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Design & Style

How to Dress for Work: 4 Types of Office Dress Codes

Written by MasterClass

Last updated: Sep 21, 2020 • 2 min read

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Tan France Teaches Style for Everyone

If you work in an office, it’s important to find appropriate business attire that makes you feel comfortable and confident. The clothes you wear to work are a way to convey your professionalism and show that you belong in your work environment.

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Queer Eye cohost Tan France breaks down the principles of great style, from building a capsule wardrobe to looking pulled together every day.

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What Is an Office Dress Code?

An office dress code describes the level of formality of the clothes you can wear to work. Most workplaces do not keep a written code of exactly which items employees should wear; instead, they use broad terms like “business professional,” “business formal,” “business casual,” or “casual.” By learning more about those categories and determining which one applies to your workplace, you’ll be able to dress for success.

How to Dress Business Professional

Business professional is the most conservative office dress code. This traditional business attire is the everyday officewear in industries like finance, banking, government, and law. A suit or pantsuit and button-down shirt (often with a tie) or knee-length pencil skirt and blazer and are the requirements for business professional dress. Your business suit should be tailored to fit perfectly. If you wear heels, stick to something closed-toe and three inches or shorter. Nice flats, loafers, and oxfords are also appropriate.

How to Dress Business Formal

The dressed-up version of business professional is business formal, a dress code generally reserved for events such as awards ceremonies and benefit dinners. For this one, wear a dark-colored suit or skirt suit, a dress shirt, and dress shoes. Ties and pocket squares should be silk. Finish your look with a minimalist belt and simple jewelry or cufflinks.

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How to Dress Business Casual

Business casual doesn’t necessarily mean casual—what it actually means is that you don’t have to wear a suit and tie. Business casual workwear usually includes a collared shirt (button-up or polo shirt) or sweater on top, with slacks, khakis, chinos, or a pencil skirt on the bottom. You may also wish to add a blazer or sport coat, but you don’t necessarily need a custom-tailored suit jacket. Shoes should be closed-toe and professional, whether you choose boots, heels, flats, loafers, mules, or oxfords. Business casual is a good way to dress if you’re unsure of what kind of environment you’re walking into since it falls somewhere between business professional and casual.

How to Dress for a Casual Work Environment

A casual office dress code is less restrictive than business casual, but that doesn’t mean you should dress as casually as you would outside of work. This type of work attire is common in creative industries and on casual Fridays at more formal workplaces. To maintain a professional look while wearing casual clothing, look for button-downs, blouses, and T-shirts in solid colors and dark-wash or black denim free from rips and holes. Although clean sneakers may be okay, stick to closed-toe shoes, and always avoid flip-flops.

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Casual vs. Smart-Casual in the Office

Smart-casual clothing is an upgraded version of casualwear, generally more suited to job interviews, client meetings, and events at casual workplaces. For a smart-casual dress code, break out trendier pieces, like a work-appropriate jumpsuit, a blazer, and higher-end footwear.

Want to Learn More About Unleashing Your Inner Fashionista?

Get a MasterClass All-Access Pass and let Tan France be your very own style spirit guide. Queer Eye’s fashion guru spills everything he knows about building a capsule collection, finding a signature look, understanding proportions, and more (including why it’s important to wear underwear to bed)—all in a soothing British accent, no less.

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