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Business Attire Do’s and Don’ts

Office wear has always been a tricky field to navigate – but don’t worry! We’ve put together a list of dress codes and style tips to help you dress to impress, whatever the occasion.

Smart Casual: Keep Your Smarts About You

It’s casual Friday and you’re supposed to wear smart casual – but what does that mean? Generally speaking, it just means a neat, informal look, something that you can easily achieve by putting on a mix of classic and casual items.

1. Dress for the job.
Slim cut jeans and a pair of pristine white trainers are perfectly acceptable for creatives, while smart casual for finance workers may still mean a suit, but without a tie.
2. Throw some shade(s). Try a bright colour in a dress shirt or tie, or accessorise an outfit with a colourful handbag or jewellery.
3. Chuck on a blazer. Bonus points for wearing this season’s preferred cuts – cropped. 

1. Mistaken your office for the gym.
Unless you work in a sports centre, leave your athleisure at home.
2. Come as you are – even if that’s what your company says. No one should ever show up in the office in sweatpants and flip-flops.
3. Get too creative. Sure, it’s great to show off your personal style, but you still want to look professional. So keep your puffy fur vests and leather pants for Fashion Week, not for work.

Business Casual: Suited but Not Booted

It might sound like something of an oxymoron, but business casual is essentially a toned down version of formal office attire. In other words, it’s a professional, yet still relaxed look.

1. Start with the basics.
For women: a neutral blouse, dress pants or a shift dress; and for men: a suit without a tie (try lighter colours and fabrics).
2. Get comfortable. Trade in the starched collar of a dress shirt for a polo, and a formal blazer for a more relaxed one – linen is best for humid Hong Kong summers.
3. Add some flavour. Play with patterns, textures and colours. Try coral pink – this season’s colour of choice.

1. Wear rips.
While jeans can fit the bill in more casual offices, baggy and ripped jeans just don’t say “professional”.
2. Forget the “business” in business casual. There’s a fine line between “casual” and “sloppy”, so be mindful of the fit of your outfit. Pyjama-style shirts are in style, but opt for the stylised version, not the one you snooze in.

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Business Professional: Put Your Best Business Foot Forward

Meeting a client or representing your company at an event? Such occasions call for formal business attire, which implies a more sophisticated and conservative look.

1. Match, not mix.
When wearing a formal suit, everything should match. Go for darker shades like navy or charcoal.
2. Get fitted. Whether you’re wearing a suit or a pencil skirt, a little tailoring goes a long way in creating that sleek, classic look.
3. Toe the line. A full suit is incomplete without a pair of pristine oxfords. And for the ladies, flats or mid-length heels add an air of formality while keeping the focus on comfort. 

1. Go wild with prints and patterns.
Checks, geometric and floral prints are trendy but can be distracting, so reserve them for more casual occasions only.
2. Reveal too much. Business formal is all about projecting a respectable image, so make sure your skirts sit at or just above the knee. Gents should avoid short-sleeved shirts – and never roll up your sleeves.

Semi-Formal: Dress It Up

Switch up your daytime outfit to attending a networking cocktail after work. Semi-formal dressing is more adventurous than your average business attire, but without being over the top.

1. Look polished.
Think slim-cut suits and skinny ties, jewelled necklines and statement sleeves. Try bell and ruffle sleeves to keep it stylish yet professional.
2. Experiment. Show off your personal style and creativity, whether it’s in your choice of fabric or a catchy pop of colour in a pocket square.
3. Make a statement. Whether it’s a wide belt, an elegant clutch or a dressy watch, adding a statement piece can really perk up your look. 

1. Dress to the nines.
Save your full ball gown or tux for more formal occasions.
2. Over accessorise. Less is more, so don’t overdo it to keep the attention on you, and not your outfit.

Ladies, complete your office look with a locally designed work bag; and for the gents, follow this guide to get that polished look.

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