Professional Attire

Professional Attire

What you wear in the workplace may depend on the location, type of job/industry, as well as the company norms, culture and environment.

What you choose to wear and how you present yourself in an interview, networking event or in another professional setting is most likely your first (physical) impression to the employer so we want to dress for success.

The goal here is that you feel comfortable, confident and genuine to your own style while still maintaining professionalism, and respecting the company’s dress code or policies.

Your professional look is a representation of your own personal brand, which can have an impact on your success in speaking with other professionals.

Feel free to mix and match different clothing items until you find a look that feels true to you.

If you feel confident, that will shine through in your conversation.

What does it mean and what is the difference?

In today’s ever-evolving workforce, traditions and formalities are beginning to shift and become more relaxed and flexible in many industries.  

Five years ago, you may have been encouraged to dress Business Professional most likely in a suit or button down.

Now, in most fields, it is acceptable to dress Business Casual even in an interview setting as many companies begin to shift policies and to remote work.

It’s also a good idea to dress slightly more formally than necessary if you’re unsure, as it’s usually better to be slightly overdressed than underdressed.

Business professional attire is more formal and typically expected in traditional corporate environments or for important meetings and events.

Here’s what business professional attire usually entails:

Tops: Crisp, tailored button-down shirts, blouses, or conservative tops are appropriate. Solid colors or subtle patterns are preferred over bold prints.

Bottoms: Tailored dress pants, pantsuits, dresses or skirts that fall at or below the knee are standard. Avoid jeans or overly casual pants.

Footwear: Closed-toe, polished dress shoes, loafers, or short heels with tights/stockings in neutral colors, avoid overly trendy or casual footwear.

Accessories: Minimalist and professional accessories such as a watch, simple jewelry, and a classic tie or belt (match with shoes), jewelry, watch, cufflinks are suitable. Avoid anything too flashy or distracting.

Business casual is a more relaxed and less formal dress code commonly seen in workplaces that don’t require strict professional attire.

Here are some key elements of business casual attire:

Tops: Button-down shirts, polo shirts, sweaters/cardigans, and dress shirt/blouses are all acceptable. T-shirts and tank tops are usually not appropriate unless they’re part of a layered outfit and not too casual.

Bottoms: Khakis, dress pants, chinos, and skirts are commonly worn in business casual settings. Jeans may be allowed in some workplaces, but they should be in good condition, dark colors and not overly distressed or casual.

Footwear: Closed-toe shoes such as loafers, flats, dress shoes, or boots are suitable. Sneakers may be acceptable in some workplaces if they’re clean and not overly casual.

Accessories: Accessories such as belts, scarves, and jewelry can add personality to the outfit, but they should be tasteful and not overly flashy.

Similar to your resume, creative industries or small start-up companies may have some flexibility in a relaxed dress code.

In the workplace setting you may notice employers wearing a variety of outfits including khakis, button-downs, jeans, T-shirts, or even hoodies.  

Maybe you are interviewing for a role in a hospital setting, during the day to day role you may be in scrubs but for your interview, consider attire that is more on the business casual side, but not overly casual.

You still want to maintain a neat and professional look but you have some flexibility on skipping the full suit.

  • Less is more – keep it simple
  • For relaxed dress codes avoid overly casual attire such as jeans, flip flops, shorts
  • Everything should fit well, not too tight or lose and feel comfortable

It is safer to overdress than underdress – consider dressing one step up from those in the workplace already.

For example, if you notice many of the employers typically wear jeans and t-shirts, consider wearing non-denim pants and a button down or tucked in shirt with a blazer, at least for the interview.

If you accept an offer you can get familiar with what others where day to day and imitate that to your own style.

Be yourself and wear what makes you feel your most comfortable and confident. The goal is to have employers or professionals focus on your strengths, experiences and skills not what you are wearing.

  • Try on outfits and options ahead of time, make sure you feel comfortable and confident
  • Consider bringing a professional portfolio or padfolio to hold your documents, notes, and examples of your work
  • Use positive body language: Maintain eye contact and a good posture, smile, nod, and give a firm handshake

Many employers are becoming more inclusive, but if you aren’t sure of a company’s dress code or policies reach out to HR or your contact to ask for guidance.

  • Feel free to stop by the Career Center or email a photo to us if you’re unsure or would like a second opinion
  • When in doubt it is better to be overdressed than underdressed
  • Schedule a meeting with your Career Advisor to talk about your personal interview attire


Featured Articles

Contact & Location


Leslie Ferrick McCafferty Career Center
WSC 316
400 The Fenway
Boston, MA 02115


Monday 8:30 am - 4:30 pm
Tuesday 8:30 am - 4:30 pm
Wednesday 8:30 am - 4:30 pm
Thursday 8:30 am - 4:30 pm
Friday 8:30 am - 4:30 pm