Whether you’re attending a business meeting with your employer or a client you are seeking to impress, it is always important to dress for success. There are a lot of things to worry about when it comes to meetings, including organizing meetings, preparing for meetings, and writing out meeting agendas, and yet, when trying to decide how to dress up for business meetings, men and women find the process stressful.
Since business meetings can be formal or informal, knowing what to wear can mean the difference between a successful meeting or one that is filled with awkwardness and less-than-stellar results. If you need some tips regarding what to wear to a business meeting, here are some important details to always keep in mind.
Communicating Dress Codes for Meetings
For important meetings with clients, it may be a good idea to have two meeting agendas: one with the client and one with your internal team. Prior to the meeting, its recommended to send a separate meeting agenda to your team only to with details needed for the meeting that a client shouldn’t see. This agenda should include guidance on the appropriate dress code for a meeting. For more tips on meeting agendas read this post how to write meeting agendas.
Business Casual Meetings
If you are attending a business casual meeting, confusion can run rampant when it comes to business meeting outfits. While at some companies this can mean jeans, t-shirts, and sneakers for everyone, other companies may still expect you to show up in a conservative suit. Thus, men and women should follow these general rules described below.
Women’s Basic Style Ideas for Casual Meetings
- Tops: Simple is best–look to patterned blouses, chiffon shirts, and maybe a blazer.
- Bottoms: Chinos and structured wool trousers usually work best.
- Skirt/Dress: Dark colors usually work best in these situations. For many women, go-to items include pleated A-line or midi skirts, since these give a great combination of femininity and professionalism.
- Shoes: If you wear heels, make them no higher than four inches. Other options include loafers, pumps, and brogues.
- Accessories: If you opt for jewelry, a minimalist look is best. Therefore, leave the big earrings at home.
- Outerwear: Should you need a coat on a cold day, wear a smart jacket or trench coat.
Men’s Basic Style Ideas for Casual Meetings
- Blazer: Though not always required at these meetings, a blazer can add style to even the most casual look. For best results, use one with a solid dark color or minimal pattern.
- Shirt: Even at business casual meetings, buttoned-up and collared shirts should be pressed and tucked-in.
- Pants: Chinos or smart trousers are fine. If jeans are acceptable, opt for straight-cut dark denim with no rips.
- Shoes: If you can, Chelsea boots or brogues in leather, suede, black, or brown are great.
- Accessories: Simple, stylish belts and watches work best.
- Outerwear: Formal wool jacket or trench coat will always work.
When you are trying to decide what to wear to a business meeting that is formal, remember that it will be a bit different from what you wear to work on a daily basis. Therefore, try to do the following.
Women’s Basic Style Ideas for Formal Meetings
- Top: Cotton or chiffon button-up shirt.
- Bottoms: If you have tailored or wide-legged trousers that are dark or beige, you’ll look great at your meeting.
- Skirt/Dress: If you prefer a skirt, wear a black or tweed pencil skirt. As for a dress, a high-neck A-line of appropriate length will be an excellent choice.
- Shoes: Like business casual meetings, your best bets are loafers, pumps, or brogues.
- Accessories: Again, go for a minimal amount of jewelry. Also, black stockings paired with a dark skirt or dress look great, as does a fashionable handbag.
Men’s Basic Style Ideas for Formal Meetings
- Shirt: A crisp, white buttoned-up shirt is always a winner in these settings.
- Suit: If you choose to wear a two or three-piece suit to your meeting, always make sure it is of high-quality and has a fit tailored to make you look your best. As for colors, navy or dark charcoal are ideal.
- Accessories: Silk tie, leather belt, watch, and high-class cufflinks are fantastic.
- Shoes: Brown or black oxfords (with matching socks, of course).
Business Fashion Advice from Style Professionals
Advanced Style Tips From Professional Consultants
We asked a few professionals about their thoughts on corporate style. Read below to see what tips and advice our professional style consultants provided.
- Women’s Fashion Tips – Tara Hooper
- Fashion Tips for Women & Men – Kathleen Audet, Sharon Kornstein
- Men’s Fashion Tips – Joseph Rosenfeld
Women’s Corporate Style Tips
Founder of The Style Signature and Signature Consulting
Corporate Style for Women: How to Dress Corporate Without Losing Your Style
It would be fantastic to wear what you want to work but often times in the business world, with the exception of a few creative industries, there is a typical standard of dress that doesn’t include leggings, hoodies, or tattered jeans. So, the big question remains what should I wear? I understand for most comfort is always an issue, so it is important to find fabrics that don’t itch and sizes that work. Keep in mind, a great tailor is useful for those pieces that you already own and may wear. Two common mistakes I see that lead to an unpolished professional look are pant legs and sleeve lengths that are too long. Finding a great tailor will have you back in business!
So, back to what to wear to “level-up”, look great and avoid a business “style” casualty at the office?
