Office Dress Code: What You Need to Know

In the working world, clothes and appearance do matter. This is especially true for those whose job involves a lot of face time with co-workers or clients. Basically, it takes just a few seconds for your employer or client to form a first impression of you based on your outfit.

The working world is enough stressful even without the added pressure of worrying over what to wear. And if that’s not enough, the world of office attire becomes even more complicated as work environments continue to evolve, now including trendy digital start-ups and shared spaces. And when you’re new to office life, this can leave you with many question marks. That being said, if you are about to shop office wear for creating stylish work outfits, here’s what you should know.

What Is an Office Dress Code?



The office dress code describes the level of formality of the clothes you can wear to your workplace. Every workplace has its own dress code. One of the main reasons why companies decide to have an employee dress code is the interaction with customers, during which they should appear welcoming and professional.

Most workplaces don’t have an explicitly written code of exactly which corporate wear should the employees wear, but rather use broad terms like ‘business professional’, ‘business formal’, ‘business casual’ or just ‘casual’. By figuring out which business clothes apply to your workplace, you will be able to dress for success.

Business Formal



The highest level of professional dress attire is business formal. This is the fanciest and least flexible of professional fashion categories and usually, it is reserved for upper management, lawyers, accountants, and others. It also applies for formal business occasions such as evening events, award ceremonies, etc.

For men, this dress code usually involves tailored, dark-coloured suits, white dress shirts, silk ties (non-optional), cufflinks, pockets squares and a pair of smart, black, well-polished, leather shoes with laces. However, when women want to shop office wear for a business formal dress code they should look for suits with trousers or a mid-length skirt (hem below the knee), a fitted shirt, dark tights, black or neutral closed-toe pumps, and modest jewellery.

All employees are expected to maintain a high standard in their appearance, including grooming. Also, for a job interview, you should always be dressed business formal.

Business Professional



Business professional is a step down from business formal. However, it’s still conservative and traditional, just slightly more relaxed. It is characterised by increased flexibility in colours and pattern choice.

Men should stick dark-coloured suits, white shirt, ties with more patterns and colours, black belt, and smart black leather shoes with laces. A sweater or sport coat can also stand in for a suit jacket. Regarding ties, they are optional.

Women, in turn, should stick to suits with trousers or conservative length skirts in modest colours, a shirt, blouse or sweater, and modest heels. If you wear heels, stick to something closed-toe, 5 centimetres or shorter. Also, nice flats, loafer, and oxfords would be appropriate too. A conservative, subtle-coloured dress is also acceptable in this style. When it comes to jewellery, you can get a little more creative and combine something that is more noticeable, such as chunky watches, long earrings or statement scarves or necklaces.

Business Casual



There is no widely accepted definition for business casual. However, it usually means that you don’t need to wear a suit but it’s recommended to have one close at hand at work in case an important meeting crops up. Plus, you should still keep a certain level of professionalism, regardless of how casual the dress code is.

For men, business casual usually includes a shirt or polo shirt, a jacket which is entirely optional, and khakis or chinos in lieu of dress pants. Ties here are completely unnecessary. You can combine all this with smart leather shoes.

Women, on the other hand, can wear a collared shirt or smart plain top, trousers or skirt (which can go a couple of centimetres above the knee), and smart shoes, such as closed-toe heels, flats, loafers in any colour. A shirtdress in a solid colour can make a great choice or a printed blouse. Regarding the jewellery and other accessories, the employees are allowed greater freedom to choose.




Jeans at work? Totally acceptable in smaller companies who tend to have a more relaxed dress code. However, you should just make sure that you are not the only one sporting denim, and still opt for your classiest pair. It’s important that you are still maintaining a level of professionalism, meaning the clothes should still be pressed, neat, and appropriate for your type of work.

More precisely, men are expected to wear casual pants and slacks with collared polos or crew-neck jumpers in most colours and patterns. About pants, denim is acceptable, only if you stick to dark colours and straight-legged styles, and casual chinos or trousers. All of these go with clean and well-kept trainers or loafers.

Women, in turn, have the freedom to wear nicely-fitted tops and blouses, cropped pants, bold prints, and mid-thigh-length skirts (cotton or dark denim). When it comes to shoes, open-toed heels, flats or wedges are all acceptable choices.