Professional Dress

By Emily Ferraro

When it comes to dressing professionally, there are basic guidelines in place for “what to wear” and “what not to wear,” but it’s not always easy to assert what is right for each and every person. Just like any other day, choosing what to wear is about personal style, comfort, and setting. When trying to figure out what to wear to an interview or how to build your professional wardrobe, it’s best to keep the basics in mind and then let your style be found in the details.

Below are some simple guidelines to follow when preparing for an interview, followed by tips on how to build a wardrobe for business casual settings both in the office as well conferences and events.

Interview Dress Tips:

men first











  • Always wear a suit (it’s best to be formal no matter what the level of interview)
  • Men can wear two-piece matching suits in conservative colors such as black, navy, dark grey (wool, wool-blend and other quality fibers are best); to make the best impression, tailor it to fit you properly
  • Men should wear long-sleeve shirts in basic colors such as white, light blue, or conservative patterns
  • Always tuck in shirt
  • Socks should be mid-calf length in a dark color
  • Always match your shoes to your belt
  • Invest in nice pair of dress shoes; laces or loafers are appropriate
  • Keep hair out of face, well groomed, shaved and clean
  • Do not wear a strong fragrance/cologne

women suit











  • Always wear a suit (it’s best to be formal no matter what the level of interview)
  • Women can wear skirt suits or pantsuits (black, navy, and grey are recommended)
  • Skirts should match blazer and should be no shorter than fingertip length when arms are down
  • Tops can be long-sleeve button-down, quality knit sweater, or shell under jacket (not see-through, and no cleavage)
  • Women should wear close-toed shoes (heels should stay under 3-4 inches)
  • Always match your shoes to your belt
  • Do not wear a strong fragrance/perfume
  • Make sure nails are well-groomed and, if painted, choose a light, neutral color
  • Keep hair out of face, well groomed and clean
  • Always tuck shirt into pants or skirt
  • Keep jewelry simple and minimal
  • Wear natural looking makeup (no bright lipsticks or smoky eyes)
  • Bag or briefcase should not be too large or bright/accessorized

Professional Dress Tips:

When it comes to creating your professional look, it’s recommended that you incorporate pieces that are versatile and can be worked into several different outfits. These tips are great for building a wardrobe that can be worn in any professional setting.

women, multi









  • Black dress pants, pencil skirt
  • One pair of black pumps/one pair of nude pumps (also try grey/navy)
  • One black, navy or neutral colored dress
  • Tailored blazer (recommend black or navy)
  • Dark wash denim jeans
  • Basic shells/camisoles
  • A few blouses that can be layered (basic colors and light patterns)
  • Some classic dress shirts
  • Cardigans for layering
  • Belts (black/brown)

men, multi











  • Formal basic suit
  • Casual blazers (khaki/navy/grey)
  • Dress shirts- standard button downs (basic colors, light patterns)
  • Oxford shirts
  • Light sweaters (browns/blues/greens)
  • Dark wash jeans
  • Natural colored chinos
  • Belts (black/brown)
  • Dress watch
  • Dress shoes (black and brown)
  • About 3 ties (matching colors in shirts)
  • Polo’s and basic T’s
  • Cuff links

What Not to Wear:

Lastly, always consider the fashion “don’ts” when putting together your outfits. Everyone has different tolerance levels for what they consider professional dress, so remember the basics and dress to your comfort level and personal style. Check out our Pinterest board on “What not to wear – Men and Women” for great visuals and advice on what’s a definite no-no in any professional setting.

what not to wear









Emily Ferraro is new to the Career Services Office at Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University and serves as the Program Manager for undergraduate Aerospace Engineering students. She completed her Bachelor of Arts degree in International Studies as well as her Master of Education in Curriculum & Instruction specializing in College Student Affairs at the University of South Florida in Tampa, FL. Emily enjoys working with students to help them achieve their personal and professional career goals and specializes in topics such as personal branding and resume writing.

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  1. Planning for Career Week 360° (March 3-7, 2014) | Going Places with Embry-Riddle Career Services

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