Starting a New Job

How Do I Dress for Work?

February 22, 2021

What you choose to wear to work is crucial, as it impacts the workplace as a whole and how people think of you. If you're starting a new job, you might not know what's expected of your appearance in the new workplace. In this case, it's important to learn how to handle this situation to ensure you can dress appropriately for work each day. In this article, we list some of the reasons that dressing appropriately and professionally for work is important and provide some guidance and tips on how to do it.

Why is it important to dress appropriately for work?

There are many reasons why making an effort to dress appropriately and professionally for your job is beneficial for you and your company. Here are a few of the main reasons:

You're more likely to move ahead in your career

If you're dressed nicely, people are more likely to recognize your skills and competence, as it allows employers and clients to focus on your beneficial attributes rather than your attire. By appropriately following your company's dress code, you can also potentially increase your chances of a raise or a promotion.

First impressions are critical

You can never be sure of who you're going to meet both inside and outside of your company. It's crucial to look professional, as you very well may be someone's first impression of your company such as a potential client. Making a positive first impression with an appropriate and professional outfit can benefit both your organization and your personal career.

Related: Your Guide to Making Good First Impressions

It boosts self-confidence

When you look professional and put together, it can help you feel more confident in your actions. Knowing you're dressed in appropriate attire can help you keep your focus on your work rather than worrying about whether your outfit is right for work.

Related: Business Casual vs. Business Professional Dress Codes in the Office

How to dress for work

In many workplaces, there's a balance between looking too casual and looking overdressed. Appropriate attire can also vary from business to business, making it challenging to know how you should be dressing when starting a new position. Here are some tips and tricks to help you ensure that you're dressed properly for your job:

Related: What to Wear to Work

1. Consult the dress code

Check to see if your company has a detailed dress code. Most businesses provide some guidance in the employee handbook. Here is a list of some of the most common types of dress, their descriptions and some brief specifics of where they are likely to apply and what they entail:

  • Business formal: This type of attire is most typically worn in careers in law or in which you're meeting with executives. It's also known as "boardroom attire." It is the most formal of traditional business apparel and often includes full suits.
  • Business professional: This dress code is also known as "traditional business." It's less formal than business formal attire—instead of a full suit, this dress code might include a pair of slacks or dress pants paired with a conservative blouse or button-down shirt.
  • Business casual: This dress code is one of the most common in the professional sphere. It can vary, but usually includes slacks or khakis paired with a polo shirt or professional blouse.
  • Executive Casual: Executive casual is similar to business professional, but it's often a bit more fashion forward with trendier clothing options. You are most likely to encounter executive casual in large cities.
  • Casual: Casual work dress is the most relaxed and informal of the business attire options. It can vary depending on the type of industry in which you work, so it's best to ask questions if you're unsure. For example, some companies may allow jeans as part of a casual dress code, while other businesses won't.

Following your office's dress code is vital, as these codes are put into place for various important reasons such as visual workplace continuity, reflecting the company's values, employee unity, professionalism and setting clear expectations.

2. Use other coworkers' dress as cues

Another strategy you can use to determine what you should wear to work is to look at what your colleagues are wearing. Most companies want their employees to look uniform in their attire for organizational unity, so try to emulate the fashion choices of your peers, particularly if your company doesn't provide a specific dress code. You might look specifically for these sorts of attire choices in your department:

  • Flats vs. heels
  • Open vs. close-toed shoes
  • Dresses vs. suits
  • Button-ups vs. polos
  • Skirts vs. slacks
  • Bright colors vs. neutrals
  • Heavier vs. more natural makeup
  • Jewelry
  • Ties

Remember, it's usually better to be overdressed than underdressed. Tweak your look based on your observations until you feel like you're properly presenting yourself.

3. Determine your level of comfort

The type of work you're doing is another thing to consider when choosing your work attire. If you're sitting at a desk all day, the comfort level of your outfit and shoes is likely less important than if you'll be performing a more physical job that requires lots of movement. Consider specifically the fabrics you select, as some might wrinkle more than others and your footwear, as some styles will provide more support and comfort for walking or standing than others.

4. Make sure you maintain your clothing

Be sure to wash, dry and iron your work clothes properly. Not only should your clothing meet certain formality requirements, but it should also be neat, clean and well-maintained. Dispose of torn or stained pieces and replace them with new items when necessary.

5. Envision people in your field

Think about how you'd imagine other people in your field dressing. For example, If the first image you conjure in your mind when thinking of an accountant is someone in a button-up shirt and tie, that's likely a good outfit choice for your first day on the job.

6. Gauge reactions

Gauging coworkers' and superiors' reactions to your attire can be a great way to know whether you're dressed appropriately at the workplace. However, proper attire is likely to get no reaction rather than a visibly positive one. It can be beneficial to simply ask your coworkers or supervisors if your attire is acceptable, especially if it's your first day on the job.

If you've already been working at your company for a while, it may be better to read your peers' expressions and body language to determine whether your outfit is acceptable. Some examples of positive body language to look out for are:

  • Smiles
  • Eye contact
  • Leaning in
  • Head nodding

Conversely, you might want to reconsider your outfit if you see this sort of body language from your peers:

  • Avoiding eye contact
  • Fidgeting
  • Stiffness
  • Sitting on the edge of their seat

7. Dress like you're going to your dream job

Generally, dressing more formally than necessary for your position is a sign you're interested in continuing to grow and develop in your career. Choosing an outfit appropriate for your dream career can help you achieve those career goals in the long-term.


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