How To Dress At A New Job

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Shorter Version

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You landed a new job – Congratulations! As you plan for your first day, part of your preparation should involve taking some time to choose what to wear for your first week on the job.

How to dress at a new job — for success!

You only have one opportunity to make a good first impression at a new job. So, make it count. We’re all human – wrinkles and stains happen. But keep in mind that dressing nicely will not only help you look good, it will also make you feel good. Going the extra mile with your attire will boost your confidence and enable you to command respect in your new position.

While your attire does not define your ability to do a job, taking pride in your appearance and putting in the effort to dress for success does make a difference. A 2015 study titled The Cognitive Consequences of Formal Clothing found that wearing more formal clothing “enhances abstract cognitive processing.” Additionally, research shows that your clothing changes how you are construed and can make you feel more powerful.

With that being said, you should not necessarily go out and purchase 8 new suits if the rest of the office wears jeans and sneakers every day. The old saying “dress to impress” is great but be aware that dress code definitions and expectations vary greatly across the country and world.

Regardless of the position or industry, a basic rule of thumb when it comes to any work attire is to keep it professional, conservative, and comfortable.

Dress code basics

The dress code in any job depends on a few factors:

  • The context of the work environment
  • The industry
  • Office culture
  • Your specific position

Before you begin in a new role, you will also likely be told what the dress code expectations are. If you are unsure, touch base with your supervisor, the hiring manager, or the human resources department to learn the dress code.

Business Casual vs. Business Professional

The most commonly practiced dress codes are business professional and business casual. Because this is not a comprehensive list of all dress code possibilities, be sure to communicate with your manager on work attire expectations before your first day.

Check out the images below to understand the difference between business casual and business professional attire:

Images source

What to wear if there is no dress code

If your employer states that there is no dress code, it does not mean you should arrive in pajamas (as tempting as that might be). Instead, we recommend you think back to your interview. What were your interviewers wearing? What were the other people in the office wearing? Base your work attire on what you observed. If you interviewed remotely and aren’t sure, ask your supervisor what kind of attire is commonly worn in the office. Check out this article from The Balance Careers for awesome tips on this topic.

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Actionable Steps


Talk to your future supervisor or coworkers

Don’t be afraid to ask questions! Clarify the dress code in advance so you are prepared and ready to make a great first impression.


Be prepared

Don’t wait until the morning of your first day to pick your outfit. Iron and hang up your work attire the night before to set yourself up for a stress-free morning.


Don’t overthink it

You already have a lot on your plate with a new job, so don’t let your work attire be a stressor. Unless you do not own any clothing that aligns with the dress code, shopping for new clothes is not required. To ensure comfort, wear clothes that you already own. Quality over quantity is best.


Read more on this topic

You can learn more about how to dress at a new job by reading the following articles, reviewed to be the best by our professionals: What To Wear To Work by U.S. News & World Report, What to Wear On Your First Day of Work by Indeed, and Business Professional Attire vs. Business Casual Attire by The Balance Careers.

About the Author

Dr. Alyssa Harmon-Salter

Dr. Alyssa Harmon-Salter

Doctor of Education in Educational Leadership

Alyssa holds an Ed. D. in Educational Leadership from Northern Arizona University. For the last 7 years, she has coached hundreds of college students on how to be successful academically and in prepping for a job.
Full Bio | LinkedIn

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