Professional attire and image

Dressing for success ensures that you are putting your best foot forward and making a good impression on potential employers.

There are three common levels of professional dress: Business professional, business casual and smart casual.

Business professional

Business professional is the most formal level of professional dress. This style is most appropriate for interviews, career fairs and more formal events. It is recommended to opt for darker, more traditional colors such as black, navy or gray.

Examples of business professional clothing:

  • Jackets and blazers with matching pants or skirt
  • A button-up collared shirt and tie combination
  • A tailored, conservative shirt

Business casual

Business casual combines elements of business professional and smart casual to create a tailored, put-together look. This look may be appropriate for interviews at companies that have a relaxed dress code or at a networking event.

Examples of business casual clothing: 

  • Jackets
  • Outfit-enhancing jewelry
  • Dress pants
  • Dress shirts
  • Skirts
  • Tailored sweaters
  • Vests
  • Ties
  • Matching leather accessories
  • Leather pull-on shoes and boots

Smart casual

Smart casual is the most relaxed of the three levels of professional attire. Though smart casual is casual, it does not mean that anything goes.

Smart casual is difficult to define. In this case, it is easier to provide clothing items to avoid when dressing smart casual:

  • Athletic wear
  • Shorts
  • Miniskirts
  • Sundresses
  • Sweatshirts
  • T-shirts
  • Sneakers
  • Open-toed sandals

If you are a student in need of professional clothing, there are free or reduced-cost options:

  • Many stores offer student discounts if you show a student ID. Second-hand clothing also can be a good option — check thrift stores and consignment shops for gently worn professional attire. 
  • The Professional Clothing Closet in the University Career Center provides access to free professional and business casual attire appropriate for career fairs, interviews and the workplace. Visit the University Career Center in 206 Summerfield Hall 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Friday for more information.