Dress for Success

For some people, they never have to think about what they’re going to wear to work. These fortunates souls have uniforms (police officers or letter carriers, for instance, or the people serving you at most chain restuarants). Others (the extremely fortunate), work from home, so they don’t even have to get out of their pyjamas if they don’t want to. The rest of us have some decisions to make.

Many employers have dress codes. The formal ones are easy to navigate (hard hats, safety shoes, etc.). The implied ones are trickier: are khakis okay, or is it strictly dress pants? Open-toed shoes are sometimes frowned upon, too. And how casual is too casual for casual day?

WIL can help. We come from a diverse background around here, so we have a good idea of what’s expected. Having said that, the best cues will always be your superiors and your coworkers. If the CEO of the company wears a Mickey Mouse T-shirt to work sometimes, your Star Wars T is probably fine (but use your common sense). Here are our tips.

As with most things, men have it easier. Most of the time, a dress shirt, khakis or dress pants, and dress shoes will get the job done (in an office setting; don’t wear this to paint a house). Ties and jackets will also not usually go amiss, and if it’s warm, you can likely get away with a polo or short sleeved dress shirt. Polish your shoes when they need it. You should also make sure that your hair is neat (beards, too, guys), and please don’t wear ankle socks with pants. Suits are good. If you don’t have a suit, you should get one anyway, no matter what your job is. You’ll need it sometime.

For women, the rules are both more specific and less so. In a corporate setting, a pant suit or skirt and blazer with a light sweater or blouse underneath is a good idea. As always, there are rules about length of skirt. If you’re unsure, err on the side of length. Heels are good (but not necessary). Stilettos usually aren’t. Business casual for women is more dressy than it is for men; it mostly seems to mean that your jacket and skirt don’t match (by which I mean they’re not both black, for instance). They should still match.

Again: These are guidelines. Things will vary from place to place. Take your cues from the people you work with. And if you’re not sure, ask. Don’t be embarrassed. People are always happy to help.

If you’re looking for clothing for work (or for anything), ClothingWorks at Goodwill here in London is having a sale. Check it out! Also, if you need more specific examples of what’s good and what’s not, check out this helpful WikiHow article. As always, you can also visit WIL for more coaching on all aspects of your job search.