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Dress for Success - Men & Women - Office Fashion

Updated on October 16, 2008

Whether you’ve landed your first office job or you’re just at a point in your career where you want to rethink the impressions you make on coworkers, dressing for success is not a cliché. It’s a necessity.


Let’s kick the exceptions to the curb right off the bat. Yes, if you’re Bill Gates you can get away with wearing your pajamas to work if you want to. If you work at MTV or in an artistic field, your office may be very casual and self-expressive. If your father owns the company, if you are in IT, or if you don’t care at all about getting ahead, you are exempt from this HUB.

Get off your soapbox about non-conformity. When we work, we are in uniform. All of us. Nobody who works at Denny's woke up and screamed, "My god! I want to wear bullet-proof polyester from head to toe every damn day!" No body who works at UPS chooses to wear Hershey Bar colored clothes. Yours is a uniform too. There is no reason to rebel against it. If you didn't want to work in an office, you should have majored in archeology or become a plumber.

If thinking of it as a game makes you feel better, go for it. I promise you, the impression your wardrobe makes is important in the workplace. If you work for a financial company or law firm, the more conservatively you can dress, the better. For every office in between, ere on the side of safety: build a more professional business-like wardrobe that you can relax as time goes on if you feel inclined.


It's an old piece of advice but it's still around because it works. If you have an entry-level position and hope to climb the company ladder, don't dress like an entry-level employee. Stand out and show your goals: dress like your boss's boss dresses.


Don't be afraid to splurge. These are investments in your long-term career goals. Your employers see you as a reflection of the company, and of themselves. You want to be perceived professionally. Don't be afraid to purchase good pieces that you will wear over and over for a long time.


If you can afford to shop at the Armani Emporium, what are you reading this for? You should be out shopping! If you can't, then seek out alternatives. Outlets are a great idea, and if you have some time you can hunt and peck through second stores like TJMax and Marshall's. Look for tried and true designers. Avoid flashy trendy mall shops, for office attire shopping anyway.

JCPenney’s has a men’s department that just about everyone can afford. They have a diverse selection of styles and sizes, and tailoring is available in most stores.

Stay away from casual trousers like chinos or Dockers. It’s an immature and lazy look in the office. Don't look rumpled or wrinkled. Dry clean, or at least wash the clothes yourself and then bring them to the dry cleaner for professional pressing at about half the cost of dry cleaning.

When picking shirts and ties look at the styling your boss’s boss uses. The classic white pinpoint oxford and striped tie will never go out of style. But fashion has come a long way in the last 20 years. I’m not saying to wear the same fashion forward suiting you’d wear when you go out for a nice evening of dining and clubbing in Manhattan. But if your boss’s boss and the president of the company are wearing bold colored shirts and stylized ties (wide width ties were all over the fall preview runways at every fashion show I hit last April and believe me I hit them all) then you are safe to indulge.


It’s good to have your own style, but pay attention to what makes you look dated, or small town. Balance that out with not picking out what will make you look much more trendy than your boss: it works in clubs, it doesn't work in the office.

When you’re out in the city you want your friends and the people you meet to look at your clothes and think: cover of GQ, cover of men’s Vogue. This is not what you want them to think in your office. While you’re climbing the corporate ladder especially, you want them to think: fits right in here, reflects the mindset of our team.

Accessories matter. Abandon that weathered worn wallet for a new clean one. Shine your shoes and don’t ruin your look with a lug sole or casual shoe. Wear a sharp looking belt. Wear a good watch that people might notice. Don’t over-do the jewelry in the office.


For the ladies things aren’t always as cut and dry. Skirt lengths vary, heel heights vary, boot lengths vary, and even suits vary. Your best tip for starting out is to take a good look at the women in your office. I don’t mean the women in customer service or the women on your level. I mean, the highest executives.

Your best friend is a tailored classic blazer. Don’t be afraid to invest in a few in conservative neutral colors like black, navy, gray, tan and beige. They can be changed from day to day with what you pair it with. The same classic black blazer with pearls and a jewel neck shell will look entirely differently the next day with a cashmere turtleneck and a stylish pin or brooch. And you can wear it again later in the week with a button front shirt and a scarf.

Whether you wear skirts or pants, fit is important. Tailoring is often easier than you think. The same dry cleaning tips apply to women. You don't want to look like the woman in the office that saves money on dry cleaning. You want to look neat, pressed, clean, sharp, crisp and pulled together.

