Whether you work in an office or you are a student, dressing professionally is an essential part to coming across successfully in both a work and academic environment.

Your appearance does impact on the way you come across to people, as it makes a statement about your professionalism. If you show up for an important work or academic event in inappropriate attire, it can ruin a career on its own. Every work environment is different, which means that something you wore in one workplace wouldn’t be acceptable or practical in another. However, there are always a few guidelines that you should follow on how to dress yourself professionally:

dress yourself

Match your workplace setting

A written dress code comes as standard in certain workplaces. This dress code will highlight what is and what isn’t acceptable in your workplace, which makes it easier to plan an outfit. However, some workplaces don’t have this and, in this case, you will need to judge the situation based on what your colleagues are wearing or by speaking to your superior.

There are a number of categories to consider; there is formal business attire, which is the typical dress code that is used for high-profile jobs and businesses that cultivate formality. Then there is business casual wear, which is normally worn in an office environment. Finally, there is black tie, which is normally something worn at special events or for very specific scenarios. Alternatively, some workplaces will have and provide a uniform.

Don’t experiment too much

You need to understand that formal business attire is conservative, tailored clothing. Although small details change as the fashion does, the crucial core of formal and smart office attire hasn’t really changed over the decades. Finding a business formal outfit is normally easier than a business casual one, because the parameters of this style are more well-defined. In general, both genders are expected to wear a neutral colored suit, with females having the option of wearing trousers or a skirt to accompany it. You should make sure your suit is tailored to fit nicely and should be in good condition. It should be solid colored, patterns such as pinstripes can be acceptable. If you go for a skirt suit, then the skirt should come down to the knee and shouldn’t be too tightly fitted.

Dress your feet appropriately

What you wear on your feet will depend on whether you walk around or spend a lot of your time at the desk. When it comes to formal wear, men should ensure they are wearing formal shoes, such as the Oxford style or the baroque. Women should wear low or moderately high heeled shoes, or a flat pump. Business casual styles normally have a wider choice on what to wear, however, the shoes always need to be closed-toed. Women can wear flats or heels. The color of the shoes should be neutral and should match the clothing you wear. You need to make sure you avoid really casual shoes.

If you are on your feet quite a lot, then a sneaker can be acceptable, but the best way to get away with wearing a sneaker and still maintain a professional appearance is to go designer. For example, the Givenchy sneakers are on trend right now and are comfortable as well as stylish. Check out SSENSE for a wide choice of high-end sneakers and shoes that will look great in the office.

Choose the right top

If you are dressing business formal, then you should wear a shirt. It should be either a solid color or pinstriped, tailored to fit well, laundered and well-ironed. Long sleeves look more formal than short sleeves, but these are normally acceptable during the warmer times of the year. Women need to make sure the cut of top is modest and appropriate and men need to make sure their ties match their shirts. When it comes to smart casual, polo-shirts, Oxford-style shirts, tailored t-shirts and product shirts, alongside normal shirts and blouses are all acceptable.

Keep yourself well-groomed

A great outfit doesn’t do anything if you haven’t groomed yourself well. If you need a haircut or you have bad personal hygiene, then you will fail to look professional. You need to make sure your entire body is treated with the same amount of professional care as your clothing. To do so, you should make sure you shower regularly, use deodorant and keep your hair (on your head or on your face) tidy and clean. If you are wearing a skirt, make sure your legs are shaved, or wear tights to cover them. Women also need to keep makeup to a minimum and should maintain a natural look. Good oral hygiene is also very important. Nothing is more off putting than bad breath, especially if you are a smoker or eat strong smelling food.

Once you know what clothing is acceptable in your work environment, it will be a lot easier to find the right outfit. Just make sure you stick to the guidelines of your workplace, look at what the people around you are wearing and do your research. Appearance isn’t everything, but it does play a big role in looking professional.