Dress Code Guide: What Does Business Formal Mean?

people wearing suits at the meeting table at the office
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For people who have worked in strict office environments for years, dressing up in business can seem second nature. But if you do not wear this type of work outfit often (or never), dressing for an official event may seem daunting.

Part of what makes it so daunting is that a formal business dress code usually means that you have to impress others at your work. If you do not nail your outfit, you risk making a bad impression and missing out on career opportunities. When the dress code indicates that it is official (or professional), keep this guide handy to avoid common missteps.

Formal business: a definition

Formal business is the highest level of professional attire. The costumes are essential for men and women, in conservative colors, with polished accessories.

Formal business is almost interchangeable with business professional, but the two differences are minimal. Professional professional usually means that your clothes can be slightly more relaxed. For example, a professional appearance requires a suit, while the professional appearance may include separations appropriate to the job.

However, if a dress code says "trade professional", it is often best to do it safely with formal wear. Since these dress codes are almost always associated with work-related events, you do not want to be badly dressed. Opt for your most formal outfit at first, then you can relax your look if other people seem a little less dressed.

When to dress formal business

candidates sitting in the waiting room preparing for an interview
fizkes / Shutterstock

Formal business may be specified on an invitation, but when it is not, it is always the safest choice for many employment-related activities. Wear your professional clothing at events like these:

  • Job interviews in traditional industries (such as law and finance)
  • At work
  • Awards
  • Work Presentations
  • Customer meetings

The culture of your workplace will determine whether you should dress formally or not. In many areas, it is good to wear casual or even casual business clothes. Check dress code guidelines for your work and follow what they say.

When it's not a typical work day, but an interview or a special event, consider the area associated with this event to decide what to wear. If the industry uses costumes to work, you should probably dress formally for this event.

For interviews, meetings with customers, presentations and other moments where all eyes will be on you, formal business is almost always the right choice. It is usually better to be too dressed than badly dressed.

However, it is possible that formal businesses have the sense of "trying too hard" in more casual industries. For example, if you're interviewing a beer salesman at an unusual local brewery, opt for a casual and laid-back look for business.

Formal business ideas for women

Women's formal wear includes:

  • Pants and tailors
  • Dress Shirts
  • Tights

For professional dress codes, be sure to wear tailored suits only in dark, conservative colors, such as gray, navy and black. Neutral tights are also needed for professional looks.

If the invitation says "professional", tights become optional and you can choose combinations in a wider range of colors and patterns (nothing too wild). It's also possible to create professional looks for companies with separate pants, blazers and buttons, rather than full suits.

Closed-toed shoes are suitable for both formal and professional outfits. Heels have always been considered more formal than flat shoes, but this expectation slowly changes as women talk about the resulting damage. wear long-term heels can do. If you wear heels, keep them to a minimum (two to three inches is a good beach). This looks more professional and is better for your feet.

Jewelery and makeup should be kept to a minimum. Avoid bright colors and anything that is too bold or shiny. Simple and practical articles such as ear nails, watches and wedding bands are appropriate.

Formal business ideas for men

When men have to dress formally, they have an equally limited list of options:

The costumes must be adapted and conservatively colored. White is the most professional color of city shirts, but for professional (non-formal) business, other neutral colors, such as light blue, can work. Ties should also have a conservative appearance.

For professional events, you can wear pants and a jacket instead of a full suit. You can also choose from a wider range of colors and patterns for your tie.

Flanks and brogues are a good choice for men's dress shoes, but slackers can also look professional. The socks should match the color of the pants and the belt to the color and finish of the shoes. Make sure it's a belt and not a casual style.


S "dress up in business, professionally or professionally, does not relate to self-expression, but respect for the rules. This simplifies the task by limiting your choices, but it can also be expensive because you will have to pay for high quality suits and tailored clothing, as well as beautiful accessories.

If you often attend official events, it is worth investing in a complete professional wardrobe. But if this happens infrequently, consider saving money by renting the costume you need and simply buying the accessories.

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