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What to Wear to Work: Attire and Clothing for the Job

Updated on September 7, 2014

Work Attire: What Should I Wear?

You might be wondering what to wear to work. There are some guidelines that every person should follow when choosing work clothing. These guidelines, however, are not always followed. Many people, and you might know a few, do not follow the dress code that most people know from their own common sense.

Read this article to keep you from being the foolish person wearing inappropriate clothing for the job. Overdressed and under dressed are just a couple of the issues that you might have when choosing what to wear to work. When others get a glance at your horrendous work attire, you could end up the laughingstock of your workplace. Read on to find out what to wear an interview as well as guidelines for what to wear to work.

Charcoal Pant Suit

The classy looking work attire pant suit is a standby of business clothing.
The classy looking work attire pant suit is a standby of business clothing.

What to Wear to the Interview

If you haven't landed the job, then this is for you. Your interview attire must be good. If you give the interviewer any notion that you are not a good candidate based on your dress, then he or she can simply dismiss you. Let your true colors show after you land the job. Until then, follow these common sense tips.

  • Wear navy or gray if you are a man and red if you are a woman. It's not a time to make a statement about your creative side, so keep things simple and neat.
  • Wear a suit or a dress, depending on your sex and your interviewer. If you are interviewing for a professional job, a suit with jacket is appropriate. Dresses can be very effective, but make sure it is professional looking.
  • Wear natural materials. Natural materials include wool, cotton, and leather. If at all possible make sure you are wearing these natural materials. This gives you a look of authenticity and genuineness. These materials are usually a little more expensive, but they will be worth it when you get the job. Make sure your brief case is actually leather and not nylon. It's not a trapper keeper. If you don't have a nice brief case, don't take one. Just use a folder to hold a notebook and your resume.

As a general rule of thumb it is always a good idea to shoot for attire that matches what the interviewer will be wearing.  It is better to be a little overdressed than a little under dressed.  You will have time to relax your dress later, when you are working in the job.

What to Wear At Work: Tips about Fit and Style

Guidelines for Work Attire

Here are some general guidelines for what to wear to work.  These should be seen as recommendations even though your own work environment may require something different depending on the temperature, location, venue, etc.

  • Clothes should be a proper fit: Clothing should not be too loose or too tight. This is extremely important is some work environments where loose clothing is dangerous or tight clothing makes performing the job difficult.
  • Clothes should be complimentary in colors and with the business and should not be too flashy:  Work is called work because you are there to work, not flirt and pick up guys or chicks.  Save your bold fashion designs for the weekends and weeknights when  you go out with your friends.
  • Shoes should match the rest of your work clothing: Many times people will look great from the legs up, but they have shoes that make them look like they are poor.  Worn out shoes won't only negatively effect your performance appraisals, they could negatively affect your work performance and your health.
  • Hats should serve a purpose: Many professions require certain hats for safety.  You might need a hat to keep the sun out of your eyes.  Generally, however, if it isn't functional, then it isn't needed.  Hats can make you appear like you are trying to hide something.
  • Wear glasses to be taken seriously: In the kid world, you may have been called "four eyes" or any number of other glasses wearing pet names, but when it comes to being taken seriously you may want to wear your glasses.  Just as when you were a kid, the glasses can change people's perception of you as being smarter.  This can become a self fulfilling prophecy when you react to the perception yourself.
  • Wear a watch if you have a tight schedule: Nothing is worse than a group of people on the clock waiting on someone else to arrive.  Don't be that person.  Wear a watch to keep yourself on time and ready to go.
  • Wear a smile: Most jobs involve interacting with others.  Working with others or customers is usually a more pleasant experience when you wear a smile on your face.  Others react to you better and return the smile.  A smile is considered a must in some service industry jobs.

What to Wear to Work: For Men

General guidelines for men's work attire include a pair of slacks, a dress shirt, leather shoes, colored socks, and simple accessories like glasses and a watch. The question for men is how to wear these items. Men are notorious for attempting to wear the right thing but coming up short either when it's time to choose work clothing or when it's time to put the outfit on.

