Attending professional events or going to interviews can be nerve-wracking in and of themselves. In the days leading up to them, it can be increasingly stressful trying to find the right attire. What does it mean to dress “business professional” as opposed to “business casual”?

Learning how to differentiate between various attires and finding how that fits into your personal style are important elements of professional growth!

The Basics of Business Attire

What is the difference between business professional and business casual?

In most industries, the main difference between business professional and business casual attire is the addition of a blazer or jacket. Business professional attire is considered more appropriate for job interviews and related events while a blazer is not required with business casual attire.

For both business professional and business casual attire, fun and creative colors and styles are allowed and even encouraged! 

If you are unsure what to wear to your first day at a new job, you can always ask current employees what is standard. You can also start by wearing more traditional styles and colors (e.g., black, navy, etc.) and add more personality to your wardrobe as you become more familiar with the workplace culture.


There are a lot of options when it comes to professional footwear, including heels, flats, loafers, and boots. If you are dressed in business professional attire as opposed to business casual attire, then the general rule is that shoes should be close-toed. It is also generally accepted by most industries that heels should be kept to 2.5 inches or lower, if that is what you decide to go with. 


A lot of business attire is made out of leather and faux leather, including shoes, watch bands, briefcases, purses, and belts.

When you are wearing more than one leather piece in your business outfit, it looks more professional if you match your leathers. This means that if you are wearing black leather shoes, and you’re wearing a leather belt, then that should be black too, not brown.


Some industries and companies are more flexible with accessories than others. Generally speaking, anything that is oversized or distracting is not preferred.

When starting a new job, it is good practice to follow the rule of three for a little while until you catch on to the culture of the workplace. The rule of three is when you wear three accessories at one time – for example, a neck piece, a watch, and a ring.


When we hear the words “business professional,” we often think that our clothing options are limited to the traditional, neutral pieces of clothing, such as a black suit with a white top. 

This misconception often leads people to limit themselves by not showcasing their true style and creativity through professional dress. One belief that we stand by is that wearing professional clothes does not mean you need to limit yourself to these traditional, neutral pieces. 

You can still wear the traditional pieces, but you are free to add a little bit of “spice.” Don’t be afraid to incorporate color or patterns into your professional wardrobe! Wear whatever pieces you are most comfortable with and that you feel best represent you.

Professional attire is just another way to stand out from the crowd and showcase your personality. The next time you get dressed to impress, don’t be afraid to show up in your most confident pieces of clothing because when you look good, you feel good, and when you feel good, you do good!

Please note: It is very important to understand that the expectations of dress code changes with each company. These preferences may not be applicable to all industries, but they are a great place to start!

Things to avoid:

  • Jeans
  • Open-toed shoes (e.g., flip flops)
  • Stained clothing
  • Well-worn sneakers
  • Pajamas
  • Visible undergarments
  • Athletic wear

How Professional Dress Code Can Change Depending on Your Industry

No matter what your industry is, it is important to ask around and gather an accurate picture of what is expected of you when it comes to professional attire.

Personally, I have met different people with very diverse experiences when it comes down to the expectations of what one should wear to work and/or professional events. What is expected of you can change depending on management, the values of the company you work for, the overall company culture, or the formality of the encounter. 

No matter what company you work for or the industry you go into, remember to have open communication about what is expected of you when it comes to dress code. Once you are fully aware of what is expected and what you can or cannot wear, then you can incorporate your own personal style to that set of expectations. No matter what you are expected to wear, don’t be afraid to showcase your personality through your wardrobe.

Don’t forget to let your personality shine through our professional attire at our 2-day Career Fair event on March 2nd and 3rd!

Register for the (Virtual!) Career Fair | March 2, 2022 | 1:30 – 4:30 pm PST

Register for the Career Fair Industry Networking Night (In-Person Event Following Virtual Spring Career Fair) | March 3, 2022 | 4:00 – 6:00 pm PST