There are many gender-neutral clothing options available for all forms of business attire, from casual to formal. While you should observe your workplace clothing policies, you can certainly find clothing in which you feel comfortable to be at your best during the workday. In this article, we will discuss what gender-neutral attire is and several examples you might consider for the main types of business attire depending on your workplace.
What is gender-neutral clothing?
Gender-neutral or gender-free clothing is attire that is largely devoid of what is defined in society as hyper-masculine or hyper-feminine elements. Therefore, gender-neutral clothing is appropriate for any person to wear, regardless of the gender with which they may identify. Good gender-neutral clothing pieces that are appropriate for the workplace should fit any body type well.
For example, slacks are acceptable for any person to wear in the workplace. You can dress slacks up or down depending on your work environment and pair them with a wide variety of tops, shoes and accessories.
Gender-neutral attire in professional settings
Gender-neutral clothing should support your effort to look polished, professional and comfortable. You can incorporate gender-neutral clothing into your wardrobe for any professional situation you may be in whether you are attending an in-person interview, starting a new job or attending a networking event. To decide what to wear, you might do light research to gain context. Here are some things to consider when deciding what to wear:
- When going to an interview, do a bit of research about the company and their culture. If possible, find photos of people in the office to see what they are wearing and dress one step more formal than they are. For example, if it is a company that accepts casual dress, you should select a smart casual or business casual outfit. If you are interviewing for a more traditional industry such as finance or law, you should wear professional attire for your interview.
- At your first day on the job, it is typically appropriate to err on the side of business casual unless there is an industry standard. Once you are able to observe the way others dress you can adjust your clothing accordingly. It is also appropriate to ask the recruiter, HR manager or hiring manager what the common style of dress is at the office ahead of your first day. They want you to feel welcome and comfortable when you join the organization.
- At a networking event, notice the tone of the messaging around the event (including invites or emails you may have received about it). While they might explicitly state any attire requirements, you might also be able to gain context about the event. For example, if the messaging seems highly professional, you might err on the side of formal dress. If you are attending the event with others, ask them about the way they might dress.
Read more: How to Dress for a Job Interview
Abiding by employer dress codes
An employer's dress code dictates the style of clothing employees should wear at work. You should be able to apply gender-neutral attire to any employer dress code. Here are several examples of gender-neutral clothing you might wear for types of dress commonly required by different businesses:
Casual dress is the least formal form of attire able to be worn in the workplace. This is common among industries such as tech. Gender-neutral tops that are casual include t-shirts, henleys, sweatshirts and more. Casual bottoms include jeans, khakis and chinos. There are many styles including skinny, straight leg, bootcut and wide cut you can use to change up your look. For shoes, you might wear tennis shoes, sneakers or boots.
Even if your workplace allows casual dress, you should still pay close attention to how people dress in your workplace. A good rule of thumb is to identify a person at the level or with the job you aspire to have and mimic their level of formality. You can also dress in the “smart casual” style which incorporates casual and formal pieces to achieve a more stylish look. Generally, you should still avoid tank tops, flip-flops, workout clothing and untidy clothing that is torn or highly distressed.
Business casual attire is the most standard form of dress followed in professional settings and is a good option if you are unsure about what you should wear. Slightly more formal than casual dress, business casual standards include button-downs, sweaters, henleys, and other shirts made of neat, professional materials. Common bottoms include chinos, slacks and khakis. You may also be able to wear well-fitting, dark-colored jeans in some settings. Gender-neutral, business professional shoes include boots, loafers, oxfords and tidy, professional-looking sneakers.
Business professional clothing is often the most formal workplace attire, commonly required by more traditional industries such as finance, law and other client-facing roles. A good suit is the best option for business professional settings. Depending on your preferences, you might wear a tan, blue or black suit jacket or sport coat with a matching pair of fitted trousers. Business professional clothing should be dark or neutral on the outside with lighter colors such as white or light blue underneath.
Avoid complex patterns and bright colors, and opt for close-toed dress shoes with or without a heel. If you are wearing a belt, your shoe and belt color should match. You should also consider carrying a professional bag, portfolio or purse to store personal items and cell phones. Other accessories include watches and simple, minimal jewelry.
Tips for gender-neutral attire
First impressions are essential, especially during the interview process. Your clothing should be in good condition, well-fitted and free of lint, holes or wrinkles. Any piercings and visible tattoos should align with your company's culture or standards.
Here are a few additional tips for gender-neutral dress in the workplace:
- Create a variety of outfits with accessories, shoes and layered items like cardigans.
- Clothes should be clean and wrinkle-free.
- Garments should be well-fitted without being too tight or too baggy.
Your clothes should represent your personality, making you feel comfortable and confident in professional settings. Whether you opt for casual or formal clothing, there are several gender-neutral options you can incorporate into your wardrobe. Consider the above advice during your next interview, networking event or first day on the job to make a great first impression.