Deciphering a (Professional) Dress Code

deciphering a dress code1final

For a recent project in theology, we were split into groups of three to create a presentation on etiquette ranging from a variety of topics. My group was assigned dress code. This project brought to my attention just how often people dress themselves inappropriatey. Bare with me please, for when I say inappropriately, I don’t necessarily mean “skanky” or anything. However, in the professional world, this is a common mistake that needs to be fixed. Today, I’m going to let you in on my presentation. Hopefully, you’ll walk away from this post feeling more confident in picking outfits for work, and can then judge the people who don’t quite get it from a distance (you know you like to).

Professional Dress- Women

Suits: When chosing a pant suit, it’s easy to find the “trendy styles”. It is these stles, in fact, that you should be avoiding; opting for a more classic, even plain, suit. The jacket sleeve length should fall 1/2 inch below the wrist, and, overall, well fitted. Stick to neutral colours like black, white, grey, navy or brown.

Pants: Pants are good for women for “site visits” (if you’re going somewhere rather than a meeting), however, they are a bit harder to find the right pair. Capris, kakhis, and bright coloured pants are not acceptable in the professional world (of course, there are exception).

Skirt: Skirts should be about knee length (or 3 inches above the knee at the absolute most), loose/fitted, and a solid colour (or, in some cases, a basic pattern: small dot, plaid, etc.). It’s also important to avoid skirts with a high slit in the side, as it may show too much skin and be seen more on the tacky side.

Shirt: A blouse or camisole are appropriate. Research shows that both parties see lighter coloured shirts as more professional, but also happier (psychology proves that bright colours make both the wearer and the observer in a better mood). This next tip is pretty obvious, but I still feel the need to say it, cleavage should not be showing.

Shoes: Try to avoid open toed shoes and sandals. If you decide to wear pumps, chose a basic colour (black, white, tan), that are 1-2 inches high.If you are wearing socks or stocking, chose a nude colour that matches your skin tone. I can’t tell you how many times I have seen people try to pull off a stocking colour 2 or 3 shades darker/ lighter than they are. This is an investment you will want to make, as it can be used in so many social situations and gatherings.

Professional Dress- Men

Suit: Mens suits should have a solid, or subtle pinstripe in a neutral colour (black, navy, brown, grey). Avoid double breasted jackets. A tip I found interesting was that the jacket should be buttoned when standing, and unbuttoned when sitting – so you don’t get an extra “tummy”.

Pants: Pants must match the jacket to a certain degree. The pant leg should touch the front of the shoe, and fall above the heel in the back.

Tie: Conservative colours are most appropriate (not necessarily neutral, but subtle- you don’t want it screaming out at everybody. Tie length should reach your belt. There are various ways to tie a tie (google for more education!) that are appropriate for different situations.

Shirt: White or muted shirt with collar, long sleeves that exceed 1/2 an inch below the jacket sleeve.

Shoes: Polished leather shoes are a basic that every man should have. Wear dark socks that match the shoes and reach calf length.


Women: Jewelry should be kept to a minimum, only using it to compliment certain pieces of the outfit, or to tie a look together (avoid big, dangly earrings). Wear only one pair of earrings, with a maximum of one ring per hand. Simple and professional purses are acceptable, backpacks or large “boho” bags are not; remember, you’re going to work, not school!

Men: Be consecutive with watches and other jewelry- always make sure they match. Earrings in males are not always viewed as a positive thing in the professional world, it’s best to take them out (a lot of jobs actually require this). Another tip is to match your belt with your shoes; it will bring your look together.

Other Tips

**All clothes should be neatly ironed: Do not wear your clothes directly after you iron them. If they’re still warm and in the “cooling” process when you put it on, it will bring even more wrinkles that will definitely be visible, and harder to get out that then first.

**Tattoos and piercings (other than lobes) should be covered: Although it may not be offensive, tattoos are not yet accepted in the professional world. Cover these with clothing or- if that’s not a possibility- makeup.

**Come prepared: Bring a portfolio with your resume, transcript, a notepad, pen and a list of questions to a job interview. When they ask if you have any questions, it shows the employer that you really are interested in the position if you do

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