Working while female: How to dress in the workplace

Your clothes say a lot about you and who you are. In the workplace, your attire is important and it may take time to put together — especially for women because the options are endless.

For women, the line between business casual and business professional can be blurry, making it tricky to know how to dress for your job after college.

Business professional

Business professional is obviously a little more formal than business casual. For business professional, pieces that resemble nice suits, as well as dark neutral colors are always safe.

Some jobs may require you to wear business professional clothing, but most lean toward the business casual side.

Instances in which you would wear business professional outfits other than the work place would be to interviews, career fairs and formal networking events, according to Virginia Tech’s Career Planning Guide.

“The biggest distinction between business professional and business casual is in the shoes,” said Tamara Cherry-Clarke, assistant director and coordinator for the Smith Career Center.

Shoes for business professional should be low-heeled, closed-toe and should be polished and in good condition.

Business casual

Overall, business casual should be crisp, neat and appropriate. You shouldn’t be bringing out your cocktail dresses, but also you shouldn’t look like you’re going to lounge around the house. It is more common than business professional. Business casual shoots for classy rather than trendy, according to Virginia Tech Career Services.

Business casual shirts for women can be tailored shirts, blouses or knit sweaters. Velvety or shimmery blouses are not acceptable, and all shirts should fit, but not be too tight or expose too much chest.

Women can wear casual pants or skirts, but neither should be skin-tight. Pants should also be tailored and creased.

Skirts should come just below the knee while standing up and covering your thighs while seated. Slits in skirts are acceptable but not on a long skirt with a slit up to the knee. Remember, classy is key.

Shoes for business casual can include booties or boots and can be open-toe. Sandals are also acceptable, but they shouldn’t be too dressy or too casual; you’ll need to find a balance there.

Jewelry and accessories are encouraged for business casual. Just make sure to keep it simple and more on the conservative side.

When it comes to cost, you do not need to be buying the most expensive clothes in the stores — you are not expected to be able to afford the same things as the CEO. However, making an investment on a good quality outfit is a good idea since it can last you a few years on the job.

According to Fashionista, places like Ann Taylor and Zara are good places to shop for your professional wear. The clothing won’t break on the job, and it definitely won’t break your wallet.

Smart casual

Smart casual is a category added recently in addition to business professional and casual since workplaces today are becoming more relaxed and more casual.

Smart casual, sometimes referred to as “dressy casual,” is appropriate to wear when explicitly said and is worn in many offices just like business casual, according to the Career Planning Guide.

Smart casual gives you more room to express yourself since you can mix up colors in your outfits. You should still look clean and put together but think business appropriate with a few casual cues.

For your shoes you can wear loafers, booties or flats.

When in doubt, pick an outfit you are comfortable and confident in that compliments your personality in a professional way and dress up instead of down if you are unsure.

In the end, the organization you work for dictates what clothing you should be wearing in the workplace — whether it be business casual or professional.

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