The same fashion forward consciousness applies with the ladies. You may really love looking like the cover of W magazine. But if the high-powered executive women at your firm dress more classic or conservatively, take a hint. You can re-write the silent code when you are CEO. But for now, be careful. Women can be much more competitive about dressing then men in the office. You’re goal is to dress to impress and fit in, not to shock or out-do.

Your accessories are important too. Think timeless designer when choosing a ladies briefcase, a classic handbag, a good watch, a newer clean wallet and key fob. We’ve come a long way from the standard office dress code that states no open toed shoes, but a peek-a-boo toe is a far cry from a sandal.

In the office your jewelry shouldn’t make noise. As cute as it may be if your gold bangles clang a little when you’re dining, in the office it’s considered unprofessional. Understated jewelry is usually safest. Be careful what your jewelry says about you. You do not want to wear your martini glass brooch or your Hello Kitty watch to an important meeting. These things don’t come across as fun or cute.

Above all, watch the slutty look. Nothing too revealing or sexy should ever be worn to a professional office setting. Spaghetti straps, stilettos, shorts, short skirts, tube tops… god, do I really need to even tell you that those are no-no's? There are different kinds of attention. Be careful to earn the attention that will serve your career best.


Casual Friday is business casual. It does not mean t-shirts, sweatshirts, or sneakers. A collared crew shirt or button front shirt, khakis, and a boat shoe are a good start for both sexes. Again, look at your boss's boss for tips on how far you can go, and where you dare not tread.

If you are confused about casual Fridays, skip it and wear your normal office wear. It's better to be over dressed than under dressed. It also shows you may have things going on in your professional life outside of the office.

Ladies, if you select to wear jeans, they should not be tight, torn, embellished or faded. A good clean pair of dark denim straight leg jeans with a boot or sandal is probably ok, especially with a white t-shirt and navy emblem blazer.

Men, be careful of sporting anything team-related. If you wear a very nice Yankee crew shirt and it turns out your boss if from Boston, it might leave a bad taste. I'm not saying your boss is a jerk. I'm saying, why would you take the chance on offending anyone in the building, even subliminally, that might one day have something to do with your career path.

Casual Friday is not your opportunity to express yourself. It's still an office. It's still a place where you work with your work face on.


Keep a spare in your car.

If you don't drive to work, try to keep a new shirt in a desk drawer.

You never know when a cup of coffee will get away from you or a coworker standing close by. You never know when you will lose a button, or have to change the toner cartridge, or change a tire, or get a bloody nose...

Additionally, if you ever wind up stuck, snowed in, spending the night somewhere you didn't expect to (whether by luck or disaster) you will still make a good impression in the office the next day. If you can, leave your shaving kit or overnight bag in your car too. In a pinch you can usually get to a CVS to get the basics you need, but you can't usually get a suit, shoes and undergarments on the fly.

Even if you make a same-day change due to a mishap and your boss notices, you're being seen as prepared and ever professional. Do you want to be known as the guy with the stain, or the guy always ready and looking good?

If you like this HUB please click the “Thumbs-Up” below just before the comments.


All text is original content by Veronica.

All photos are used with permission.

All videos are used courtesy of Youtube.


Submit a Comment
  • MikeSyrSutton profile image


    8 years ago from An uncharted galaxy

    Ow. very good ideas!

  • MarieAlice profile image

    Maria Alicia Cardenas 

    9 years ago from Spain

    very useful hub!!!

  • profile image


    9 years ago

    I wish that you will have some clothen for guyana woman will b on line

  • profile image

    Office Fitouts Melbourne 

    9 years ago

    Another fine hub Veronica, good point about casual Friday. Some people express themselves too much and forget that you are there to do a job!

    While casual Friday's can be great for morale, it can be quite distracting in the workplace.

  • hewhohn profile image


    9 years ago

    Thanks for informative hub, thanks for this.

  • Veronica profile imageAUTHOR


    9 years ago from NY

    So much has changed in the business world since I wrote this. While it still applies in some cases and gives good solid general advice, please check out this Hub for a more current view of the workplace climate, thanks!

  • Veronica profile imageAUTHOR


    9 years ago from NY

    Thanks for the comment, Vinny. And thanks for looking for something of mine to read. xo

  • profile image


    9 years ago

    Was just looking for something of your's to read and came across this. Thank you. In regards to one of your response to a comment... I agree, with age I have started dressing differently. Maybe it's because my position has changed, maybe it's because I feel like I should... whatever it is, it has made a positive difference.

  • Suzanne Day profile image

    Suzanne Day 

    9 years ago from Melbourne, Victoria, Australia

    Good hub, the only mistake I make is not being able to afford dry cleaning and I hate ironing!

