Clothes Make the Man (or Woman)

How to Dress for Work and Interviews

Side view of a chinese executive tying a necktie and smiling
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Unless your job requires you to wear a uniform, choosing clothing for work can be difficult. Of course there are industry standards, such as the navy blue suit for accountants and attorneys. What do you wear, however, if you work in an industry where there really isn't a typical style of dress? Complicating the matter further are companies that allow more casual attire. How do you keep from crossing over the line from casual to sloppy?

What should you wear to a job interview? Should you always wear a suit or should you wear what is typical of the industry in which you are interviewing? You want to look your professional best, but you also want to appear as if you "fit in". Here are some pointers for dressing for any type of work situation and tips on what you shouldn't wear:

  • First and foremost, no matter what you wear, your clothes should always be neat and clean.
  • Keep your shoes in good condition. Polish them and take them to a shoemaker for repairs if necessary.
  • Don't wear heels that are too high and make it difficult to get around.
  • Your hair should be neatly styled. Bring a comb and duck into a restroom for a quick touchup if necessary before you begin your work day.
  • Keep makeup, if you choose to wear it, subtle.
  • Nails should be clean and neat. Make sure they aren't overly long.
  • Dress for the job you want. If you aspire to be a manager, dress like managers in your company do.

    Rules for Casual Dress at Work

    Although most people love the idea of not having to wear a suit to work in theory, they are often confused by the casual dress policies some employers have instituted over the last few years. Here are some simple rules:

    • Casual doesn't mean sloppy. Your clothing should still be neat and clean. That means no ripped jeans or t-shirts. Do not, under any circumstances, wear t-shirts with inappropriate writing on them or that say anything that might make others uncomfortable.
    • You can't go wrong with khakis and a sport shirt, sweater or blouse.
    • If you are going to a meeting or making a presentation, professional attire may be in order for the occasion. 

    Dressing for a Job Interview

    In addition to following the general rules for dressing for work, heed this advice when you go on a job interview:

    • Adhere to the employer's dress code: find out whether it is formal (suit and tie) or casual by asking people in your network who work at the company or know someone who does. You can also hang out in the parking lot one morning and observe employees arriving for work (or get there at the end of the day and watch people as they leave).
    • You should always dress slightly better for a job interview than you would if you were an employee. For example, if the dress code is very casual, you should take it up a notch. After all this is a special occasion and you want to look your best.
    • Cover up tattoos and remove body jewelry until you know whether they are acceptable at that particular workplace. If you dye your hair unusual colors, you should probably go back to your natural color for a little while too. For many people the ability to express their individuality through their attire, tattoos, piercings and hair color is extremely important. If that describes you, take that into consideration when deciding whether a particular work environment is right for you.

      More: Questions to Ask Yourself Before You Dress for a Job Interview

      Where to Donate Business Suits

      Do you have business suits you no longer need? You can donate your interview-appropriate suits and other professional attire to those who can't afford to buy their own. Not only will you be making room in your closet for clothing you can wear to work, you could help someone improve their own situation.

      More: Where Can I Donate Business Suits?.

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