Dressing for Success: Choosing the Right Attire for the Job

Starting at a new job can be a stressful and awkward moment in life.  You have so many questions racing through your mind:

  • Will I catch on quickly?
  • Am I qualified to even do this job?
  • Will the people be nice to work with?
  • What do I need to bring on my first day?

Among the many details of on-boarding and training, the question of how to dress for your new position can get lost in the shuffle.

There are three basic types of dress when it comes to the workplace:

  • Casual
  • Business Casual
  • Professional

There are grey areas in between these basic types of dress, but for the most part these three are the most common you will run into.  The following definitions will help you avoid confusion and be sure your attire fits the expectations of your new company.


Dressing casual does not indicate you can dress sloppy or inappropriate. Clothing should always be clean, wrinkle-free and must not be overly revealing or offensive.  Depending on the dress code in your workplace, you may be allowed to wear T-shirts and sneakers; however, always be neat and think about your appearance.


  • Sundress
  • Long or short skirt
  • Khakis or nice jeans
  • Shorts (depending on occasion and climate)
  • Plain T-shirt (no slogans), polo shirt, turtleneck
  • Casual button-down blouse


  • Khakis or good jeans (clean, no wrinkles or holes)
  • Cargo or Bermuda shorts—depending on occasion and climate
  • Plain T-shirt (no slogans), polo shirt, turtleneck
  • Casual button-down shirt and/or sweater
  • Loafers, sneakers (with or without socks), sandals

Business Casual

A business casual dress code simply means that you don’t need to wear a dress suit for both men and women.  Clothing should always be clean, wrinkle-free and most certainly does not include jeans or t-shirts.


  • Skirt, khakis, or pants
  • Open-collar shirt, knit shirt or sweater (no spaghetti straps or décolleté)
  • Dressy top
  • Dressy pants outfit
  • Dress


  • Seasonal sport coat or blazer with slacks or khakis
  • Dress shirt, casual button-down shirt, open-collar or polo shirt
  • Optional tie
  • Loafers or loafer-style shoes, and socks


When you dress professional, you are dressing to impress. Professional attire consists of neutral colors and conservative footwear for both men and women.  Individuals should have clean grooming, wrinkle-free clothes and pay attention to the details: buttons, tie length, straight collars, etc.


  • Suit
  • Business-style dress
  • Dress with a jacket
  • Stockings (optional in summer)
  • Heels, low or high


  • Dark business suit
  • Matching vest (optional)
  • Dress shirt
  • Conservative tie
  • Dress shoes and dark dress socks

There are several opportunities leading up to your new career to learn appropriate attire.  During all interviews, take note on attire of other employees and better prepare yourself should you receive an offer of employment.  During your offer of employment, ask how you should dress on your first day.  On your first day, cover the topic of appropriate attire with your new supervisor. Understanding what is expected will help avoid uncomfortable conversations about what you have been wearing to work.

Remember, what you wear says a lot about you and the company you’ll be working for. So, consider your company, your teammates, clients, management, and your position when reaching into your closet, and you’ll be sure to come out a winner.  Remember that it is always best to dress, not for the position you’re in, but the position you WANT TO BE in.