  • my-success-guru profile image


    10 years ago from Upstate NY

    Hey Veronica,

    Great tips on how to dress for success!

  • Veronica profile imageAUTHOR


    10 years ago from NY

    Thank you gmwilliams.

  • gmwilliams profile image

    Grace Marguerite Williams 

    10 years ago from the Greatest City In The World-New York City, New York

    I have read your article. I believe that for corporate and office jobs, conservative understatement is the best. Most corporate offices have a conservative environment and if a person wants to be taken seriously, dress with conservative understatement in impeccably made charcoal and black suits. Makeup in the corporate environment should be understated also. I like your article. Thank you.

  • Tara_in_NE profile image


    10 years ago

    Fabulous thread. Great advice. My company, a biotech firm, has clamped down on enforcing it's dress code big time. Which makes it more challenging because we also have to follow strict OSHA Laboratory and FDA safety codes. Gotta to look your best even under that lab coat. Guess I'll keep Cache and Macy's happy for a long time. Lol.

    Keep up the good work.


  • profile image


    10 years ago

    i was so nervous few hours ago cos i had the feeling i am so unprepared for my new job. I start tomorrow and i had no idea what to wear, or how to wear what i want to wear :) Now i feel better. Thnaks.

  • Veronica profile imageAUTHOR


    10 years ago from NY

    Thanks Gypsy Willow!

  • Gypsy Willow profile image

    Gypsy Willow 

    10 years ago from Lake Tahoe Nevada USA , Wales UK and Taupo New Zealand

    Such sensible advice and the comment about perfume cannot be overstated!

  • Veronica profile imageAUTHOR


    10 years ago from NY


    Thanks for your comment! Good luck with your first job!

  • andygrant profile image


    10 years ago

    That's really cool hub. I have just joined for my first job and this hub is really helpful for me. Thanks for all these photos.

  • Veronica profile imageAUTHOR


    10 years ago from NY

    Thanks nagarajnow, and Fashion Conscious!

    I take some of the photos that I use on my hubs myself, but the majority of the photos I use I bought from stock photography website. The stock photography website offers some free sample images, and is priced very reasonably for small "blogging" size use.

    I don't use photos I've found online and have no right to use. Whenever I see copyrighted images on someone's Hub (like of a famous actress) I wonder, if they were willing to steal the photo, what else in the Hub did they steal?

    I'm glad you liked the photos.

  • Fashion Conscious profile image

    Fashion Conscious 

    10 years ago from CA

    Those are absolutely good tips. I love the pictures incorporated in this article. I agree, that a lot of future workforce will benefit from this article. Thanks for sharing them.

  • nagarajnow profile image


    10 years ago from Tamilnadu

    great and useful tips friend..I didn't concentrate on my dressing in the past but ur hub shows the importance of dressing..THanks for sharing a great info which helps more for the tennagers dude..

  • Veronica profile imageAUTHOR


    10 years ago from NY

    Thanks dealrocker!

  • dealrocker profile image


    10 years ago from California

    Very nice hub veronika. I have put your hub's link in shirt dresses hub. Liked your other hubs too! Joining your fanclub and would like to invite you to join mine...

  • Veronica profile imageAUTHOR


    10 years ago from NY

    Thanks for the comments today, rebu!

  • rebu profile image


    10 years ago from Coorg,India

    Thnks for the tips Veronica..

  • profile image


    10 years ago

    Wheew, this a great tip huh...thanks for sharing.

  • Veronica profile imageAUTHOR


    10 years ago from NY

    Thanks, Bloggeressa!

  • Bloggeressa profile image


    10 years ago from Southern United States

    Witty, informative and intriguing. Two thumbs up

  • profile image

    James Driver 

    10 years ago

    Great tips - I've made this mistake - just running out to the corner store in old ripped jeans and running into a client - it's a different "feel" and I think that once you've broken the "formal" attire barrier, you're in the secondary position in the business relationship.

  • profile image


    10 years ago

    It's a good point to be dressed to impress all the time. You never know what event could turn into an important one for networking.

  • Fashionman profile image


    11 years ago

    So much of fashion advice is common sense, and seeing it laid out like that makes perfect sense!

  • midnightbliss profile image

    Haydee Anderson 

    11 years ago from Hermosa Beach

    great lend and information. It is really very important to invest with our clothes, because your choice of it in society, defines who you are.

