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What to Wear to Work According to the Types of Business Attire

A group of people talk in a circle in an office.
Studio Romantic/Shutterstock.com

Dressing appropriately for work is a key component of professional success. The way we present ourselves in the workplace not only reflects our style but also sends a powerful message about our level of professionalism and respect for the job.

Understanding the different types of business attire is essential for navigating the expectations of your workplace. When you master the nuances of each dress code, you can tailor your wardrobe choices accordingly and feel confident in any environment.

What Are the Types of Business Attire

While there are endless types of dress codes, there are four main types of business attire: business formal, business casual, business professional, and casual. Depending on the type of office and environment of your workspace, a different dress code may be appropriate.

Business Formal

Business formal attire is characterized by its polished and sophisticated look. This dress code is ideal for offices with strict environments but it’s also appropriate for work events like dinners, charities, and ceremonies. The goal is to achieve an elegant and professional appearance.

Business Casual

Business casual dress codes offer more flexibility while maintaining a professional aesthetic. This dress code is most commonly seen in slightly more relaxed offices and workplaces. You can easily navigate this dress code by finding the right balance between comfort and professionalism.

Business Professional

Think of this dress code as the gray area between business formal and business casual. Business professional attire is ideal for environments that value a sophisticated yet slightly relaxed appearance. Business professional is often seen in more conservative settings.


In workplaces that embrace a casual dress code, you have a lot of flexibility. It emphasizes the freedom to avoid traditionally professional pieces while embracing a relaxed, approachable style. This dress code is found everywhere: in relaxed workplaces, out to coffee with a friend, or in your living room.

What to Wear for Business Formal

A group of people in business formal wear sit at a table.

Business formal is on the dressier side of the scale (with casual being on the opposite side). Business formal attire can include dark suits with crisp, button-down shirts, a skirt suit, and certain business-appropriate dresses. For some events, something that leans more black tie may even be appropriate.

Women’s Business Formal

In a business formal setting, women are expected to exude professionalism and sophistication through their attire.

Unixseque Blouses for Women

A high quality blouse in a flattering color will save you when you're hunting for a business formal look.

Always opt for high-quality fabrics and good fit.

Marycrafts Women's Business Blazer Pant Suit Set for Work

A great pant suit will help you navigate any business formal setting.

You can’t go wrong with a well-tailored pantsuit or dress. Choosing something in black, navy, or gray is a timeless solution suitable for most workplaces. Depending on the event or environment, you might be able to get away with a more bold color choice.

Simlu Women's Below the Knee Pencil Skirt for Office Wear

A classic pencil skirt will be your go-to for navigating business formal environments.

A pencil skirt, blouse, and blazer is another fool-proof business formal outfit. You can achieve a polished, authoritative look that commands attention while embracing your femininity.

VFSHOW Womens Black Crochet Lace Colorblock Patchwork Dress

A sheath dress is a great option for formal events.

Men’s Business Formal

Men should aim for a sharp and professional look in business formal settings.

Secdtie Lot 4 PCS Classic Men's Tie

You should always have a tie collection ready for your business formal looks.

Like women, you should prioritize the fit of the clothes and choose high-quality fabrics.

J.M. Haggar mens Sharkskin Premium Classic

A good suit jacket never lets you down in business settings.

You can always rely on a traditional suit that fits perfectly. This is a must-have for business formal occasions and will serve you for endless events. Go for a crisp, long-sleeved dress shirt and tie if you don’t want to wear a full suit.

Vostey Men's Dress Shoes Brown Dress Shoes for Men

Never underestimate the power of a classic shoe for your business formal looks.

Pay special attention to your shoes. Invest in high-quality dress shoes that are comfortable yet polished. Lean towards clean, classic styles for a sophisticated look. You can add a belt, quality wristwatch, and even cufflinks to enhance your look and leave an impression.

Steve Madden Men's Leather Belt

No man's wardrobe is complete without a quality belt.

What to Wear for Business Casual

Business casual is one of the most common dress codes for office spaces. You have more flexibility and room to express yourself than with business formal…but you still need to keep your dress professional.

Suits in a variety of neutrals, skirt suits, jumpsuits, dress pants with a collared shirt, and some dresses are all great choices. A professional, comfortable shoe always pairs well.

Women’s Business Casual

Business casual attire offers a more relaxed and comfortable approach to office dressing while maintaining a professional look.

GRAPENT Blouses for Women Business Casual Outfits

Trust in a quality blouse to carry your business casual outfit.

In most workplaces, it’s best to stick with blouses, trousers, skirts, dresses, jumpsuits, or a pantsuit.

SUSIELADY Women's Blazer Suits Two Piece Solid Work Pant Suit

Having a pantsuit you can fall back on is key for business wardrobes.

For workplaces that lean more into the casual end of business casual, you may be able to get away with dark-wash jeans if you pair them with a quality blouse and blazer.

Women Pants Elastic Waist Plaid Pants with Pockets Medium

Don't be afraid to go bold with your business casual looks.

Business casual is a great opportunity to play with colors you love, patterns that show your personality, and accessories that add fun to your day. Keep it polished and you’ll be good to go.

Amazon Essentials Women's Slim-Fit Tank

A neutral tank to put under your blazers or blouses can be a business casual lifesaver.

Men’s Business Casual

Business casual for men strikes a balance between formal and relaxed.

CHAOREN Leather Ratchet Belt Men

A belt can be a great touch to business casual looks.

In many workplaces, this means you can ditch the tie and the suit, but you’ll likely keep the collared shirt.

