How to Dress Professionally When Casual Dress Is Your Norm

What to Wear When You Have to Dress Professionally

A women in business attire gives a presentation
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Is Casual Dress Your Norm?

Many organizations don't require their employees to dress professionally when they go to work every day. Anyone wearing a suit would feel very out-of-place in many work environments, and some employers don't bat an eye when their workers show up to the office in jeans and a t-shirt. As a matter of fact, even many bosses show up dressed that way. The current trend toward casual dress at work has made people more lax about what they wear. However, there are times when more formal attire is called for.

You Must Dress Professionally for Certain Situations

When you have to give a presentation to clients or perhaps go before the cameras for a television interview, you must look your professional best. You may not even have to wear a suit. You should if your presentation is for a client that is in a more traditional industry, you know they have a formal dress code, or you are going to be on television. You should definitely dress better than you do for a typical day of work when you are giving a presentation or taking part in a televised interview.

Will dressing more formally make your presentation any better or make viewers take you more seriously? No, of course not. An excellent presentation will still be an excellent presentation, and a poor one won't improve just because you're wearing a suit. However, the way the client or audience perceives you will change. 

While a person in jeans may be as competent and as intelligent as one wearing a business suit, or more so, we do assess these attributes based on appearance. All the ingredients—knowledge, preparation, and appearance—are necessary to make a good impression. If you spend your days in jeans and t-shirts, your closet might not be filled with the "right stuff." Here's what you need to do when casual dress is your norm, but you occasionally have to dress professionally.

How to Dress Professionally

If you have to put on a suit at least once a year, it's a good idea to go out and purchase one, but don't get one if it's just going to sit in the back of your closet. You can wear nice business clothes instead. Women can often wear a skirt, dress, or pants, a blouse, and a jacket or cardigan, while men can wear dress trousers, a button-down shirt, a tie, and a jacket.

Don't waste your money on something trendy. Instead, stick with classic styles. After all, if you're only going to wear this type of attire a couple of times a year, you don't want it to go out of style too quickly.  If you are going to be in front of the camera, some special rules apply. Wear neutral colors—dark blue or gray are good, don't wear large or glitzy jewelry, and wear a button down shirt or a jacket, so there is a place to clip a microphone.

Other Things to Think About

Even if it's just a regular day at work, your hair should be neat and clean, but there are special considerations when you are giving a presentation or being interviewed on television. Keep your hair out of your eyes as that will be distracting for both you and your audience. Your makeup should be simple and, if you are going to be on camera, stay away from anything iridescent, frosted, or glittery—a matte finish is best.

Sit up straight when you are speaking in front of people or a camera. If you slouch, you will look bored and may cause your audience to feel the same. You a will also appear to be more confident when you are sitting or standing up straight. Look like you're happy to be there. A smile makes you look friendly and approachable. Don't fidget, bite your nails, or play with any jewelry you are wearing. Most importantly, don't forget to breathe.