suit. Acceptable colours include conservative tones like white, black, burgundy, or navy blue.

Footwear

Business professional footwear options can include comfortable leather pumps, you can also opt for either heels or flats. Closed-toe shoe styles are the typical business professional footwear. Heels that are about two to four inches long are best as they are a balance between comfort and professionalism. Nude, black, or dark brown coloured shoes are appropriate.

Accessories

There are various accessories you can wear with professional attire. For instance, you may wear pearl earrings or a single-strand necklace. You can also add a quality leather handbag that can fit letter-sized documents to complete a professional look. Handbags with a neutral colour are usually desirable over those that are bright.

Tips for following office dress code

Here are a few tips that can help you select an appropriate outfit for the office:

Be observant

Observing how other people dress is essential, especially if you work in an office. You can learn the dressing style of the office from how your colleagues dress. While it is best practice to refer to the company's handbook to determine the appropriate attire, being observant can help you notice any variation to the written rules.

Related: What Are Observation Skills? (And How to Improve Them)

Research

Research is important if you're going for an interview in a new company. It is necessary to answer interview questions correctly, but you can extend your research to include looking for information regarding dressing requirements. For example, you can check the company's website for staff pictures to observe how they dress. You can also ask the hiring manager or any staff member if you're unsure of the appropriate outfit.

Remain comfortable

Ensure you're comfortable in your outfit, as working in comfortable outfits can significantly improve your productivity. You can consider the weather, season, or office ventilation to determine what you feel comfortable wearing. Prioritize outfits you feel confident in, especially if it's a new environment. Dressing professionally and confidently can help you leave a positive and lasting impression on interviewers or business partners.

Related: Interview Outfits in the Summer: What To Wear and How To Keep Cool

Avoid revealing outfits

Business professional outfits are typically conservative. Ensure your clothes don't reveal too much of your body. If wearing a skirt, ensure it comes to your knees and be mindful of the length of your sleeves.

Wear neat outfits

Neat outfits help you express a sense of discipline that accompanies your professionalism. First, use quality pressing irons to press your clothes and remove creases and wrinkles. Next, ensure you properly cleaned your clothes and that they are free of stains and polish or clean your shoes. Take steps to preserve the state of your outfit as you commute to work.

How to maintain a business professional appearance

Here are some steps you can take to maintain a professional appearance:

1. Groom yourself

Showering, brushing your teeth, and combing or brushing your hair is vital to maintaining a professional appearance. Ensure you trim any facial hair to moderate lengths and ensure you have a professional haircut and style. Also, keep your fingernails short, clean, and trimmed. Try to wake up early to have enough time to groom yourself before leaving for your engagement.

2. Take special care on days you meet clients

Take extra care to ensure you dress appropriately on days you meet clients. This is especially important when you meet new clients, as first impressions are essential. A professional appearance can portray you as an expert, so it helps you gain client trust. You can consider taking an extra set of clothes to be prepared if anything happens to the outfit you are wearing.

Related: Reasons Why First Impressions Are Important (With Tips)

3. Use the correct amount of accessories

Accessories are an essential part of the dressing, and they can improve your professional appearance. Ensure your accessories aren't distracting and that you're comfortable in them. Try to keep your perfume or cologne moderate in strength.

4. Cover body piercings and tattoos

Cover any body piercings or tattoos to convey a professional and tidy appearance. Tattoos and piercings are typically unsuitable for the conservative nature of most work environments. If you are interested in getting tattoos or piercings but want to prevent them from interfering with your professionalism, consider getting them on body parts like your torso, upper arms, thighs, or upper legs.

5. Wear moderate makeup

Apply makeup that is similar to your natural shade when you're in a professional environment. While makeup can increase your confidence, heavy makeup is generally distracting and doesn't fit in a professional setting. You can ask a friend to help with the application if you're unsure of your abilities.

6. Maintain a professional posture

A professional appearance typically includes having a professional posture. Avoid slouching to maintain a confident and professional appearance. Body language is vital, especially when trying to make an impression. For example, firm handshakes, eye contact, and a warm smile can help evoke trust in your knowledge and ability.

Related: How To Use Interview Body Language To Project Confidence

7. Use professional language

Keeping a professional language and tone in business environments is vital. Using appropriate words or expressions can support your professional appearance. It can also lead to a healthy workplace environment for your coworkers. Various companies prohibit the use of foul language and have disciplinary measures in place to enforce it.

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