Making a strong first impression is an important aspect to your networking and job seeking efforts. Part of this impression, whether good or bad, can be influenced by what you are wearing. Dressing appropriately for an interview, networking event, client meeting or even an internal office meeting will not only make you more comfortable, but the people you are with feel more comfortable as well.
There are three basic categories when it comes to dress in the workplace: Traditional Business, Business Casual and Casual.
Traditional business attire for men and women is a suit, a jacket and pants or a skirt, or a dress. Men would traditionally wear a tie, while a woman would be able to add a scarf or other tasteful accessories. Strong fragrance and excessive make-up are not recommended. Traditional Business dress is starting to become a thing of the past, however many professional offices and organizations continue to require it.
Business Casual is the most widely accepted category of dress in the modern workplace. Though there isn’t an official definition for Business Casual, it generally consists of cotton or wool trousers for men, along with a collared shirt (either buttoned or polo style). Some business casual environments permit employees to wear jeans, however this is more the exception than the norm. The standard Business Casual outfit for women consists of trousers or a skirt (at or below the knee), a dress shirt or polo, and a sweater (if needed). Informal dresses are also acceptable.
Workplaces with a Casual dress code generally leave what to wear up to the individual employee. The single factor that mostly distinguishes Business Casual from Casual is the ability to wear denim jeans. It isn’t common for employees to wear t-shirts and flip flops in many work environments, however it is possible.
There are a number of resources that break down categories of dress into multiple subsets. The most important thing to remember is to know your environment before you arrive and dress accordingly. Below are additional resources to help distinguish different categories of dress.
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