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Office attire 101 for young professionals

You never want to be the underdressed one...

Sarah Xu

January 08, 2024



As college students prepare to transition from the campus to the workplace, understanding office attire is essential. The way you dress in a professional setting can leave a lasting impression, and while you may not need a wardrobe full of expensive suits, knowing the basics of office attire can help you make the right impression while navigating the professional realm. In this guide, we'll explore various types of office attire, where to shop for them, and the importance of using your own judgment in adapting to office norms!

👔 Business Professional:

Business professional attire is more formal, often seen in corporate environments and during interviews. Men typically wear suits with dress shirts and ties, while women opt for pantsuits, blouses, and closed-toe shoes. This attire exudes a high level of professionalism.

Where to Shop for Business Professional:

Men: Invest in quality suits from Brooks Brothers, Macy's, or Suitsupply.

Women: Look for suits at Nordstrom, Banana Republic, or Macy's.

👕 Smart Casual:

Smart casual attire is a step up from business casual. It's a more polished look that still allows for individuality. For men, this might include well-fitted blazers, dress shoes, and stylish trousers. Women can choose to wear tailored blouses, skirts, or well-fitting dresses.

Where to Shop for Smart Casual: Zara, Express, ASOS, Nordstrom, Ann Taylor, Banana Republic, J.Crew

👗 Business Casual:

Business casual is a common dress code in many offices. It strikes a balance between professional and comfortable. For men, khakis or dress slacks paired with a button-down shirt or a polo shirt is a safe bet. Women can opt for slacks, skirts, or dresses that are not too formal, along with blouses or tops. 

Where to Shop for Business Casual: J.Crew, H&M, Zara, Uniqlo, Abercrombie & Fitch, ASOS

👠 Creative Casual:

In creative industries like advertising, design, or media, the dress code leans toward creative casual. It's less restrictive and allows for self-expression. Men might wear unique graphic tees, stylish jeans, and sneakers. Women can experiment with artistic, fashionable outfits.

Where to Shop for Creative Casual: Urban Outfitters, Zara, Topshop, Anthropologie, Madewell, Abercrombie & Fitch, ASOS

👖 Casual Fridays:

Casual Fridays provide some relief from the formality of the workweek, usually a treat in the corporate workplace. However, this doesn't mean you can show up in worn-out jeans and flip-flops. Men can opt for well-fitting jeans and casual button-down shirts. Women can wear neat, comfortable dresses, skirts, or well-kept jeans.

Where to Shop for Casual Fridays: Levi's, Uniqlo, H&M, Zara

Using Your Own Judgment:

While understanding these office attire categories is essential, it's equally important to use your judgment to navigate specific office norms. Here are a few key considerations:

1️⃣ Observe: Pay attention to how your colleagues and superiors dress. This can offer valuable insight into your office's dress code.

2️⃣ Company Culture: Different companies may have varying norms, so always consider your company's culture and the industry you work in.

3️⃣ Dress One Step Up: It's generally a good idea to dress slightly more formal than your company's stated dress code. This shows respect for the work environment and can make a positive impression.

4️⃣ Avoid Overly Casual Items: While comfort is important, avoid overly casual items like athletic wear, crop tops, flip-flops, or clothing with offensive graphics.

5️⃣ Personal Branding: Your attire is part of your personal brand. Make sure it reflects your professionalism, competence, and respect for your work and colleagues.

Understanding office attire is an essential aspect of transitioning from college to the workplace. While guidelines within the many attire categories exist, using your own judgment based on your workplace and industry will help you navigate blending into your workplace. Dressing appropriately will help you establish a professional image and make a positive impact with confidence as you embark on your career!