Job interviews, meetings with new clients and important presentations call for business professional attire, but the formal-ness of that look can vary depending on your field. In some office environments, formal attire may be the norm, and in others, “business professional” may be more lenient. No matter what, dressing conservatively and appearing well-polished can give you confidence when the next big opportunity in your career arises.

Business Basics for Men

A two-piece suit is the expected business professional attire for men in a traditional space. If that’s the case, a suit should meet these criteria:

  • Color: Wear a dark suit in neutral colors. Black, gray, navy and brown are appropriate for the workplace.
  • Pattern: The suit should be one solid color or feature subtle pinstripes.
  • Shirt: Opt for a classic, button-down shirt—white, gray, and other muted tones are appropriate.
  • Tie: Complete the suit with a conservative silk tie featuring a subtle pattern such as stripes. Make sure the tie is long enough that it hits at your belt.

Less formal business environments may call for tailored pants and a button-up collared shirt. In these fields, a jacket and tie isn’t necessary, but they can’t hurt for an interview.

No matter your field, make sure your clothes are tailored and clean.

Appropriate Accessories for Men

Complete the business professional look with well-cared-for, appropriate and practical accessories:

  • Shoes: Polish your best black or brown leather dress shoes, such as oxfords, for a business professional look.
  • Socks: Select dark socks—black, gray, navy or brown—that match your suit or pants.
  • Belt: Wear a black or brown leather belt that matches your shoes. Again, opt for a conservative belt, and avoid one with a large or ornate buckle.
  • Jewelry: Go minimal on the jewelry, wearing only your wedding ring if you have one.

Professional Looks for Women

Business professional attire for women includes a pencil skirt and blouse, tailored trousers, or a pant suit. Skirts should hit the knee to be considered appropriate for business. Depending on your field, colors and patterns may very. If you work in a more laid-back or creative field, prints and bright colors are fine. If you work in a more traditional office, opt for neutral colors—navy, beige, white, black—and calm prints.

No matter your field, make sure that the shirt does not show cleavage, is not transparent and not too tight.

Accessorizing Tips for Women

Accessories might make the outfit, but only certain accessories are appropriate for a business professional dress code:

  • Shoes should be closed-toed dress flats or heels with a heel height that you can easily walk in (under 2.5 inches to be safe). Classic pumps are always a good option.
  • Wear neutral hosiery to cover your legs if needed.
  • Keep jewelry to a minimum and choose classic pieces—your wedding rings and/or other dainty jewelry. If you work in a creative field, statement earrings or a necklace should be fine.
  • Go for a simple makeup look—choose soft, neutral hues to create a natural look. You want to look polished without appearing overdone or distracting.