Dress Codes 101: Business Formal

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Whether you're working at your first internship this summer or heading out into the "real world" as a new grad, it's essential to know and follow the dress code for your workplace. Lucky for you, we're here to decode some typical types of workwear, from business formal to casual.

Business formal suits

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We've already covered what to wear for an interview, and this week's topic is what to wear for a "business formal" environment.

For conservative fields - like business, law, or accounting - you will typically find that the dress code is business formal (also called business professional). The most important thing you need to know is that business formal = a suit. This means a pair of pants or skirt and a jacket in a matching color and style, which will help you look polished and streamlined.

Other things to remember? Stick to neutral colors, low heels or flats, simple blouses, and understated jewelry. (For more guidelines, see here.)

Now, here are a few business formal outfit ideas:

Outfit #1

Business formal black pant suit

Product Info: Pants, Jacket, Shirt, Flats, Bag, Earrings

For a simple, classic, and formal look, you can't go wrong with a black suit. Try a pair of black trousers (make sure they aren't too tight!) and a black blazer, paired with a crisp white button-down. Black flats are a closet staple, and they are a great choice if your job keeps you on your feet all day. The pointed toe on this pair makes them look more professional.

Grab a sleek bowler bag in a neutral color to carry your belongings, and accessorize the look with a pair of delicate pearl earrings.

Outfit #2

Business formal navy skirt suit

Product Info: Skirt, Jacket, Shirt, Bag, Heels, Necklace

If skirts are more your speed, try a matching pencil skirt and blazer - just make sure that your skirt hem is no more than two inches above your knee (and save the mini skirts for when you're off-duty). Though it's nice to have one black suit in your closet, you can also mix things up with a navy, gray, brown, or pinstriped suit.

In the same vein, you can't go wrong with a white blouse, but if you want a little variation, try shirts in other neutral colors, like a light taupe or beige. You can also try switching your black heels for neutral ones (I wouldn't recommend nude flats, though, or it might look like you're walking around in bare feet!). Don't forget to accessorize with a sophisticated leather bag and a simple pendant necklace.


Are you working in a business formal environment this summer? Do you have a go-to outfit? Which look would you wear? Let us know your thoughts by leaving a comment!

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