Here are the tips for guys to keep in mind when coordinating their work attire:

  1. Stay modern: Modern means up to date within the last ten years. If your shirts are getting to be older, than it's time to pitch them. That means even if they still fit, and they probably don't fit anyway. Keep in mind that dress shirts used to be very loose fitting in the 80's and nineties. Now you need to buy fitted dress shirts, unless you are obese.
  2. Check your Feet: Never wear white socks with dress shoes. Never wear dress shoes with shorts, and never wear sandals and socks. These guidelines are for work or anywhere else for that matter. Match the rest of your clothing and your shoes. Don't wear popular casual shoes like Sketchers with a suit. Don't wear dress shoes with khaki cargo pants.
  3. To Tuck or Not to Tuck in Your Shirt: This is the question most guys don't ask themselves. Sometimes you look better with your shirt untucked, but that doesn't mean it's o.k. The best gauge for this is to look at the other guys at your workplace or your boss to see what is appropriate. Usually creative professional settings can get away with the untucked look.

These are the main problems most guys have, but there are some specific issues that guys should consider. For example, some guys like to sag their pants, wear a funny belt, wear old looking glasses, or a stupid hat. Look around, seriously, look around and compare yourself. You guys don't do that enough, while the ladies probably do it too much.

Work Attire No No's for Women

Women have quite different issues that guys when it comes to suiting up for the day. Women spend a little more time at the mirror and planning their wardrobe, but that doesn't make them free from issues with work attire.  Here are the frequent issues common among women.

  1. Wear clothing that covers you sufficiently: Don't wear revealing clothing. Whether you look great in it or not, wearing revealing clothing in the workplace is a no no.  Most businesses have a dress code that forbids the tight or revealing clothing.  You may end up sent home, in awkward situations, or even fired for your noncompliance.  Check yourself after you have been wearing your clothes for at least fifteen minutes.  Many times the plunging neckline looks fine when you first put it on, but it will slide down your chest as time goes on and when you bend over.  Clothing generally loosens throughout the day, so keep that in mind.
  2. Wear accessories that are professional and complimentary:  There's the lady who always has huge pieces of flair, there's the lady who has the HUGE earrings, and the lady who's necklace could support a suspension bridge.  These are distractions that don't need to be in the work place.  Distractions for your coworkers and customers.  skip the 7 inch sparkly butterfly pin. Your sweater looks fine without it.
  3. Dress for the environment: Between guys and girls, women are much more likely to wear uncomfortable shoes to a job that involves a bunch of walking.  Ladies are more likely to be under dressed in the cold winter.  If you are climbing a ladder, sitting on the floor, etc., don't wear a dress.  It's that simple.  Stiletto heels are for one profession that you don't want to be associated with.

Work Attire

Click thumbnail to view full-size
Make sure these don't kill your feet.Check the shoes and make them match the pants and belt.A nice dress shirt can look great tucked in or pulled out, but you have to figure out which to do.A watch should be complimentary, and it will keep you on time.
Make sure these don't kill your feet.
Make sure these don't kill your feet.
Check the shoes and make them match the pants and belt.
Check the shoes and make them match the pants and belt.
A nice dress shirt can look great tucked in or pulled out, but you have to figure out which to do.
A nice dress shirt can look great tucked in or pulled out, but you have to figure out which to do.
A watch should be complimentary, and it will keep you on time.
A watch should be complimentary, and it will keep you on time.

Use Common Sense When Choosing Work Clothing

It sounds like an obvious solution to use your common sense when choosing work attire, but unfortunately you can easily let your emotions dictate what you wear to work.  You want to look good, and sometimes that gets in the way of staying practical.  Or, for guys it might be the fear of trying a new look that is more in style.

Keep your whits about you and use the rest of the population at your workplace to help guide your decision.  Of course, if you are already the trendsetter and the best dressed person at your job, then keep doing what you're doing and keep hope alive for the rest of them.

Wear a Watch to Work

One of the most embarrassing things you can do is show up late to meetings at work.  Your watch is your first line of defense against being that guy or girl that holds things up and costs the company money.  Wear a watch to compliment your work attire in a good way.  It can show your sophistication and professionalism and make you more professional by being on time, a win win.


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