Find a great blazer! Nothing steps up your game like a tailored blazer. Now that doesn’t mean it has to basic, boxy or boring, but it is a go-to piece that you can throw over any shirt and pants (even jeans) or dress, to level -up. Play with different colors, styles, and fun details such as zippers and buttons to reflect your personal style!
- A. Army Green Military Style Blazer
- B. White Zipper Detail Blazer
- C. Black Peplum Blazer
I understand that denim is widely accepted in most offices, so my recommendation is to wear dark denim, this will look more “business” like than faded or lighter/tattered denim. A great pair of staple pants that are not jeans or leggings (never acceptable in the office) is a Ponte knit pant. They are comfy and more professional. They can be dressed up or down. Look to choose colors and details that rock your personal style, pair with a cute top or basic T and cardigan (or that great blazer) for a polished business casual look.
- A. Red Ponte Crop Pant
- B. Black Ponte
- C. Window Stripe Pant
Lastly, and I am known for this with all my business clients, is find a great pair of nude shoes! Yes, nude shoes. They are the one go-to shoe that will virtually work with any outfit or color. They make the perfect accessory to any business woman’s wardrobe.
- Staple Nude Shoes
- Many Shades of Nude
- Fun Nude Flats
Business style does not equal boring or uncomfortable but does take some effort. Think about your day, who you are meeting and how you want to be perceived? It is important to keep that mind every time you are getting dressed for the office. Forbes said, “Like it or not, you are being judged by how you look, how you dress, and how you carry yourself—and, if you‘re lucky, how you do your job.”
Tara Hooper is a certified image consultant and personal stylist who has helped people present their best selves for over 20 years. She’s been featured on WFAA Good Morning Texas, CNN & Fox. To work with her please email email@example.com, or visit thestylesignature.com.
Corporate Style Tips for Men & Women
President & Owner of Your Authentic Image
Shirts & Suits:
- A suit is your best bet to start a wardrobe. Not only is it necessary in the business world, but it can easily be worn separately IF you choose the right color to start. A suit in navy or grey gives versatility to your wardrobe and allows you to wear almost any color shirt with either suit.
- Blazers: If you already own a suit, then a blazer in a print you love can coordinate with the rest of your wardrobe. I recommend navy, dark olive, dark brown or grey so that you can match the jacket to your current dress pants. You have much more flexibility here as far as print…
- Button-front shirts: after the obligatory white and light to medium blue colors for any business wardrobe, button-up shirts are a great place to express some of your personality. Try a new color such as pink or purple. Add some contrasting fabric to the inside collar, cuff or placket. Choose colors that match or are complementary to your hair and eyes.
If you’re unaware of the dress code for any meeting, start with a button-front shirt and a blazer and remove the blazer if the vibe of the room is very casual.
Pants for Men:
- Dress Pants: look for a wool combination in all your suit products. They wear well, can keep you both cool and warm, and hold color better than synthetics. I like these brands: Bonobos, Theory, BOSS.
- Jeans: many offices now allow jeans with a blazer or button-up shirt. But not all jeans are created equal. Find jeans that are well-fitting, but not too tight. Look for the darkest wash possible, and make sure they get them hemmed if necessary. Fit is key for all clothing in order to be taken seriously and to appear persuasive:
If you need a basic primer in how to get dressed (for men) check out The Mark of Style For Men course here.
As with men, the most formal way to show up for a meeting, interview, or conference is in a suit. And, women, we have far more variety and choice about the design elements of the pieces than men do, so choose wisely.
At our most formal, a matched suit is as authoritative as you can be. In order to garner attention and show a more creative side, I recommend using color and texture to express your authentic image.
Less Formal Meeting Attire for Women
For slightly less formal settings, I recommend a jacket or blazer of some kind. To accurately reflect your personal style, you need to choose design elements that you love.
Formal Meeting Attire for Women:
For the corporate world, I do recommend dresses and dress pants, but not jeans unless the protocol is very casual. Dresses are easy. They are one piece that, when the fit is right, only require a small number of accessories such as earrings and shoes.
- Dress Pants: For dress pants, I recommend polished AND comfortable. Here are a few brands I like:
- Shirts & Blouses: For shirts and blouses for corporate dress, try these. They will coordinate with your suits and pants easily.
Kathleen is president & founder of Your Authentic Image. She works with men and women both in-person and remotely on their image. To work with Kathleen please email firstname.lastname@example.org.
President & Certified Image Consultant at Image Design Consulting
Business Casual Meetings:
- For Business Casual meetings, the understanding is that jackets are optional. If you want to wear an additional layering piece a cardigan, vest or zip-up sweater is fine.
- Try to stay away from sweatshirts or hoodies, as you want to give a tailored appearance.
- Keep shoes closed-toe, even for Business Casual.
- Keep pants cut slim; a tailored style is better than jeans or dockers.
