If you’re entering the corporate world for the first time, you may be nervous about what to wear in this type of environment. If your organisation provides you with uniforms, you can sit back and relax knowing your workwear is sorted. But, if the company has asked you to provide your own corporate clothing, you may be wondering which of the garments in your closet will impress and have you fit in with the office culture.
Office dress code policies vary between different workplaces. While corporate polo shirts are ideal for some professional industries, other working environments expect you to be dressed in a suit every day.
We’re here to help!
Getting your corporate workwear right needn’t be stressful if you use this list of top tips on what to wear in the professional workplace.
4 Top Tips on What to Wear in a Corporate Environment
1. Understanding Dress Codes
When asking your company’s human resource manager what the dress code is, you need to understand the different types of workwear. HR could tell you that business casual is fine but what does that mean?
Dress codes for the work environment are normally defined as follows:
- Business casual: Clothes can be dressier, with more freedom on colour choice and fancy details. Accessories are allowed as long as they’re professional. Corporate casual wear can include short-sleeved collared shirts for men and coloured blouses with patterns for women.
- Business formal: This attire is the highest form of professional wear and is common in industries related to law and accounting. Tailored suits in neutral, solid colours with ties and well-groomed hair are expected among male professionals. They expect women to wear well-cut skirts or pantsuits in conservative colours and close-toe shoes.
- Business professional: This is a slightly relaxed version of “business formal.” Corporate wear is traditional and neat but with more freedom to bring in some colour, patterns and conservative accessories.
- Casual: Most corporate work environments don’t encourage casual wear unless they support “Casual Fridays.” Even then, you need to be selective about what clothing you wear. While it may be appropriate for senior management to wear designer “torn” jeans on Fridays, it would be wiser to stick to smart khaki slacks.
While you may be reluctant to give up on casual wear, when entering a corporate environment, you have to follow the dress code policy to play it safe.
2. Keep It Neutral
Whatever the dress code policy says, the best advice most HR and recruitment agencies give newcomers to the corporate world is to keep your clothing neutral. This rule applies to both men and women. While this could be boring and go against your desire to be flamboyant, your company may not appreciate your need to be different!
When picking workwear for your corporate workplace, take into consideration the following:
- Stick to solid, conservative colours. This often means black or navy suits, trousers, skirts and jackets.
- Opt for white, tailored buttoned shirts that have collars. For men, make sure you can close the collar neatly when wearing a tie. Long-sleeved shirts are the best style for both men and women.
- Formal office footwear is essential and stay away from fancy details that may cause your manager to raise his or her eyebrows!
- Stay away from excessive jewellery such as bulky gold chains, flashy earrings and bangles.
- Avoid slogans at all costs!
Keeping your corporate workwear neutral means you don’t have to stress about whether you’re dressed appropriately for the professional work environment or not. It also means you’re always looking good whenever a sudden meeting is called with the directors, or you have to meet a client without much time to prepare or change your outfit.
3. Understand the Expectations of Your Client
Another guideline to help you decide what’s the right corporate wear is knowing what your clients expect from you. If you’re in an industry that entails meeting clients on a regular basis and they’re paying you big money for your service, your appearance needs to reassure them. Lawyers, accountants, and financial advisors understand the importance of impressing their clients from the word go.
Stick to the basics and keep it formal with suits, skirts, buttoned and collared shirts and smart footwear. This way, you can rest assured you’re meeting your clients’ expectations from the beginning, reassuring them they’re working with a professional who values clients’ time and money.
4. Dress for Success
If you see your work role being the start of something bigger in your career, then dressing for success is always key. This requires you to take your professional appearance seriously and observe how other successful, key players in your industry are dressing.
When dressing for success, imagine what would be the best attire for the boardroom and go with that look. In many cases, the following guidelines will be winning combinations:
- Men: Tailored white shirts and modest ties, dark three-piece suits and black Derby’s or Oxfords.
- Women: Collared dress blouses, dark classic suits, black tights and smart heels.
Entering the corporate world is exciting and looking presentable at all times is a prerequisite. Use these four top tips to ensure you always look good during working hours. Also have peace of mind you’re in line with the company’s dress code, so you impress the right people that could influence your future.