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Dressing up in workplaces - Where to start?

It can be difficult navigating what to wear in the workplace. We’ve provided a short guide for both men and women that will help you understand what is expected in the different dress codes and what to avoid wearing in the workplace.

Corporate formal

Corporate formal dress code is the most formal dress code and the one that is least common, however, some employers may reserve it for special corporate events such as awards dinners or important client meetings. Corporate formal wear is appropriate when you are interviewing for a position at a company. When interviewing, it is best to present yourself as professionally and polished as possible.

A corporate formal dress code will generally see men wear two-piece suits and women will be required to wear a pantsuit or a skirt suit. In some settings, a full-length evening dress may be preferred by management.

The best corporate formal colours to wear in the workforce are block colours and neutral tones such as navy blue, black, grey or cream.

Companies that will be most inclined to expect their employees to wear corporate formal clothing in the workforce, including accounting, legal firms, or government departments.

If you’re unsure of what your particular employer requires for a corporate formal dress code it would be best to research the company or chat to your HR department or your direct manager or colleagues.

Corporate professional

Companies within banking, finance, insurance, law and government are the most likely to have a corporate professional dress code. Your clothing will need to be tailored and neatly ironed without creases.

If your organization has this dress code then men should wear business suits if possible but blazers when teamed up with dress pants are acceptable. Men are expected to wear a shirt and tie, however during the colder months in winter a sweater is appropriate.

Women should dress in a similar manner with suits being appropriate. There are more choices available with women being able to wear skirts, blouses or similar. In a professional work environment, women should opt for more conservative clothing with revealing clothing avoided and any tattoos covered up. Jewelry should also be kept to a minimum.

For both men and women, black, navy, grey and neutral colours are preferred over louder bright colours which may attract attention and distract from the quality of your work.

Men should wear dark colored dress shoes whereas women can wear heels or flats but open-toe or strapless shoes should be avoided. Men should keep their facial hair neat and tidy while women should wear minimal makeup and keep their hair tidy as well.

Business casual

Business casual attire is probably the most confusing of all the different dress codes that a workplace can have. It is open to interpretation and varies between companies, industries and sometimes even the country you work in.

For men business casual means wearing shirts and/or sweaters in a range of colours and patterns, trousers or corduroy pants and relaxed but tidy shoes.

Women on the other hand can wear short sleeved tops, possibly with vests and can make more fashionable choices with their tops, vests, skirts or pants. They can also wear open-toed shoes however some companies may still prefer that you don’t wear open-toed shoes because of workplace health and safety.

The biggest difference between business casual and more formal dress codes is that there are no preferred colours or fabrics, with the only thing generally ruled out being jeans or strapless tops.

If you are interviewing for a role at a company with a business casual dress code you should still wear a suit jacket or a blazer. Women have the choice of wearing a blouse or dress pants and can make bold fashion choices such as wearing a statement dress. Bold colours should be avoided in interviews.

Short skirts, jeans, sandals, t shirts, hoodies, tight clothing, exposed underwear and any clothing showing an offensive quote or profanities should be avoided.


A casual dress code is the least formal of all workplace dress codes. Despite it being more relaxed, companies will still have a preference on what they want their staff to wear in the workplace and you may still have to take a more conservative approach. For example, jeans may be acceptable but sweatpants aren’t.

You will still be expected to wear the right size. Clothing that is too tight or too loose is not appropriate for the workplace and you will feel more comfortable if your clothes are neat and tidy. If you’re unsure on what size to wear then go to a physical store and check with a sales assistant or ask your colleagues in the workplace.

It’s important that your clothes look neat and tidy in the workplace. Your employer may allow you to wear t shirts and jeans if they are clean and have been ironed.

Just because you have more freedom and can choose what to wear in the workplace doesn’t mean that you should go crazy. Most employers still prefer their employees to wear muted clothing and keep any designs to a minimum to maintain a professional standard.

Examples of casual tops include shirts, blouses, smart t shirts, polo shirts, sweaters and roll neck jumpers. Casual bottoms include jeans, mid-length skirts, chinos and khakis. You can team these up with blazers, a trench coat, a sweater, cardigan or denim or leather jacket. Some jewellery and accessories are fine. Most shoes are permitted in a workplace that has a casual dress code.

Seems like a lot of things to take into account? Let's break it down.

Follow what your co-workers are wearing

If you’re still confused on what to wear in the workplace you could research the company before you start or ask previous employees. When you are called for the interview you could ask the hiring manager what the dress code is. That way you will know what to wear to the interview and you will also know what you should wear if you get the job. Another way to determine what to wear is to look at what other employees and your manager are wearing. It will prevent any embarrassment down the track and reduce the risk that you will be taken aside and asked to modify your clothing.

What to wear when working from home

When you’re working from home what you can wear will depend on the industry, job and your personal preference. If you’re in a phone based job such as sales or customer service then as long as you’re comfortable it won’t really matter what you wear in the workplace when you work remotely. If however you are likely to have meetings then you should adhere to the normal dress code of your organization, at least for your top half anyway. That said, if you feel more comfortable dressing up completely you can do so. Some employees who work from home report feeling more comfortable if they are dressed as though they are going to the office while others are more comfortable wearing whatever they want. It really comes down to a personal preference, but any company dress code should be adhered to during meetings.

Look neat and tidy

Regardless of the dress code that your workplace has you should always look neat and tidy. That means that clothes should not be worn or tattered. You should fix any issues such as a button missing before you wear the clothing item at work. Ensure that any tattoos are not visible if your workplace has a policy against them. Trim any facial hair and for the ladies, ensure that you regularly get your hair touched up if it is not your natural colour. It’s important to keep your shoes looking clean and polished as well. If any of your clothing is effectively beyond repair then save it for your home and social life rather than wearing it to work.

Remain professional

Dressing professionally in the workplace can increase your chances of being promoted, with a survey stating that 26 per cent of respondents believed that what they wore to work could affect their chances of being promoted. It’s incredibly important to present yourself in a positive light and that means dressing appropriately in the workforce. Significantly though, 41 per cent of people surveyed said that they believed that their colleagues did not dress appropriately. It was also found that smart casual was the most motivational dress code whereas formal business or casual clothing was the least motivating dress code. Most creative industries opted for smart casual or casual clothing and the least creative sectors close a formal business dress code or a uniform.

The bottom line is that it’s important to dress for your industry and model yourself on the best-dressed employees in your workplace.

What to avoid

If you want to be taken seriously in the workplace you should never wear dirty or wrinkled clothes to work. It is important to maintain personal hygiene. There is nothing worse than being near a colleague who hasn’t showered or washed their clothes. Unless you’re a stripper or in a role that requires revealing clothing you should avoid wearing that to work and you should avoid wearing clothes that you would wear to the club. It’s important to dress comfortably so that you can get on with the job without feeling restricted by what you’re wearing. You should also avoid clothes that are too casual such as singlets, t-shirts or hoodies. They do not belong in the workplace and keep jewelry to a minimum as it could pose a safety risk, depending on the type of work you perform.

Let's nail it!

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