Business clothes for women 101: types of dress codes and FAQ
What should we wear to the office and how to not look like a bluestocking following all the guidelines? That’s the issue most of us face when we have to figure out when dressing up for work or some business meeting. This guide will tell you all about the types of dress codes and answers to the most frequently asked question about business attire for ladies.
So, first of all, you need to figure out which kind of dress code you have to follow. There are six types:
- Smart casual
- Business casual
- Business professional
- Business formal
- Gender-neutral professional dress
Let’s take a look at each kind of attire and situation when it will be appropriate to wear such clothes.
Quite a lot of offices nowadays stick to the casual dress code. This attire is informal clothing that’s suitable for casual offices and everyday life outside of work. It includes all the kinds of clothes we’re used to — jeans, t-shirts, open-toed shoes. However, while some offices allow casual outfits, you shouldn’t wear it to meetings with clients and interviews. Even if your employer is totally fine with such attire.
A casual dress code for women allows wearing blouses, sweaters, and t-shirts on top. Jeans, shorts, and cropped pants will work well as bottoms. Also, it’s allowed to wear open-toed shoes like sandals, low heels, and even sneakers.
It’s a more trendy take on casual. This form of business attire includes fashionable clothes and accessories that would make you look more stylish. Smart casual works as a dress code for some flexible offices and informal settings. Also, one could wear such an outfit for an interview in an informal office. The main feature of smart casual is that such attire looks neat and professional while showing that you care about your appearance.
This dress code allows pretty much any clothes such as dresses, sweaters, trousers, blouses, blazers, skirts, etc. You can also wear jewelry and scarves.
This is one of the most widely-spread dress codes. Business casual is a mix of classic business items and more modern elements. This attire will work well for most client meetings, offices, and interviews. It’s a middle ground between business and casual outfits, therefore, it’s a good choice for when you’re not sure how you’re supposed to dress.
This type of dress code allows blouses, blazers, button-down shirts, and sweaters for the top. Bottoms ask for trousers, skirts, or khakis. You can add simple jewelry and belts to accessorize the look. For the shoes choose loafers, mules, boots, heels, or flats.
This conservative dress code is still quite widely-spread. You’ll see people dressed in business professional in banks, accounting and finance firms, law agencies, or government. Such attire should have a perfect fit to look neat and appealing. That’s why business professional clothes are often tailored.
When dressing in business professional, opt for slacks, skirts, or tidy dresses. Button-down shirts and blouses in a combination with blazers will work for the top. Choose classic heels below three inches, tidy flats, or loafers. Minimal jewelry and belts are allowed.
This is a strict dress code that’s similar to “black tie” but must be more reserved to show professionalism. Business formal is used for special dinners, award ceremonies, or other important evening events related to work.
This dress code asks for suits. You should opt for pants or skirt suits, or suit dresses in darker shades — you’ll find quite a lot of options in our collection. For the shoes choose between heels, flats, oxfords, or loafers. You can wear minimal jewelry. Also, if a long evening gown is appropriate for the event you’re attending — go for it.
Gender-neutral professional dress
It’s a relatively new type of dress code. It can be used in different settings that don’t adhere to a gender binary. You should choose the closing depending on the level of formality. For example, for a more casual look, you can choose jeans, shirts, or sweaters, and sandals, loafers, or sneakers.
If you need to dress formally, you can go for trousers, chinos, or slacks. Button-downs, shirts with cardigans, and sweaters will work well for tops. Choose oxfords, lace-up shoes, or loafers for the shoes.
If the setting is very formal, a pantsuit will always be a good choice. Pair it with loafers or slightly heeled or flat oxfords.
Frequently asked questions
Now as we’ve figured out the differences between dress codes, let’s take a look at the most frequently asked questions and answers to them.
What is the best choice for office wear for women?
Hands down, a suit is always a great option. You’ll find plenty of them in our collection — the wide variety of models and colors are at your service. Skirt suits and dresses are the standard for business clothes for women. Such attire will always let you look polished and professional.
Can I wear open-toed heels to the office?
Yes, if the dress code allows that. Since quite a lot of offices allow casual, they allow open-toed shoes as well.
Can I wear jeans to an interview?
A dark pair of jeans might work well if paired with a blouse or a button-down shirt. But you should choose the outfit considering the office you’re having an interview for. If it’s a bank or some other formal institution, opt for more formal clothes such as suits, traditional skirts, or dresses.
Which color to choose for an interview?
The studies show that blue and black work the best for a job interview while orange seems to be the worst.
Business lunch — what to wear?
A traditional skirt or dress pants worn with a blouse or a button-down shirt and heels will work perfectly.
Business dinner — what to wear?
A business dinner calls for conservative attire. A skirt or trousers suit will be great. Shoes should be closed-toe, and the skirt should be below or just above the knee.
What to avoid when dressing for the formal setting?
Ladies should avoid quite a lot of items when getting ready for a formal setting:
- Skinny pants
- Spiky heels
- Tight clothes
- Bright colors
- Bold jewelry
- Exposed arms, toes, cleavage, or thighs
It’s easier to put it this way — avoid things that could be distracting to the people that are going to be around you in a professional environment. Let them focus on your words, not looks.
How high should the heels be?
While there is no strict rule, you should wear shoes that are comfortable. The classic is a low-heeled black shoe with a closed toe.
Pants or a skirt?
Both pants and skirts are allowed. But make sure that these pieces of clothing are of an appropriate fit which means they shouldn’t be too short or long, tight or loose.
Flats or heels?
Both types of shoes are allowed. Yet, heels boost confidence and add professionalism to the look.
Should women wear hosiery?
Today most employees wouldn’t care. However, we advise you to wear hosiery for an interview just in case.
What about the hairstyle?
Women can choose between different hairstyles. Yet, you should opt for styles that won’t be distracting. Also, the hair shouldn’t hide your face. Since many ladies tend to play with hair when they’re worried, it’s better for them to pin it back.
How about piercings?
It’s better to take off all visible piercings except for two traditional ear piercings when you get ready for an interview. Later, you can figure out whether piercings are allowed at this workplace.
What about tattoos?
Here works the same rule as for piercings with one difference — you can’t remove tattoos just like that. So if they’re visible, you can’t do much about them. Just try to hide ones you can when you come to an interview and see later if you can show them.
Tips that will help you dress appropriately for the office
There are some things you can do to fit in.
See what others are wearing
It’s better to opt for the attire worn by people that obtain higher positions than you. It will let you create a good image needed for your career journey.
Check the “About Us” page
It’s useful to pop on this page before the interview. There you might see photos or videos of employees. Then you will get more clues on how to dress.
Avoid distracting accessories, heels above four inches, and bold clothes. Also, mind what you’re saying.
If you’re not sure how to dress for the upcoming business event or meeting, ask those who know people that are going to be there. Maybe your colleagues will give you some hints on how to dress.
Business attire is not just clothes. It’s a way to create an impressive image. Your outfit can increase or ruin your chances for a successful career. So be attentive and flexible enough to navigate the dress codes required for different settings.