Amazon Essentials Men's Regular-Fit Long-Sleeve Casual Poplin Shirt

A trusty collared shirt is perfect for business casual dress codes.

Create business casual looks with slacks, button-down shirts, and belts. You can select shoes that are more comfortable even if they sacrifice formality.

Skechers Men's Moreno Canvas Oxford Shoe

Comfortable while stylish is a great way to go for your business casual shoes.

Feel free to show off a bit of your personal flair.

Yousu Men Dress Socks Comfortable Business Casual

Don't shy away from patterned socks when putting together your business casual look.

What to Wear for Business Professional

The key to business professional is to keep things conservative and clean. You don’t need to go as formal as you would with business formal (so fancy dresses or a full suit may be a bit overkill) but you still want to keep things neat.

Consider working with some of your business casual pieces, but choose safer, more neutral colors and keep your accessories classic.

Women’s Business Professional

Business professional attire calls for a more traditional look. Keep things sophisticated and professional.

Marycrafts Women's Business Blazer Pant Suit Set for Work

Pair a professional pantsuit with a blouse that shows off your style.

You can’t go wrong with a tailored suit in a classic color such as black, navy, or charcoal.

Calvin Klein Women's Straight Fit Suit Skirt

If you don't have a straight-fit skirt in your wardrobe, it's time to fix that.

You can also pair a knee-length pencil skirt with a crisp blouse, ensuring the skirt is not too tight and falls right above or below the knees for a polished look.

Miusol Women's Retro Ruffle Style Slim Work Pencil Dress

Sheath dresses will keep you looking polished and feminine in the office.

Sheath dresses and trousers are also appropriate for business professional.

Calvin Klein Women's Tulip Sleeved Sheath Dress

Streamline your style with a professional sheath dress.

Men’s Business Professional

Men’s business professional attire should focus on being polished and sophisticated, but not too flashy.

Michael Kors Men's Lexington Stainless Steel Analog-Quartz Watch

Keep your accessories polished for business professional looks.

Keep things more conservative than you would for your business casual looks.

Amazon Essentials Men's Slim-Fit Long-Sleeve Pocket Oxford Shirt

If you don't have a classic, white dress shirt in your closet, now is the time to get one.

A suit with a dress shirt is a flawless choice. You can also skip the suit but pair a dress shirt with dress pants if you don’t want to go too fancy.

Dr. Scholl's Men's Sync Plain Toe Dress Casual Oxford

A classic dress shoe is a must for professional looks.

Pay attention to grooming details like a well-maintained haircut, clean-shaven face, and minimalistic accessories.

Amazon Essentials Men's Classic-Fit Expandable-Waist Flat-Front Dress Pant

Dress pants are an essential for any businessman's closet.

What to Wear for Casual

A casual dress code is a favorite for many because it allows the most freedom of expression. You can embrace your personal style, choose bold colors, accessorize in the way you love, and keep things unique. However, you still want to show up professionally and with respect towards your workplace.

This means you should (usually) avoid anything that may be considered athleisurewear. No sweats, leggings, or t-shirts…unless you can manage to style them in a clean, professional way.

Women’s Casual

With this dress code, you can embrace comfort and flexibility while maintaining style.

MIHOLL Women Long Sleeve Ribbed Knit Tops

Embrace your personal flair when you get to dress casual.

Remember that casual doesn’t necessarily mean ripped jeans, T-shirts, and sweatpants…but if you make it look clean and stylish, you might be able to pull it off.

Amazon Essentials Women's Waisted Maxi Dress

Stay cozy and stylish with a comfortable maxi dress.

Consider a maxi dress in a lightweight fabric and a flattering silhouette. You can also experiment with a variety of skirts, pants, and blouses in various materials. Pair your looks with sandals or flats for a comfortable, effortless look.

Amazon Essentials Women's Two Strap Buckle Sandal

Sandals are the ideal partner for summer casual looks.

Make sure all your hemlines and necklines are appropriate for your environment, but unleash your creativity as you find a balance between fashion and comfort.

Verdusa Women's Sleeveless Mock Neck Textured Tank Top

Let your casual style choices show off your personality.

Men’s Casual

Casual attire allows men to showcase their style, experiment with colors and patterns, and stay comfortable.

Lucky Brand Men's Venice Burnout Notch Neck Tee Shirt

With casual dress codes, you can rock all your favorite colors.

You want to remain neat and presentable without wearing anything too stiff.

Amazon Essentials Men's Athletic-Fit Stretch Jean

Your favorite pair of quality jeans go perfectly with casual outfits.

A button-down with jeans is a classic casual pairing that helps you remain approachable. You can also play with sweaters, cardigans, casual blazers, and chinos. Experiment with patterns and fabrics to find your favorite pairing.

Amazon Essentials Men's Slim-Fit Long-Sleeve Henley Shirt

Stay comfortable but stylish with your casual looks.

Avoid anything too baggy or wrinkled. Look for pieces that fit well and display your personality.

Hey Dude Men's Wally Stretch Stone White Men's

Keep things lightweight and comfortable with your casual looks.

Mastering the art of business dress codes can help you align your wardrobe perfectly with your needs. Gaining confidence in your clothes helps you project a professional image and command respect. Remember, each dress code offers unique self-expression opportunities while adhering to your industry’s overall professional standards.

Abbey Ryan Abbey Ryan
Abbey Ryan is a storyteller, preferably of stories in written form. Across the 5 years of her professional writing career, her work has been featured in The Chicago Tribune, Amazon, The Medical News Today, and more. When she's not writing (which is rare), she's likely traveling, painting, or on the hunt for a good snack. Read Full Bio »
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