Career Development

Guide to Business Attire: Definitions and Examples

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Business attire is important when you work in a professional setting. The type of business attire you wear depends on the type of business you work in or what role you play in that business. Business attire can range from casual to business formal. Depending on the setting and the rules where you work, following the guides below will help you choose appropriate clothing for an occasion.

What is business attire?

Business attire is the clothes you wear when you work in a professional setting, such as in banks and business offices. Business attire is best for workplaces that require it and for interviews. When going for an interview, you can research the place where you are interviewing. The type of dress code the office follows is typically how you should dress for the interview.

What is business formal attire?

Business formal is the most traditional and inflexible business attire. As a general rule, you should dress in business formal unless there is another workplace dress code. Business formal is also appropriate for those who may work in upper management, business dinners and award ceremonies and for people who perform ceremonies or presentations, like funeral home employees. 

Business formal attire includes: 

  • Dark-colored business suit
  • Solid light-colored or white button-down shirt with sleeves
  • Conservative colored tie
  • Clean, closed-toe or closed-toe heeled, polished dress shoes
  • Dark dress socks when wearing pants, pantyhose with skirts
  • Hair, nails and facial hair should be clean and neatly groomed
  • Limited jewelry, including cuff links and wedding rings

What is business professional attire?

Business professional attire is the way most people dress for an interview or for a business meeting. 

Business professional attire includes: 

  • Dark or gray business suit 
  • Button-down, solid color blouse or button-down shirt with sleeves
  • Conservative ties
  • Closed-toe or closed-toe heeled shoes that are polished
  • Neat, clean, and groomed hair, facial hair and nails
  • Small amount of conservative jewelry, such as a single necklace, wedding ring, cufflinks and small stud earrings
  • Other accessories should be conservative and minimal, such as hair accessories
  • Dark-colored dress socks with pants and pantyhose with skirts

What is business casual attire?

Business casual is a casual form of business attire. Business casual attire includes many types of clothing, so many companies provide clear dress codes for their employees to help them dress appropriately. For example, some companies have a uniform, such as khaki pants and a polo shirt with the company logo on it. 

Business casual attire includes:

  • Khaki pants
  • Printed dresses or jumpers
  • Other colors of dress pants
  • Cardigans or sweaters
  • Polo shirts
  • Conservative ties
  • Neat and clean hairstyles
  • Clean nails or nail polish
  • Jewelry can include watches, necklaces and other types of earrings 
  • Some businesses allow khaki-colored shorts worn with dress shoes

What is small business casual attire?

Small business casual varies based upon your particular organization. This can look different for each business. Some businesses might allow nice jeans as their professional attire while others only allow jeans on a certain day of the week as an incentive. For these situations, it is best to double-check the dress code at your place of employment and make a decision on what you will wear based on the dress code.

Business attire tips

What a company considers to be appropriate business attire can vary greatly from one organization to the next. It is best to refer to the employer’s dress code or follow the example of your manager or professional coworkers if you aren’t sure what to wear to work.

Here are more business attire tips to help you decide what to wear to work:

  • Try to avoid heavy fragrances in perfumes or colognes, as some people can be allergic or sensitive to strong smells
  • Try to maintain a clean and professional appearance, regardless of the clothing you wear to work, including clean hair and good hygiene
  • Attire should be well fitted, clean and tidy