No matter what field you work in, there are so many mysteries when it comes to office culture and expectations: Should I ask my co-workers to lunch? Can I have a few cocktails at the holiday party? And most importantly, what should I wear to the office? And because every workplace is different, there are no one-size-fits-all rules for every working woman’s style. After all, what might be acceptable for a real estate agent may not be considered promotion-worthy at a buttoned-up investment firm.
That’s why we’re not only helping you decode what different office dress codes mean, but we’re also giving you a couple of new outfit ideas for the type of workplace that fits you best. Keep reading for all the details, then order one of our Style Edits and request the 9-to-5 pieces that work for your office.
Dress Code: Business Professional
What it means: Business professional dress codes are the most clean-cut of the bunch and typically call for pant suits, conservative dresses, or jacket-and-skirt combos for women. Neutral hues are typically encouraged (though a pop of color on your blouse is usually okay).
You might have this dress code if…: you work in finance, as a lawyer or politician, or in a similarly serious and formal environment.
Staples to own: Super-tailored pant suits, trousers, a blazer, a sharp sheath dress, a knee-length pencil skirt, silk blouses or button downs, classic pumps.
Two outfits to try:
Add an unexpectedly chic twist to your classic blazer-and-trousers combo by pairing black and charcoal hues with a touch of navy. Leather pointy-toe flats or pumps and a sophisticated watch finish off the look nicely.
Layer a tissue-thin turtleneck under a tailored jumper or sheath dress, then add super-opaque tights and sleek booties to complete the ensemble. Heading to happy hour after work? Stash a cute clutch and statement necklace in your desk to give the look a little more glamour.
Dress Code: Business Casual
What it means: Though not as strict as a professional dress code, this dress code still calls for clean silhouettes and conservative lengths for dresses and skirts, but with a little more flexibility to wear prints and colors, statement jewelry, sweaters, and bolder footwear. “Casual Fridays” are often allowed, but you should make sure to dress sharp in dark-wash denim and a nice top or sweater.
You might have this dress code if…: you’re a teacher, work in accounting or advertising, or operate in a professional but slightly more laid back environment.
Staples to own: Shirtdresses, cardigans, pull-on skirts, skinny black pants, a blazer, printed dresses and blouses, pointy-toe flats.
Two outfits to try:
Tuck a slim-fitting, high-neck top into a tailored skirt and add leather heels or booties. If an important meeting’s on your agenda for the day, slip a classic black blazer over the ensemble to boost your girl-boss style.
Start off your work week on a fresh note with a floral-print dress, plus tights and ankle boots for cooler weather. And don’t forget to bring a cardigan or knit blazer, which always comes in handy with year-round office A/C.
Dress Code: Casual
What it means: Employees are allowed to dress in more comfortable clothing that shows their personal style—think jeans, chambray shirts, ankle boots, boho blouses—while still maintaining an appropriate and semi-professional appearance (so no yoga pants or denim shorts).
You might have this dress code if…: you work in a creative field, are part of a small business or start-up, or work in any other environment that’s more casual and laid-back.
Staples to own: Slim jeans, button downs or casual shirts, tailored T-shirts, day dresses, a knit or colorful blazer, statement heels, black denim, patterned scarves.
Two outfits to try:
Show off your boho side with a breezy, patterned top and very slightly distressed denim. Your favorite ankle boots, cross-body bag, and statement earrings complete the look.
It can be hard to get away with a sweatshirt in even the most casual of offices, so do the next best thing and layer a lightweight sweater over a basic plaid button down. Pair the combo with slim, dark-wash denim, clogs, and a sparkly necklace for the perfect mix of casual and cute.
Which of these office dress codes fits your workplace best? Let your personal stylist know, and she’ll send you work-appropriate pieces with your next Style Edit.