Dress codes represent the “collective selection” that we wear for different “spirits of the time,” as described by Encyclopedia.com. Organizations create dress codes for safety standards or to maintain a specific image. However, when given the freedom to dress in the office, selecting work-appropriate attire can be a balancing act. As you shop in your closet, think about the creative ways you can prepare and improve your “look” for National Self-Improvement Month.

Why Do I Care How I Dress?

Based on a 2015 study, researchers found that those who dress formally are more likely to be seen as intelligent, feel more powerful, create better relationships within the workplace, and make better decisions.

Sending the Right Message Your clothes selection is a prime example of indirect communication, as fashion can make or break a first impression. When choosing what to wear, remember to match the formality and style of those with whom you are meeting. If you’re uncertain, it’s better to dress up than down. Here are some tips on dressing in a business casual workplace:

Tips on Workplace Wardrobe

  1. Dress with confidence, you’ll work smarter.
  2. Collared shirts mean business.
  3. If you’re unsure if something is appropriate, most likely, it’s not.
  4. Avoid showing cleavage, wearing tank tops, and hems several inches above the knee.
  5. Avoid wrinkles because it shows lack of professionalism.
  6. Ladies, try creating your own “work uniform” to help save time getting ready.
  7. On casual Fridays, dress down, but skip the ripped clothing.

Ideas for Women:

  • Pressed button-up shirt
  • Slacks or knee-length skirts
  • Mild-color or neutral dresses
  • Professional blazers
  • Non-oversized jewelry and light makeup
  • Low heel shoes
  • Casual Fridays: neat jeans or skirt and a blouse

Ideas for Men:


  • Tucked in polos and button-up shirts
  • Slacks with a belt
  • Closed-toe and polished shoes
  • Long socks in neutral tones
  • Well groomed facial hair that follows work standards
  • Casual Fridays: neat jeans and a shirt without design


Sharon Schweitzer and Esther Sanchez co-wrote this post. Sharon Schweitzer, J.D., is a cross-cultural trainer, modern manners expert, and the founder of Access to Culture (formerly Protocol & Etiquette Worldwide). In addition to her accreditation in intercultural management from the HOFSTEDE centre, she serves as a Chinese Ceremonial Dining Etiquette Specialist in the documentary series Confucius was a Foodie, on Nat Geo People. She is the resident etiquette expert on two popular lifestyle shows: ABC Tampa Bay’s Morning Blend and CBS Austin’s We Are Austin. She is regularly quoted by BBC Capital, Investor’s Business Daily, Fortune, and the National Business Journals. Her Amazon #1 Best Selling book in International Business,  Access to Asia: Your Multicultural Business Guide, now in its third printing, was named to Kirkus Reviews’ Best Books of 2015. She’s a winner of the British Airways International Trade Award at the 2016 Greater Austin Business Awards.

Esther Sanchez is a Fall 2017 Cross-Cultural Communication intern with Access to Culture. She is currently attending the University of Texas at Austin as a Journalism major and working to earn a minor in Middle Eastern Studies and a certificate in Computer Science. She plans to use these skills to tell stories through virtual reality from around the world. You can connect with her on LinkedIn or Facebook, Instagram or Twitter.

Photo Credit: Pxhere, Pxhere, Pixabay