Dress Codes Defined - Just Follow the Formula

This is a guest post by Susan Mowder.  She is the owner of The STYLE Principle, a wardrobe-styling firm based in Chicago, IL. You can find and follow her on her The Style Principle website. 


You are strongly encouraged to dress the part, but what does that mean?  In other words, what are you to wear if your dress code is business professional or professional business casual or business casual?  To add to the confusion, the definitions can differ depending on occupation, age range, and location.  So, how do you dress the part?


Dress Code

 Image courtesy of Franky242 / FreeDigitalPhotos.net


Simply stated, just follow the formula –

  • Professional Business = 1+1 same fabric.  For a professional business dress code wear suiting pieces--a jacket plus a skirt, pants, or sheath dress--in the same fabric and color.  


  • Professional Business Casual = 1+1 different fabrics.  For professional business casual, you wear suiting pieces head-to-toe, but in different fabrics and colors.  The easy way is to view your suits as two great separates and mix-n-match.


  • Business Casual = at least 1.  For business casual you want at least one structured piece—a trouser, tailored jacket, etc.  The other can be softer and less tailored, but not overly casual, i.e. a twill pant, belted cardigan, etc.


  • Casual = less structured version of at least 1.  For a casual dress code, you still need to be outfitted but in a less tailored manner.  Even in a casual work environment, t-shirts with words, jeans with holes, and/or dirty, rumpled clothes are inappropriate.  


  • Jean Friday = 1+jeans.  Jean Friday, for those in a professional business, professional business casual, or business casual environment, is simply replacing your tailored pants with jeans.  The top part of the outfit is still structured and finished.  A dark washed, well-fitting, bootleg or slim cut jean worn with a dress flat, heel or boot often works best.


Company dress codes are put in place, so the employees personify the image of the company. Knowing how to dress the part does not have to mean looking like everyone else.  Think of it as knowing the rules of the game, but playing in your distinct style.


Question:  What's your formula?

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