The Collegiates Guide to Dress Code.

Transitioning from being a kid whose only responsibility involves passing Algebra to an adult expected to function in the real world is scary. I try to come off as calm, cool, and collected; but lets be honest here: I am terrified of growing up.

Recently I’ve had all sorts of scary terms thrown at me like: renters insurance, GRE, and the dreaded business casual. What even is business casual? Tell me business and I think a pencil skirt and blazer, tell me casual and you’re lucky if I brush my hair. And now you expect me to combine them? Please.

Unfortunately business casual and all of the other silly dress codes are the reality for young professionals everywhere. As we enter the real world we have to face interviews, meetings, events, and so much more. Chances are some of these occasions are going to have a dress code tacked on to it and you don’t want to be one who shows up way underdressed, or overdressed for that matter.

I did some research and combined it with past experience and put together this guide to hopefully help some of you fellow collegiates enter the scary adult world with confidence!

Casual Fridays.

Many workplaces have casual Fridays, and a common complaint from employers is that the newest generation of worker is too casual. Yes you can tone it down, but if you want to be respected by your boss don’t take the term ‘casual’ too seriously. Here are some ideas:

  • A mid or dark wash denim
  • A casual skirt
  • A top that covers your shoulders
  • A relaxed cardigan
  • Nice flats or boots (avoid flip flops!)

casual friday

Business Casual.

This one, in my opinion, is the most confusing. Why blur the lines between two very different things? But it’s been done and there is no going back, so lets roll with it.

Dressing business casual requires you to look classy and put together – but not in a full blown business suit. What this means is you can play with colors, ditch the pencil skirt, or bring in some fun accessories. But do not go overboard. You’re still going to want to look nice and polished. If you are unsure, it’s always best to lean more towards business than casual. Some options for you are:

  • Nice pants (Khakis, pressed dress pants, dark denim)
  • A fingertip length skirt
  • A nice blouse
  • A blazer or nice cardigan
  • Nice shoes (Can be heels or flats)
  • Maybe boots, get a feel for your workplace first

business casual


It’s time to roll out your lady-boss suits and powerful pump. Business calls for a matching suit, conservative colors, and and a professional feel. This one is easy, because with a pencil skirt, blazer, and nice blouse you are set; but allow me to break it down anyways:

  • Business Suit (In a dark color)
  • Business Dress (that hits at or below your knees)
  • Modest Pumps
  • A tame color palette


Dress Code Tips:

  • In an office setting always keep your shoulders covered.
  • Hems should hit no more than four inches above the knee.
  • Modest heels are preferred.
  • Keep makeup light.
  • Exercise proper hygiene (obviously!)
  • Always look neat and put together.
  • Keep your nails neat, don’t go into work with super chipped polish.

Final Notes.

Dress for the job you want, not the job you have.

No, that doesn’t mean that you should show up to your shift as an office assistant dressed like a firefighter, but what you should do is take cues for those above you. What does your boss wear to work everyday? How do they handle casual Fridays? Unfortunately, there is a lot of wiggle room in the dress code definitions and different people interpret them differently to a degree. Look up to your superiors and dress to impress them, because ultimately they are the ones you want to impress. Also, there are exceptions to every rule, but if you are going into a situation where you are unsure, it’s better to play it safe!