A Girl’s Guide to Dressing Like a Boss—Literally

When you first enter or are in the professional career world, you must learn how to dress to impress.

The first impressions you make typically involve your appearance and your clothing can speak volumes about your character to a potential employer.

So how can you slay in your outfit while maintaining professionalism? What do people mean when they say wear business professional or business casual? Let’s find out!

What’s the difference between business professional and business casual?

Business professional attire usually involves generally conservative clothing to portray yourself in a professional manner.

While it is similar to business formal, it does not involve having to wear your best and sharpest suit (although that’s totally an option, too).

For women, business professional attire usually involves:

  • A solid-colored (typically dark or neutral colors), conservative suit that matches

    • Knee-length skirts or suit pants

    • Suit jacket or blazer

  • A coordinated blouse

  • A button-down top

  • Moderate, close-toed shoes such as flats or low pumps (no taller than 2.5-inch heels)

  • Pantyhose (nude or dark)

Business casual attire, on the other hand, may not require as much professionalism but at the same time, this is not an invitation to dress in T-shirts, jeans and flip flops.

Dress in something respectful, but not too stiff, as if you’re dressing for a nice dinner date.

For women, a typical business casual outfit involves:

  • A solid-colored blouse

  • A polo shirt

  • A pencil skirt or a nice pair of slacks

  • A simple dress

  • A jumpsuit

  • Flats or low pumps

  • Blazers (usually optional)

How do I know what type of business attire I need wear?

The most obvious indication of whether you should wear business professional or business casual is the company’s dress code or your employer’s or interviewer’s explicit directions.

However, if you were left in the dark about what kind of attire you should wear to a certain event, then have no fear.

First, consider what you’re dressing up for.

What kind of event or meeting is it? For certain job interviews, business presentations, professional dinners, and first professional meetings, business professional attire is highly recommended.

Business casual attire, however, can be worn in the workplace like the office and even to certain meetings.

Let’s look at the type of attire to wear to job interviews.

There are certain industries that ask for either one and it may be challenging to determine which one is more appropriate.

The business casual interview look would be appropriate for these general industries, which include but are certainly not limited to:

  • IT

  • Startups

  • Teaching

  • Entry-level government positions

  • Environmental engineering

  • Architecture

  • Aerospace (non-management)

  • Healthcare/life sciences research

  • Social media

  • Advertising/PR

  • Retail

On the other hand, the more formal business professional interview look works for these industries:

  • Healthcare management and sales

  • Hospital administration

  • Biotechnology

  • Banking

  • Personal financial services

  • Academic administration

  • Hospitality

  • Pharmaceutical sales

  • Aerospace management

Other tips for dressing like a boss:

☐ Keep your hair neat, simple and professional.

☐ Keep your jewelry limited and simple and remove all other jewelry or piercings; stud earrings and a simple necklace is perfect.

☐ Wear little to no perfume. Don’t go overboard with that Chanel no. 5!

☐ Manicured nails are optional, but they would add a nice touch.

☐ When wearing a skirt, make sure the hem goes a little past the knee.

☐ Pair your outfit with a cute, matching (or even contrasting, if you’re bold) handbag.

☐ If you think your outfit looks too stiff, add some flair and character by wearing a statement necklace, a patterned top, or a pop of color in your shoes (applies for business casual only!)

Best business clothing brands

When it comes to looking your very best in your interview, job or meeting, you have to turn to the best brands that can give you the looks you want.

After having to go through multitudes of business clothing myself for various events, I have narrowed down to three of my favorite high-end brands (if you feel like treating yourself) and three budget-friendly brands (so that you can still be bougie while on a budget) that can offer you great business attires, both professional and casual alike.

High-end brands:

Budget-friendly brands:

  • Lulu’s

  • TJ-MAXX or Marshall’s

    • Although these two retail stores are not a clothing brand in themselves, there is no doubt that in these two treasure troves, you can find incredible clothing for the workplace or interview while saving a lot of money. I am personally a huge fan of shopping at either store, and I can always rely on them for cute clothing for less.

  • UNIQLO

    • Known for its principle of simplicity, UNIQLO offers simple yet quality and affordable clothing for any occasion, including work. From time to time, they may even have crazy sales that will help you save money and look like a fierce working woman. That’s a win-win in my book! They said it themselves under their Wear for Work section: “Bosswear that can’t be beat.” If you need to find yourself a comfortable pair of work pants but don’t know which color to choose, their EZY Ankle-length Pants ($39.90) come in five different colors. If you’re a skirt kind of girl, the Women Stretch Skirt ($29.90) is simplistic yet sharp for any business occasion.

Dressing to impress in the professional career world doesn’t have to be complicated, nor does it have to be expensive.

The most important thing, however, is that while you may have to dress a certain way for your meeting, interview, or workplace, always make sure that you are comfortable and happy in the clothes you wear.

It’s one thing to look good in a sharp outfit, but it’s even better if you feel good in it, too!