In a modern workplace, the term “business attire” can mean anything from a full suit and tie to jeans and a collared shirt. However, if you want to fit in and be respected in a professional business setting, it’s important to adhere to the specific dress code at your workplace, whether it be formal business attire, smart business attire, or casual. And while our world has shifted to work-from-home, remote and flexible work arrangements as a result of the pandemic, it's still important to look your best via virtual calls and meetings.

You don’t need a written dress code to get a good sense of what’s appropriate at your organisation. Start by looking at employees in similar positions as you, or your boss, to see what they wear on a daily basis.

Also, remember that the dress code may be dictated by what you’ll be doing on a particular day. If you’re meeting with a client, attending a special event or joining an industry webinar, you’ll probably want to adhere to a more formal business attire dress code. You’ll also want to pay particular impression to dress code if you’re interviewing for a job. After all, first impressions count.

If your workplace does have a specific dress code, here’s a visual rundown of what different types of business attire look like.

Formal business attire

Formal business attire for men

Men in a formal workplace are typically expected to wear a dark- or neutral-coloured suit with a tie and dress shoes:

  • Dark or neutral-coloured plain suit or pinstripe suit
  • White or light-coloured collared shirt
  • Conservative tie
  • Cufflinks
  • Leather belt
  • Dress shoes and plain socks

Formal business attire for women

Women’s formal business attire usually involves wearing a conservative suit with a plain collared shirt or blouse and smart shoes:

  • Dark or neutral-coloured suit
  • White or light-coloured collared shirt or blouse
  • Skirt at knee-length or pants
  • Stockings or tights
  • Black or neutral-coloured closed-toe smart shoes

Smart casual business attire

Smart casual business attire for men

Smart casual business attire is slightly less formal, but still requires men to look professionally presentable and wear well-tailored clothing like button-down collared shirts and a blazer or jacket:

  • Smart jacket or blazer
  • Button-down shirt in plain colours or patterns (no tie required)
  • Trousers or chinos (don’t have to be the same colour as the jacket)
  • Brogues or oxfords

Smart casual business attire for women

When it comes to smart casual business attire, women should look neat and presentable but can also wear brighter colours and bolder clothing:

  • Coloured or patterned blouse
  • Bolder jewellery
  • Cardigan or casual blazer
  • Neat pants or skirt in different colour combinations
  • Dress at knee length 
  • Closed or open-toe smart shoes

Business casual attire

Casual business attire for men

Although you might think a casual dress code gives you free reign to show up to work wearing your favourite hoodie and sweatpants, it’s still important to look professional with neat jeans and clean shirts or jumpers:

  • Neat t-shirt, casual collared shirt or jumper
  • Dark denim, chinos or tailored shorts
  • Tasteful sneakers or loafers

Casual business attire for women

As is the case for men, women should keep professional clothing clean and neat – even if it is a casual workplace. Stick to tidy t-shirts, jumpers or blouses and dark denim or a well-fitted dress:

  • Neat t-shirt, jumper or blouse
  • Dark denim jeans, mid-length skirt or shorts
  • Tasteful sneakers or sandals
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