Dressing for the Job

Ira HughesBlog

As a young professional, I often ask myself, “Is this acceptable?”

Adapting to working in a professional environment can be a challenge in the beginning of a career. As times have changed, so has the dress code. Over time, we have seen a shift in the culture and fashion in the workplace. What was once frowned upon as too casual has become more acceptable. However, even with these changes, companies, like MP&F, still expect employees to look professional.

Why is it important to dress nicely?

Do not underestimate the importance of first impressions! Studies show that 55 percent of first impressions are made by what people see. To many of my generation, it may seem crazy to think that the way you’re dressed can make or break a first impression. When deciding what to wear, it is important to know whom you will be interacting with throughout the workday. Ask yourself whether you have a lot of meetings in and out of the office, all while keeping in mind that you may unexpectedly be called into a meeting. You should be able to look in the mirror and not have any doubt about whether your outfit is acceptable. 

Tips for Workplace Attire

Here are some good rules of thumb that will help you figure out what you should or shouldn’t wear, regardless of whether you work in a formal or casual workplace:

  • No matter what the dress code is in your organization – business suits or jeans and T-shirts – your clothes should always be neat and clean.
  • Keep your shoes in good condition. Make time to keep them clean, and take them to a shoemaker for repairs if necessary.
  • Don’t wear heels that are too high and make it difficult for you to get around. You’re at work for eight or more hours; try not to make it more difficult.
  • Keep an extra button-up shirt or suit jacket in your car. You never know when you might need them.
  • Nails and hair should be clean and neat. Making sure that you are well-groomed before you leave the house is very important.
  • Dress for the job you want. If you have aspirations to be a manager, dress like the people in charge at your company.
  • Gentlemen, don’t be afraid to accessorize. A pocket square for your sport coat or suit is modern, is stylish and makes you stand out.

Rules for Casual Dress at Work

Dressing casually for work can honestly be more challenging than dressing up. How do you stay comfortable within the rules of your job? If your employer’s policy doesn’t go into much detail, you may wonder how informal your attire can be. The best people to consult with for this information are the human resources department or your manager, but here are some general do’s and don’ts you can follow until you learn more:

  • Dressing casually doesn’t mean you can wear anything you want. Don’t show up in your old, faded jeans and T-shirts to work. 
  • I know it gets hot in the summer, but leave the shorts and tank tops at home. Short shorts and tank tops are off-limits. Flip-flops are also a no-go as well.
  • Don’t know what to wear? You can never go wrong with khakis and a sport shirt, sweater or blouse.
  • If you are going to be making a presentation, be sure you’re in a business suit. 
  • Err on the safe side. No one will ever have a problem with you for “over-dressing”; in fact, you might get a couple of compliments.

There are many different roads you can take to customizing your wardrobe for work. Be sure to stay mindful of “your style.” If you like to add a little flair to the way you dress, wear that scarf. Or, if you like to keep it simple, stick with a nice pair of jeans. No two individuals are the same, so find your niche and make it work for you. 


“For me, it’s about practical pieces that are versatile and comfortable. A little pop of color is always nice, too.” – Sarah Hunt-Blackwell

“Personally, I like to straddle the line between traditional patterns and more modern textures and fit, but my hair color provides both a blessing and a curse when it comes to finding colors.” – Evan Wofford

“I tend to gravitate toward neutral pieces that work well with each other so I can mix and match to get the most out of everything.” – Viviana Bertorelli

“You can never go wrong with a blazer and a nice pair of jeans, in my opinion. I like to incorporate seasonal colors and be prepared for any occasion that might pop up.” – Ira Hughes

I would like to give special recognition to my colleagues Katy Varney, Sarah Hunt-Blackwell, Viviana Bertorelli, Allison Hammond and Evan Wofford for their insights and contributions to this blog.

Ira is a staff associate at MP&F Strategic Communications.