  • profile image


    11 years ago

    Dear Veronica,

    You are absolutely right I can see that he feels that his job does not require him to dress "professional" but what you say about students in need for role models is very interesting. He is one of the youngest instructors in the department (27) and is funny how in the first day of every class students think he is just a "student" and even ask him if he knows who is the actually pretty funny...but I indeed think the way he dresses has a lot to do with his outgoing laid back personality. He even gives his students his cellphone number (which I find very inaproppiate but he thinks is ok) to contact him and his personal e-mail and AIM! I have argued with him about that since some female student used to txt him stuff completely unrelated to the course, he even adds his students on facebook and he had exchanged some flirticious wall comments with one of his female students-"friend" which i thought was ackward...So yes, i agree with you, the way you dress is the way people are going to see you and it influences the perception they have of you.

  • Veronica profile imageAUTHOR


    11 years ago from NY


    There is an old expression, the clothes make the man. It may not be fair, but it's the truth.

    My husband is in construction. When he was just a kid - 24, 25 years old - he was always in jeans and a t-shirt at any work related function including meetings, closings, and cocktail parties. He would say it's the nature of the field, and his employees like him, they're all friends. And the people he does business with don't mind.

    As he grew up and became a man, this attitude changed. Several times, a new business contact would walk up to him and ask how to get a hold of his boss. He would have to explain that he owns the company, he's the boss. His employees/friends took advantage of his good nature. He realized the impression he was making, and he started dressing differently. He couldn't believe the difference in how he was seen and treated. Employees that were casual became much more respectful. People began to look up to him and treat him more respectfully.

    I know academia can be odd like that. Teachers dating students, TA's wearing shorts and flip flops. I'm sure he's rationalized his student-like wardrobe and believes his being peers with students is nice. And I'm sure that it is.

    But they don't look up to their peers. They have enough peers. What they need is roll models. People to look up to. People to respect, and admire.

    He's probably not dressing inappropriately. But dressing more maturely will make a big difference in how staff and faculty see him, and how students will behave around him. This article is geared toward dressing for success. He will no doubt go farther faster with a better work wardrobe. But he will also make a longer lasting stronger impression as someone to look up to, to his students.

    He may be young, and still relating to students as peers instead of as students. He may not realize the extent of that. But as time passes he will.

  • profile image


    11 years ago

    Great hub, and yes casual fridays can confuse a lot of people, I used to work in a law office and this lady would wear very tight jeans, super showing shirts, and stilettos lol just like your description of WHAT NOT TO WEAR (which btw is a great tv show for people that need some style advice). Now I have a bit of a prob here, my bf is a college instructor (not faculty but he is a full time lecturer) I have tried to talk him into wearing at least khakis and collar shirts to work (he wears jeans, very casual shirts, and sneakers) I don't think his look is unappropiate but that is me and I am his gf so I see with eyes of LOVE lol I wonder what his students, colleagues think? what do you think?

  • tdarby profile image


    11 years ago

    I really needed this--thanks

  • profile image

    issues veritas 

    11 years ago

    I was just looking at a hub that advocated skirts for men,

    What is just take on that?

  • deccasandy profile image


    11 years ago from Belmont

    I have always believed that it hardly matters how expensive suits you are wearing to your office. The thing which matters is how elegantly you drees up yourself. Wonderful hub

  • profile image


    11 years ago

    good tips for me.. thanks for sharing

  • Taheshea profile image


    11 years ago

    Good advice. I have one that is helpful too.

  • LisaPark profile image


    11 years ago from Philippines

    Dressing up for work is very important because in a way it ccan show how professional you are when you deal with your work.

  • AndyBaker profile image


    12 years ago from UK

    Cool - apperance is everything, or so they say.

  • SaraCoutodaSilva profile image


    12 years ago from Honolulu

    Good hub! I agree with your ideas.

  • oliviadickens profile image


    13 years ago from USA

    Looking good at office is very important. Many of the things become easier in your work. And Many a times First Appearance becomes the Last Appearance.

    Nice Hub!!

  • raymondphilippe profile image

    Raymond Philippe 

    13 years ago from The Netherlands

    So it's true that appearance is everything.

  • Veronica profile imageAUTHOR


    13 years ago from NY


    Goodwitch, I thought I'd hit that in a separate HUB about hygiene - in the workplace, on dates, at the gym....

    You're very right.

  • Goodwitch profile image


    13 years ago

    I think you neglected an important point that goes along with getting dressed: the use of perfume & cologne! There is nothing more offensive then an onslaught of strong scent from the person working / sitting next to you.

  • Isabella Snow profile image

    Isabella Snow 

    13 years ago

    That's a good point, dress for the job you want and not the one you have.

    Great hub!


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