How to Fit Into Dress Codes in the Workplace

Building Your (Management-approved) Wardrobe

Now that you know the rules, it's time to get your closet into shape. Start by combing through your existing wardrobe. What fits the code? What doesn't? Naturally, your college sweaters and Led Zeppelin T-shirts probably won't make the cut. For convenience's sake, keep these leisure clothes separate from your work clothes. The more organized your closet, the better prepared you'll be to craft a suitable work outfit each morning -- especially if you're a little pressed for time.

If you're in the beginning stages of your career, your collection of office-ready clothes will probably need some additions -- which means it's time to hit the shops. Fashion is pricey, and clothes shopping for a new job could easily cost you hundreds of dollars. Check to see if your employer has a special deal with any clothing retailers. And, if you're a savvy shopper, you might consider picking up a few outfits on the thrift store circuit.

Aim for flexible clothes. The modern worker will switch jobs multiple times during the course of his or her career -- and encounter multiple dress codes. Instead of just filling your closet with suits, go for clothing items you can mix and match: a few pairs of dark pants, a turtleneck, some dark jackets and a good supply of white shirts. Keep the colors basic. By sticking to common "office" colors like blue and gray, you'll be guaranteed a more versatile wardrobe.

If you can afford it, spring for higher-quality clothes. Not only will they look better, but they'll last longer. If your jackets are looking threadbare after only a few months, it might be time to put more money into your clothing budget. Don't forget to allow for changes in the weather. On cold days, bundle up with wool pants, a cardigan or a sweater vest. During the summer, beat the heat with Egyptian cotton and light colors.

At one time, professional clothes were a lot of work. Looking good in the 1960s required regular trips to the drycleaners, hours spent over the ironing board and nightly appointments with the polishing cloth. Save yourself the trouble by loading up on modern, low-maintenance clothing such as wrinkle-free shirts, easy-shine shoes and machine-washable suits.

Related Articles

More Great Links


  • Binckley, Christina. "Overexposed: Surviving the Corporate Outing." July 24, 2009. (Aug. 5, 2010)
  • Boyd, Shawn. "My interview at Google." April 13, 2008. (Aug. 8, 2010)
  • Carter, Kate. "Dress codes dissected: from Ascot to American Apparel." June 17, 2010. (Aug. 5, 2010)
  • Canadian Broadcasting Corporation. "Sikh Mounties permitted to wear turbans." March 15, 1990. (Aug. 8, 2010)
  • Cowan, James. Nelson, Jacqueline. "IBM: The Company of the Future." April 12, 2010. (Aug. 5, 2010)
  • Cullen, Lisa Takeuchi. "What (Not) To Wear to Work." May 29, 2008. (Aug. 5, 2010),9171,1810301,00.html
  • Galt, Virginia. "Getting the office dress code right." June 24, 2006. (Aug. 5, 2010)
  • Damast, Alison. "Return of the Dress Code." Aug. 28, 2007. (Aug. 5, 2010)
  • Gregory, Sean. "Abercrombie Faces a Muslim-Headscarf Lawsuit." Sept. 23, 2009. (Aug. 5, 2010),8599,1925607,00.html
  • Healy, Madeline. "Creating a wardrobe that works for you." Jan. 16, 2009. (Aug. 5, 2010)
  • IBM. "IBM Attire." (Aug. 8, 2010)
  • Klein, Karen. "Setting Up a Dress Code in the Workplace." Sept. 5, 2008. (Aug. 5, 2010)
  • Mayock, Patrick. "Strutting the corporate runway." July, 2008. (Aug. 5, 2010)
  • Martin, Hugo. Garcia, Jason. "Disney theme parks' dress code relaxed." June 16, 2010. (Aug. 5, 2010),0,7728712.story
  • Post, Anna. "Don't Wear Those Flip-Flops to Work." May 31, 2010. (Aug. 5, 2010)
  • Urban, Danielle S. "Think twice about displaying tattoos in the workplace." May 15, 2010. (Aug. 5, 2010)
  • Rocha, Roberto. "Start dressing like a pro." (Aug. 5, 2010)
  • Rohwedder, Cecilie. "Machine-washable suits make traditionalists recoil." April 20, 2006. (Aug. 8, 2010)
  • Ryan, Suzanne. "The new rules for office casual." June 28, 2007. (Aug. 5, 2010)
  • Ryan, Suzanne. "Dressing down every day." April 30, 2007. (Aug. 5, 2010),%201997
  • Stolberg, Sheryl Gay. "White House Unbuttons Formal Dress Code." Jan. 28, 2009. (Aug. 5, 2010)
  • The Telegraph. "Dress Code for Her Majesty's Garden Parties." April 19, 2008. (Aug. 8, 2010)
  • Thompson, Derek. "Can you be too sexy for work? -- Legally?" June 14, 2010. (Aug. 5, 2010)
  • Verner, Amy. "The new green dress code: office cool." June 15, 2007. (Aug. 5, 2010)
  • Work Etiquette. "How to Fit in to a New Workplace." (Aug. 5, 2010)