Whether you are attending a networking event, going to a job interview or starting a new job, it can sometimes be confusing to decide on an appropriate outfit. Business attire ranges from casual to formal, and many organizations have varying cultures around their dress code.
Business professional is known as one of the more formal forms of workplace attire and is common in more traditional industries. In this article, we will define business professional attire and provide several examples for business professional clothing options.
What is business professional?
Business professional attire is a formal dress code common in more traditional workplace settings. Industries such as banking, accounting, government, finance and law typically require business professional dress in the workplace. Business professional clothing might also be appropriate for job fairs or networking events where you know the attire to be more formal.
When attending an interview, unless you are aware of strict formal attire requirements, you should commonly err toward the side of business casual. Typically the most appropriate outfit for an interview is one step more formal than what the workforce at that company wears. For example, if the dress at a certain company is casual, your interview clothing should be smart casual or business casual.
Business professional attire for women
Women following a business professional dress code should wear pressed slacks, skirts or dresses, sharp button-down shirts or tidy blouses and blazers. No matter the look, solid, neutral colors such as black, gray and navy are best. Keep any accessories minimal, avoiding items such as chunky jewelry or oversized belts.
Depending on your outfit you might also decide to wear hose, especially if you're wearing anything other than dress pants. You should also consider polished, closed-toe shoes with a maximum three-inch heel and a neat, professional hairstyle. You might also carry a streamlined laptop bag or briefcase in a neutral color.
Here are several additional tips and options for women’s business professional attire:
- Skirt or pant suits
A pantsuit is an excellent option for professional dress. Select a clean black or gray pantsuit or pencil skirt and blazer. The garments should be comfortable but fitted with skirts falling just below the knee.
- Business professional shirts
Opt for a collared, button-down shirt with your pantsuit and blazer. Select a neutral color like white or blue. Button-down shirts always look professional but must be pressed. Wrinkle-free fabrics are a great option for a business professional office.
- Business professional shoes
Whether you prefer flats, pumps or heels, choose a shoe that has a heel less than three inches. Black patent pumps or loafers are an enduring option. Pair your shoes with hose close to your skin tone when wearing a dress or skirt.
- Professional women's accessories
Select minimal jewelry such as stud earrings or a simple cuff. Avoid using heavy perfume or body sprays. Any nail polish should be nude or clear, and you may be required to cover tattoos depending on your workplace. Your belt should ideally match your suit and blend in under your blazer.
Business professional attire for men
Business professional styles should include subdued, solid colors. A good example of professional dress is a dark-colored suit and tie with a light blue or white button-down shirt. Match your belt to the color of your oxfords or loafers.
Choose a conservative tie by avoiding overly bright colors or busy patterns. You might also invest in a few pairs of dark socks and a tidy hairstyle.
Here are several additional tips and options for men’s business professional attire:
- Business professional suits
The perfect business professional suit is solid or pinstriped with plain or cuffed bottoms and notched lapels. When in doubt, choose a black or dark gray suit for year-round wear and a medium gray or deep blue for the summer. Avoid light-colored suits, however, as they're more appropriate for social events such as weddings.
- Business professional men's shirts
Good shirt options include solid white or light-blue to medium-blue button-downs. Always consider your company's dress code before trying to incorporate new elements you’re unsure about. No matter the shade, your business professional shirt should feature a French or barrel cuff to which you can add minimalist cuff links.
- Business professional ties and accessories
Keep your tie simple. Solids are a great starting point, but classic, conservative patterns and stripes are also appropriate. Business professional shoes include loafers, oxfords, monkstraps or classic cap-toed shoes in black, brown or burgundy.
How does business professional differ from other dress codes?
Business professional is always about looking polished. More formal than most other forms of business attire, it is not quite as proper as business formal dress.
Business professional vs. business casual
Unlike business casual where you can typically wear more expressive styles, business professional adheres to neutral tones, clean grooming and attention to detail. There are many items of clothing that you may be able to wear in both settings such as button-downs, dresses, skirts, slacks, oxfords and loafers.
If you’re unsure of about an organization’s dress code when scheduling a job interview, erring on the professional side of the spectrum is best. Once you start a job, you can get a feel for the office setting during your first week on the job and dress up or down as needed.
Business professional vs. business formal
Although business professional is tidy and formal, it's still a step below business formal. Business professional is similar to “black tie” in that women might wear evening dresses and men wear black suits with cuff links. This dress code is rare in the daily office, but some business professional companies might require business formal events such as galas or fundraisers.
As with any dress code, pay close attention to your company’s policies on attire in the workplace. It is a good idea to mimic the formality of those who are in a position you’d like to have one day while keeping your own personal style. While you should certainly abide by your company dress code, it is also important to feel confident and comfortable.