Cracking the Business Dress Code: How to Dress with Confidence for any Situation
Getting dressed for business needn't be an excercise in frustration. With a little knowledge, you'll be getting dressed with confidence for any situation.
Getting ready for a day's work used to be a simple matter of selecting the best shirt and tie to complement the suit du jour. But since the Silicon Valley boom ushered in the concept of business casual, professionals have far more choices - and far more decisions - to make when they walk into their closets. Cracking the dress code is more difficult today than at any other point in history. Yet, with a little guidance, you can change your morning from one of confusion and frustration to one of harmony and happiness. The key is to piece out the code into five categories: Business Professional, Business Casual, Resort Casual, Evening Social, and ActiveWeekend.
Yes, a suit is required. When the code calls for a suit, remember the details make all the difference. Be sure to suit up for your most crucial days at the office and your most important presentations. When big decisions loom and tensions run high, image and confidence matter. Different suit colors project different messages. For example, dark navy and gray convey confidence, power, and professionalism. Light gray and earth tones suggest a warmth and responsiveness that work well when your goal is to establish and build rapport.
Gentlemen - Choose a shirt that is crisp and well-pressed. Wearing cuff links can lend an elegant touch and a subtle monogram on the left cuff indicates that you mean business. Make sure your shoes are properly shined. This more than anything else shows that you pay attention to details. Your socks should match your pant leg, rather than your shoes. Your necktie should be the focal point, so choose a strong tone such as red or yellow for a power look, or a subdued navy or burgundy for a conservative look.
Ladies - Collared blouses make the best business impression and add a dash of color or pattern to a dark suit. Silk or cashmere shells are appropriate as well, but the sleeveless type is not appropriate if you plan to remove your jacket during a meeting. Closedtoe shoes are the most appropriate. Adding a stylish necktie or scarf to your suit is a great way to get noticed.
Don't let the title of this category fool you! There is nothing casual about business. When getting dressed for a casual day at the office, remember that business will still take place. If you look sloppy, chances are you will feel sloppy, and this increases your likelihood of making careless decisions and missing important points. Despite what some may believe, whether you are a man or woman, a blazer or sport coat should be worn on business casual days. It is easy to remove when at your desk and just as easy to throw on when you have a meeting.
Gentlemen - You should don a necktie if seeing clients or important business associates. If not, an open collared dress shirt, sport shirt or a neat knit polo is comfortable. Your slacks should be an elegant wool gabardine or plain weave. Bottom line: your footwear remains important on business casual days. Make sure your shoes and belt match in color and texture.
Ladies - Your business casual outfit should involve a jacket. A dressy solid skirt or pant paired with a coordinating patterned jacket is a fun look. Open-toe shoes may be worn in the summer months, but make sure you've had a pedicure!
RESORT OR COUNTRY CLUB CASUAL
This dress code is typical at a resort for a company meeting, at a country club, or on a cruise.
Gentlemen - Leave your suit at home, but bring a sophisticated linen or silk blazer. Your slacks should have a clean drape. Light-weight linen, finer cottons or microfiber are smart choices. Collared shirts are usually required, so select camp shirts and short-sleeve polos. These are perfect for warm weather. Going sock-less is acceptable.
When wearing shorts, make sure they are well-pressed and maintained. Dress shorts made from silk, microfiber or finer cottons are best.
Ladies - At most finer country clubs, a shirt with a collar and sleeves is also required for women. Otherwise, soft, colorful sundresses are extremely comfortable. Add a sun hat, throw on a pair of sandals and you are "resort ready." In climates where the temperature drops at night, toss a light sweater over your shoulders as an accessory during the day. Then you'll have it handy if it gets chilly after sundown.
For an evening of entertainment and socializing, bring out your more expressive garments.
Gentlemen - This is the perfect time to sport your bold-toned or patterned shirts. Dress up your outfit with a smart shoe and belt combination. Accessories made of crocodile or suede add flair to evening attire. Darker colors work for elegant soirees, whereas a well-pressed pair of chinos, dress jeans or corduroys are great for a barbeque or cocktail party.
Ladies - Depending on the situation, a sophisticated cocktail dress may be appropriate. For dinners at your favorite bistro or cocktails with friends, choose fun tops with accents like glitter and sequins that will dance in the candlelight. Accessories are important. Make sure your shoes, purse, and belt (if wearing one) coordinate properly.
This is your sporty look, so comfort is key. But remember you can be comfortable without looking disheveled. You never know when you will run into an influential business person, a work associate or an important client. Gentlemen & Ladies - Select well-cut jeans, khakis, cords, chinos or shorts. Top these with short sleeve polos or Egyptian-cotton tee-shirts in the warmer months. In cooler months, try the layered look with a sport shirt or blouse and a sweater. When in doubt, keep the chart inside handy in your closet. It is your key to cracking the dress code.
Learn more about the author, Jacob Ackermann.
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