How to dress for business

Are you lacking confidence in a business setting, and not sure what to wear that reflects both you and your business?

Maybe you’re looking for a uniform – whether casual or formal – or just want to know what to wear to create that all-important first impression?

What image do you wish to portray? Approachable, authoritative, professional, knowledgeable…? Do your clothes represent who you are?

Wearing the right clothes is so important not only in business but also in day-to-day life. After all, you never know when you’ll meet a new client or lead! It takes just a few seconds – rightly or wrongly – to look at someone and make a decision about that person and what they represent based on what they are wearing. And if you look professional, you’ll feel professional, too.

Here are a few tips to help you look your best and give the best possible first impression:

Consider whether you need to be booted and suited to make a professional first impression, or if a more casual approach would work better for you.

Personal hygiene probably goes without saying. Just make sure to always keep mints handy (there’s nothing worse than garlic breath!); have clean, tidy hair; and clean and neat nails with no chipped polish.

When you’re looking for business attire, look for quality. It really does show and will certainly last longer.

Don’t be afraid of colour and don’t feel you have to stick to dark colours. Try adding a pop of colour in a tie, a colourful work bag or a scarf. A little sprinkling of your personality will help bring your business to life!

Whatever you decide to wear for work, make sure you’re comfortable and can focus on the task at hand. There’s nothing worse than having to jiggle and twist to make something fit properly.

Tips for Men

  • Make sure your shoes are cleaned, polished and in a good state of repair, even if they are casual shoes or trainers.
  • Shirts should fit well (with all buttons intact!). A fitted shirt may work well for you, or perhaps a fuller fit might suit your body shape better.

Make sure to check out the collars – there are many different sizes, some button-down, others might have a larger collar. And, if possible, try them on with a tie to make sure that style works for you.

Don’t forget: even iron free shirts will need ironing (sorry!).

  • When buying a suit, buy two pairs of trousers for each jacket as trousers wear out much faster. This way, you can wear one pair of trousers and alternate each day and the suit will last so much longer.

Be a stickler for the sleeve and leg length and have them altered if necessary – there’s nothing worse than wearing a jacket when the sleeves are too long.

Always have your suits (trousers and jackets) cleaned together. If the colour alters on the jacket during the cleaning process, it will alter the trousers too, so they will still work together.

If you’re wearing more casual work wear, again get more bottoms than tops and have plenty so there is always a clean option ready to wear.

  • Black may not be the best colour for your skin tone. Be open to trying navy, grey, or even a dark brown. Try a selection on when you go shopping, it’s worth finding a good sales assistant to help you.
  • Look at your size. If you’re small (say under 5’8”) then smaller patterns in ties and smaller checks in suits will look better. If you’re not so small (5’8” plus) you’ll look more put-together with larger patterns. It’s about keeping everything in proportion.
  • Stick to dark colours in socks (and make sure they are matching!).
  • Wear minimum jewellery (eg. a wedding ring and a watch). A man’s watch can say a lot, but it needn’t be expensive to look classy.

Tips for women:

  • If you need to wear a suit then buy two bottoms per jacket (whether trousers, skirt or dress) as the jackets will wear out much slower. Look for washable suiting, and remember to wash the whole outfit together so the colours don’t alter.
  • Skirts should be about knee length, they shouldn’t ride up too much (test this out when you’re buying), and they should feel comfortable when sitting down. An A-line skirt may well be more comfortable than a pencil skirt or, if not, trousers might be a better choice.
  • Try to match your legs and shoes. If you’re wearing dark shoes, then try to wear dark tights or trousers. In warmer weather, nude shoes are a good option without tights or with lighter tights. If you find heels too uncomfortable don’t be afraid to wear flats – there’s some lovely styles out there.
  • Don’t wear anything too revealing – it doesn’t look professional.
  • Keep jewellery to a minimum. When promoting your business, you want potential customers to look and listen to you rather than trying to work out what you are wearing or have to shout over any bracelet jangling.

Wear whatever make-up you feel comfortable in (just leave the neon eyeshadows for nights out). Not wearing makeup is also fine – perhaps try a little clear lip gloss or mascara if it works for you.

If you have an accountant, they should be your first stop for business advice. If you don’t have an accountant or they can’t help, BuBul has a wide range of experts available. For more advice, contact our expert* Christine on LinkedIn here.

*We’ve picked experts we know and trust who are good at what they do. All of them will give you at least an extra 30 minutes free advice if you contact them and would then charge their normal prices. They don’t pay to be on BuBul and don’t give us any money from anything they earn as an expert.