Professional Attire Vs. Business Casual: A Millennial’s Guide to Dressing for Success

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There is a lot to understand when it comes for dressing for success while on the job. And, over the years, dress codes evolve with the generations. The power suit of the 80s was replaced with casual Fridays in the 90s. But what is the proper way to dress for success in your career as a millennial navigating the workplace? While this will depend on your specific job and company culture, here are some tips to get you started.

What is the difference between professional and casual attire?

The first thing to know is the fine line that separates dress codes considered professional and those considered casual. And, from there, knowing how to appropriately chose the right clothes.

Professional dress codes usually refer to suits for men and women. Imagine what a lawyer might wear to a courtroom to try a high-profile case. On the other hand, business casual is more laid back. This is where khakis and button down shirts became popular for men in the early 1990s due to the economic recession and a fantastic ad campaign from the new Docker’s brand. For women in the work place, business casual can be a little more complicated, but skirts or slacks with an appropriate top are typical.

But what else should you know?

  • Have at least one professional outfit for interviews or high-power meetings.
  • Invest in smart accessories like a great pair of shoes or a computer bag.
  • Don’t wear a lot of cologne or perfume – you never know when someone has a sensitivity.
  • Make sure your clothes are neat, free of holes or tears, and wrinkle free.
  • Always take your cues from the office where you work – look at what other successful employees wear.
  • If you’re uncertain about a certain article of clothing, err on the side of conservative.

Should you try a capsule wardrobe?

Men have been doing this in the workplace for a very long time. It’s common to wear the same color suit and shirt with a matching tie every day and no one bats an eye. Even business casual allows for this with khaki pants and the ubiquitous blue button down shirt seen in offices across America.

Women have always faced more pressure on the fashion front in the workplace, but it doesn’t have to be like that. You can take a cue from the guys and create a uniform that is easy for you to mix and match.

Find slacks or a skirt that fits you well and make you feel successful. Buy enough of them to make up a complete wardrobe. Pair it with a nice top bought with the same strategy and you’ve just made your mornings much less stressful.

Do you have more questions about dress code and what is appropriate for your next interview or job? Our employment experts in Phoenix, Denver, Los Angeles and Orange County are available to help you today.

  • Donna Garner

    Are black dresses (with a dress coat) be appropriate as business professional attire? Black dress with modest high neck and at knee level.

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