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Guide to the Modern Work Dress Code

5 min read
Beverly Chang
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With more opportunities for remote work, our work dress and personal style have been disrupted. This has left many of us confused about what to wear to the office or in a professional setting, whether meeting virtually or in real life.
However, these shifts in dress codes have allowed for the reinvention of personal and work styles. The trend we have seen across business office wear is an overall casual influence, especially with footwear and pants. There are many ways to elevate a casual look or make a formal look more casual. The key is dressing for your confidence and the business occasion to set the tone, show respect to others you meet, and make a lasting impression.
Here are the FIVE traditional business dress codes, and TWO new business dress codes that have emerged in the past 5 years:

1. Casual Attire
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This dress code is the most relaxed and may allow for jeans, shorts, and t-shirts. This type of dress has taken over the workplace, however, casual attire can also be polished and professional. It should communicate that you are professional yet don’t take yourself too seriously.
Level up Casual: The trick to casual is dressed down yet polished, chic, and effortless. Accessorizing is the key to elevating the casual look with belts, bracelets, necklaces, earrings, bags, etc. Must haves for this look are blazers, V-neck blouses or shirts, tailored jeans, and polished sneakers.
When to wear: A casual business lunch, networking event, work-from-home, or casual office setting.

2. Smart Casual Attire

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This dress code combines a casual and professional look. The emphasis is on dressier footwear and a nice pair of jeans or slacks to dress down the look. Men may wear khakis or chinos with a dress shirt or polo shirt, while women may wear a nice pair of jeans or slacks with a blouse, blazer, or casual top. Blazers and pants can have a fashionable twist in this look such as cuffed sleeves or a fashion belt.
Level up Smart Casual: The trick to this look is combining casual and formal looks in a seamless way. Accessorize with jewelry, a statement watch, cufflinks, a handbag, a blazer, structured jeans and slacks, black/nude pumps, or dress flats.
When to wear: While dressing to impress at a casual business lunch or dinner, networking event, or in a casual office setting.

3. Business Casual

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This dress code is a relaxed version of the business professional attire and one level above Smart Casual. Men may wear dress pants or khakis, a button-down shirt, and dress shoes. Women may wear a dress, skirt, or dress pants with a blouse, and dress shoes.
Level up Business Casual: Distinguish this look with fashionable design elements in the blazer such as cuffed sleeves, statement buttons, and dress pants with a fashionable belt. This will make a statement while still keeping it professional.
When to wear: Professional business meetings, events, presentations, or professional workplace settings.

4. Business Professional/Formal

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Even though dress codes have become less formal, there is still a need for this formal style. Men may wear a dress shirt and suit, while women may wear a tailored dress or pantsuit. This dress code has a higher neckline for women and a tie for men. The suits in professional/formal attire are solid and darker in color with more conservative cuts and tailoring.
Level up Business Professional: Distinguish this look for women with minimal accessories such as stud earrings or small hoops, a watch, minimal rings, and bracelets. You can also belt your suit at the waistline with a thin matching belt. Men can accessorize with a matching belt to their shoes, cufflinks, and watch.
When to wear: When you are dressing to impress and make a statement such as in a high-level executive or board meeting, special occasion, presentation, or job interview.

5. New: Creative Business Attire

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With the rise of creative industries, entrepreneurs, and content creators, comes a look that is expressive, bold, and showcases one's creative attributes. Draw attention to your originality, and creativity. This look mixes and matches business, artistic, and fashion pieces.
Level up Business Professional: Don’t be afraid to wear monochromatic colors, patterns, and unique accessories. This look should show off your fashionable flair blended with traditional business elements.
When to wear: A casual business lunch, networking event, convention, zoom meetings, social media

6. New: Work from Home

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When styling for a virtual setting, focus on waist-up styling. Have your tops do the heavy lifting with the visual appeal being on the neckline. Avoid busy patterns or stripes opting for solid colors favorable to your complexion.
Level up WFH Style: Accessorize! Necklaces, statement earrings, and scarves can instantly transform your virtual presence.
When to wear: virtual meetings

Finally: It's important to note that dress codes can vary depending on the industry, company culture, and the specific event, or occasion. Most importantly, style is your tool to express your confidence, and career strengths and be approachable to others.

Our Recommended Style Session
To discover your distinguished business look, work with our business dress stylist, Daisy: Dressing for Success
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