The suit is considered the ideal business attire. Originally fashioned after a military uniform the idea was to uphold a set standard for its contracted employees. A standard that should keep them… uniform. See what I did there? Acerbic-isms aside, this was the original intention. Since this original notion was crafted and carried, however, more businesses have cropped up and petered out than any one man could count.
Each business has its own apparel, that while streamlined, serves tailored toward an air of professionalism. Each is built appropriately to suit the job’s numerous functions and economically-stratified levels. So with each seeking out professionalism at its appropriately deemed level, there becomes a new question: what is business attire?
There are several key levels of dress outside of an issued uniform. This article will seek to illuminate the general articles (of clothing) that one would typically come across at each level and additionally what an outfit would most typically be appropriately composed of.
Women’s Business Attire
This is the hallmark of business attire. The mainstay itself. A strong suit is tailored. Always clean and pressed. Equally important, the suit should be a darker color: black, gray, and navy are all consistently accepted colors. It can be worn with either a skirt or pants suit accordingly. Make sure the fit is not too tight, small, short, or baggy. Professionalism comes from form.
- Pressed and Clean
- Dark and Neutral Colors
- Tailored, Worn with a Pantsuit or Skirt
Blouses offer generally more stylistic opportunities than most business attire. Furthermore, the blouse should always be clean and can come in either the collard or simple round neck variety. Softer pastel colors are often allotted beyond the usual white. Avoid anything excessive or trendy.
- Collared or Round
- Soft Colors
- Well Fitted, Pay Mind how the Collared Blouse Wears
Shoes should be used to complement the outfit. This will typically exist in the form of a classic pump. Heels themselves are not required but should never exceed past 4”. Ultimately go with an option that is clean and polished, but one that you are comfortable walking in. Likewise, avoid trendy, overstated footwear.
- Complement the Outfit
- Classic Pump
- Heels Remain at or Under 4”
Hosiery and Accessories
The hosiery should be worn with a skirt suit. Find a sheer style without any pattern. The color should match well with the suit. All accessories should complement the outfit while remaining understated.
- Hosiery with Skirt Suit
- No Flashy Accessories
Men’s Business Attire
The suit itself is the flagship enterprise of business attire. Ever the safe bet, a traditional suit should sport dark, neutral colors and avoid being distracting or trendy. Also, the pants should match the suit (in most cases) and all should be kept at the appropriate length – sleeves to hands with the jacket possessing a roughly 80% overfold on the glutes and crotch. A proper suit should be pressed thoroughly.
- Pressed and Clean
- Dark Color
- Tailored for Jacket, Sleeves Fall at Hands
A good shirt should in theory, typically boast the same lengths as the suit jacket – hands, butt, crotch. It should be cleaned and pressed. With this in mind, a long sleeve and button down to reach the proper pedigree – this is not business casual. The shirt should theoretically be white, or another similarly understated color. It does not have to be tailored, however, it should fit well.
- Long Sleeve Button Down
- Simple, Soft Color
- Well Fitted
Socks, Shoes, Belt, Tie
Shoes should be clean and either brown or black. Socks should match the suit. The same goes for the belt. Utilize a solid belt pairing for added cohesion and professionalism. The tie is often where you can have the most “fun” if you can call it that, but it should typically be conservatively understated as well. Think of a typical solid, potentially soft color, or an underwhelming pattern.
- Compliment Suit with Colors
- Distinct, but Not Distracting (should add to the outfit)
The blouse can and should remain largely unchanged from the business attire. Provided that it is clean, pressed, and well-fitted. This can once again be either round or collared. It should be soft and understated, avoid flash, pomp, or anything overtly bright.
- Clean, Pressed, Fitted
- Round or Collared
- Soft, Unassuming Colors
Dark colors are preferable for pants. It’s important that they’re well-fitted and freshly ironed. Business casual exists to set a level more than any particular style. There is a chance to express oneself via one’s choice of clothing, so long as the trousers are properly tailored for business and the colors are not garish.
- Darker Colors
- Well-Fitted, Especially in Length
Shoes should be clean and dressier in nature. Generally, one should make sure to avoid anything flashy or overly ceremonious. Heels are fine for business casual dress. Once again, avoid the grandiose or trends. Accessories like scarves can be used to pull together an outfit, but once again should be used for stylistic cohesion.
- Heels are Fine
- Accessories Should add Professionalism and Cohesion, Not Distraction
Men’s Business Casual
Business casual dress offers far greater wiggle room for personal affinities or stylings. For the torso, there is the freedom of options. A clean, well-pressed shirt is standard, obviously. Also, a polo or a simple collared shirt is fine. Furthermore, a sport coat is optional assuaging the need for a tie.
- Typically Short Sleeve
- Sport Coat Opportunity
The pants should pair well with the shirt and be of a typically nicer fashion. For the most part, they are more often in essence non-suit dress pants. Think khakis. Avoid jeans. Think Justice Stewart’s “I know it when I see it.”
- Simple Color (brown, tan, gray, etc.)
Socks, Shoes, Belt, Tie
Lastly, socks should match your shoes. Generally, shoes should be one of the nicer pairs, with room for the individual’s proclivities and distinctions. Furthermore, a belt is a requirement, as the shirt should remain tucked. Find a belt that once again plays well between the shirt and pants. Additionally, common business casual attire does not often include a tie. If you are wearing a sport coat this remains the case.
- Dress Shoes
- Paired Belt
- No Tie
In conclusion, these are the most common forms of dress that will be appearing in your typical workplace. After grasping one element, be it the suit, blouse, or dress shirt, the outfit will typically pull itself as well as its stylistic choices together naturally.