The Look of Success
Show you understand how to dress in a professional work environment.
Every work environment has its own unique expectations. By looking the part, you can show a potential employer that you’re a good fit for the position.
Be sure to look your best and feel confident.
Suit: Pant or skirt suit in black, gray, navy blue, or other subdued color. You will get the most wear out of a classic look that complements your body type; trendy styles will quickly become outdated.
Shirt/Tie: Under your suit jacket wear a collared, light-colored dress shirt. Ties are considered a standard part of business professional attire. Choose ties in solid colors or subdued patterns that complement the color of your shirt.
Leg Wear/Socks: Socks should be a matching pair in a color one shade darker than your suit. If you choose to wear a skirt, pair it with nylon stockings even in warm weather. They should complement your skin color.
Overcoat: Consider investing in an all-weather ¾- or full-length wool coat for use in autumn and winter. A tan or black trench coat will be useful for mild or rainy days in spring and summer.
Shoes: Choose black or brown leather dress shoes or a classic pair of pumps in black, brown, navy blue, or taupe. Avoid extreme styles, i.e. excessively pointed or square-toed shoes, or shoes with unusually thick soles or high heels. Shoes should be polished and in good repair. Do not wear brown shoes with a black suit.
Belt: Your belt should be leather and should match your shoes. Cloth belts should not be worn with suits.
Standards vary widely from one field to another, but the following are typically appropriate.
Pants or Skirt: Wool, gabardine, khaki, or corduroy pants. Skirts should fall to the knee while standing. Despite being slightly more casual, pants and skirts must still be crisp and wrinkle-free.
Shirt: Collared shirts in solid colors or tasteful patterns. You may keep the collar open under a sport coat, blazer, or sweater.
Sport Coat or Blazer: In some cases you may want to wear a seasonally appropriate sport coat or blazer. Consider corduroy, cashmere, cotton, linen, or wool gabardine fabric.
Sweater: Sweaters should be in good condition (i.e. no pilling or loose threads) and can be worn alone or layered over a dress shirt. A tie is optional.
Shoes: Choose black or brown leather dress shoes or a classic pair of pumps in black, brown, navy blue, or taupe. Appropriate and coordinated flats are an alternative to pumps in a business casual setting. Shoes should be polished and in good repair.
Jewelry: Keep it simple. Use gold and silver colors and avoid extremes of style. No more than two rings per hand. No ankle bracelets. Find a simple watch in a non-athletic style; leather watchbands should match your belt and shoes.
Belt: If your slacks or skirt have belt loops, you must wear a belt. Belts should be coordinated with the color of your shoes.
Bags: Small and simple purses are best. Structured bags look more professional. Work with basic and inconspicuous colors. Avoid hyper-trendy styles. Leather and finely woven fabrics are best. Canvas and straw are inappropriate.
Portfolio: A leather portfolio can be used for interviews to carry resumes, notepaper, and other helpful documents.
Pen: Look prepared by always carrying at least one nice pen.
Hair: Keep your hair clean, neat, and off your face. Head scarves are appropriate in understated patterns or tones that match the rest of your ensemble.
Nails: Keep your nails groomed, neat, and clean. Avoid long uncut nails or bright nail polish.
Piercings: Other than one earring per ear, leave your piercings empty while interviewing. They divert attention from what you have to say and are frowned upon in many offices.
Facial Hair: The clean-shaven look is always a winner. If you have facial hair, make sure it is properly trimmed.
Cosmetics: Keep makeup simple and natural looking.
Perfume/Cologne: Use sparingly or not at all.
Dry Cleaning: Have your suits, blazers, sport coats, skirts, and slacks dry cleaned regularly. Suits, sport coats, and blazers can be professionally pressed in between dry cleanings.
Alterations: Find a local tailor to handle alterations to your clothing. Most suits will almost surely need some adjustment to look their best on you. Many stores will include tailoring with the purchase of professional clothing—take advantage of this!
Shoe Polish: Polish your shoes regularly so they look great and last as long as possible.
Sandals or athletic shoes/sneakers. Athletic socks or white socks. Low cut, tight, or poorly-fitting garments. Short skirts. Loud colors or fabrics. Bare legs. Shorts. Capri pants. Leggings. Jeans. Worn, wrinkled, or outdated clothing.
Ask yourself, “Will they remember me, or my outfit?” Do not wear anything that distracts from what you have to say. Also, choose clothing that makes you feel comfortable and confident. You will be distracted during your interview if you have trouble walking in your shoes, feel constrained in your jacket, or have to keep adjusting your pants.