Decoding the dress code

blog paulina selfie

Selfie on “Business Casual” day at the office.

Dressing for work was a new concept for me, and as a fashionista I did not want to compromise my personal style for so-called work clothes. Unfortunately, dressing for work is something we all have to do at some point, even if the ideal job is to work from home in our jammies. There’s myriad occasions that summon the Dress Code: career fairs, job interviews, actual jobs, luncheons, etc. Here is my breakdown of the three basic dress codes, with some pointers to keep in mind:

Business Professional. This is the easiest to spot but hardest to pull together. It consists of mostly black and white and subdued colors. A blazer is a must, but never paired with shorts. Absolutely no jeans or sneakers, and simple jewelry only. Although buying a blazer and nice (closed-toe) shoes might be expensive, consider it an investment that you can also wear to many other occasions, even social ones. It is best to wear Business Professional for occasions when you want to make a great first impression, even if the company’s usual dress code is more relaxed.

Business Casual. Blazers are not required, but sneakers are still prohibited. Jeans may work if paired with a dressier item, such as a button-up or nice sweater/blazer. Another alternative to jeans is khaki. Similar to Business Professional, skirts, dresses and slacks are all good choices. There is a lot more leniency here with choice of color and jewelry, just keep it classy!

Casual. Don’t get excited here, this “casual” may not be the same as what you or your friends have in mind. While jeans and sneakers are permissible, the golden rule is not wearing anything revealing or offensive. Keep in mind that you will most likely be working with different generations of people. So go ahead and wear something comfortable, but not too comfortable (this means no yoga pants or man-uggs)!

There are variations to these three basic codes, so always make sure to contact the company (some companies even have a Dress Code Hotline!) or host ahead of time for information on what to wear to your occasion. And above all, wear a smile and let your confidence show (that’s something you can’t buy or borrow). 😉


Paulina RicoJuarezPaulina Rico-Juarez is a third-year computer science major, minoring in business administration. On campus, she is involved in the Honors College, Her Campus, LABS and SIG-Android. A Chicago native, Paulina is fluent in Spanish and Chinese and has assisted a bridal designer in Beijing. In her spare time, Paulina loves to Bollywood dance, run an online shop and write her personal blog. 


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