When starting a new job, or when walking into a job interview, you’ll want to make sure that your clothes match the formality and style of the clothes of your peers. That means dressing in a way that adheres to the dress code, as well as the company culture.
So how do you make sure your attire fits?
Golden Rules for Work Dress
There are a few golden rules for dressing for the workplace, which if followed, should lead you to success in a wide variety of different conditions.
- Mirror what you see. If you dress the way everyone else dresses, you’re not going to stand out, and you’re certainly not going to face judgment or disciplinary action. That said, there are situations that can preclude you from mirroring other people successfully. For example, you might be interviewing for a job, and you might have no way of seeing what people inside the building are wearing beforehand. Thankfully, there are other golden rules to help you accommodate this.
- Go for safe bets when you can. When in doubt, go for safe bets. These are articles of clothing and dressing styles that are suitable for a wide range of different environments. For example, leather loafers are a type of shoe that can fit well in both casual and more formal environments. You probably won’t stand out with these, regardless of where you are.
- Err on the side of overdressing. If you’re really not sure what to wear, err on the side of dressing more formally. Failing to conform to the typical dress within an environment is going to make you uncomfortably stand out no matter what, but it’s much better to be overdressed than underdressed.
Do Your Research
While those golden rules are excellent fall backs, you can probably tailor yourself a perfect fit for this company’s culture with a bit of extra research.
- Read the dress code. This should be a no-brainer, but some people overlook it as a possibility. Many companies publish their dress codes online, or in formats that are easily accessible with a simple online search. If you can find the dress code, read it carefully and follow it to the best of your ability. Otherwise, you’ll have to find alternative options for getting the information you need.
- Look at what others are wearing. Another option is to look at what other people are wearing. If you already work for this company, great; simply look at your peers and try to mirror what they’re wearing. If you don’t have this level of access, see if you can arrange a visit to the premises, or network with existing employees to get a feel for what the dress is like.
- Get a vibe of the company culture. Company culture and dress codes are usually inextricably linked. You can therefore get an idea of what the dress code will be by studying the company culture. Visit the company’s website and see if they publish their core values, company philosophy, or any images or videos of people actively working in the company. Once you have an idea of what the vibe is, you’ll be much better suited to dress for it.
- Be direct. You can also go the direct route. Chances are, you have at least one point of contact at the company, even if you’re in the early interview stages. If you’re not sure what to wear, simply ask them for a copy of the dress code or ask them if there are any specific expectations for attire. This is a perfectly fine question to ask, and most people will be more than happy to give you a thorough, direct response.
- Avoid taking chances. If you’re relatively new to this job or this environment, don’t take chances. Your first day is not the time to experiment with a brightly colored suit or a pair of khaki shorts. Start with more formal attire, then, if appropriate, work your way back.
- Dress in layers. It’s also a good idea to dress in layers, so you can remove layers if necessary to accommodate more casual environments. For example, if you have a dress shirt and jacket, you can always remove the jacket to take yourself down a layer of formality.
Be Ready to Adapt
Even if you’ve read the dress code in full, there’s a chance you’ll have to change your workplace style in the future. As long as you’re ready to adapt, you’ll be able to find a good fit no matter what.
Dressing for a specific company culture can be nerve wracking, especially during the interview process and if you’re new to the professional world. But with the right mindful strategies, you can fit in anywhere.