- Women have a few more options and can go with a blouse or a v-neck sweater, slacks or a skirt, or a dress.
Business Formal Meetings:
- The expectation for a Business Formal meeting is that participants will wear a suit or at the very least a coordinating jacket.
- Whether you wear a tie will depend on geography, and how conservative your area is. For example in Washington, DC or Chicago a tie would be expected, while in San Francisco, or in New York, optional.
- For men, a medium blue colored suit, with a light-colored shirt and classy accessories is the best way to go.
- Women can go with a pantsuit, skirt-suit, tailored dress, or pants or skirt with a coordinating jacket. Remember that the simpler a piece is, the more formal it is.
Dress to Impress:
- Experiment with colors, style, and accessories
- Typical business colors are gray, blue, black and sometimes brown. These can be your main colors, but try adding a touch of pink, orange, purple or green.
- You can add color with a bright blouse, a patterned shirt, a tie or a necklace.
- Other ways to add style are through accessories such as a classy watch, structured handbag or interesting shoes.
- Men: For men, be aware that the more casual your shoe, the thicker the sole. The dressier shoes are leather and have thinner soles.
- Women: Ladies, except for very casual situations shoes should be closed-toe. You have many options including flats and pointy-toe slides, boots, Maryjanes, pumps or slingbacks.
- Make sure your shoe style corresponds to your outfit formality level.
- The one thing your shoes should not be is a distraction: scuffed, worn out or overly trendy styles will distract from your business message.
ImageDesignLLC is a full-service style and image consultation company. offering programs to corporations and non-profit groups on topics relating to personal image. To work with Sharon email email@example.com
Men’s Corporate Style Tips
Organizing The Look: Corporate Style Tips for Men
Much like organizing notes to prepare for meetings, organizing your look helps you achieve success. Your personal style helps tell your story without you saying a word, and supports verbal messages. Personal style is more about revealing the spirit of who you are than it even is about fashion. Creating a personal statement that represents who you are can affect how people experience you. So, personal style enhances others’ interest in doing business, partnering, or collaborating with you.
Formal Business Meetings: Styles for Men
Formal business meetings require wearing either a suit or a sport coat with separate dress slacks. While dress shirts and footwear are standard under a jacket with lapel, neckwear has become more optional over recent years. Consider these important factors when deciding whether to wear a tie or to wear a suit versus a sport coat.
Executives & Leaders:
If you are a top executive and leader, there’s nothing like a suit to silently show your role. A suit is most appropriate when meeting with people to discuss financial and legal matters. At serious meetings, people need to convey trust, competence, and independent decision-making to one another. Suits help the wearer do that. It shows respect and conveys being of a similar mind when you and your counterparts suit up.
When an important meeting happens on a Friday or a relaxed atmosphere, you have more choices. For example, you can trade in a suit for a sport coat outfit. Whether you wear a suit or sport coat, you can omit the tie for that kind of meeting. The key is to look polished and to ensure that nothing seems omitted from your outfit. So, make sure that your dress shirt and shoes match the level of your suit or sport coat and slacks.
Tips for Organizing Men’s Formal Meetings Look
A peak lapel jacket works well for a bold, aggressive person, or with broad shoulders and a trim waist. This look can also appear more body-conscious because of the waist emphasis. A notch lapel jacket is time-honored and works well for anyone who’s not bold and aggressive. It looks good on all body types.
Jackets with besom (looks like a pair of closed lips) or flap pockets are both acceptable. Use besom pockets or tuck flaps into pockets and sew them shut for a more minimal look. Patch pockets on a jacket look the most laid back and relaxed and give an outdoorsy sensibility.
Dress Shirt Collars:
A point collar is standard and works for anybody. A spread modified spread collar shows more formality and elegance; but, check any spread collar shirt on your body to determine whether you think a tie is necessary or not. The wider the spread collar, the heavier and more sculpted the tie knot should be. Button-down shirt collars (not the ones with hidden snaps) are the most informal choice.
Formal Men’s Ties:
- Patterned ties found in nature can send messages that you are good-natured and even supportive.
- Regimented tie patterns with no more than three colors are a businesslike and time-honored approach. Solid ties or subtle tone-on-tone patterns enhance someone’s status, sexiness, or boldness.
- Round patterns look collaborative.
- Ties with unconventional patterns, or many colors, give an artistic appeal.
- Jewel-toned ties worn in high contrast with a dark suit and light shirt will put all eyes on your outwardly confident outfit.
Formal Men’s Footwear
- Lace-up shoes are recommended with a suit and tie. The selection could be a wing-tip style (with decorative holes forming outlines along the shoe’s contour) for a bit of a throwback style.
- Cap toed shoes or smooth toe is more reserved. Shiny leather will add focus to your footwear, and a matte finish will do the opposite.
- Suede shoes look more country than city, and it can also soften up an outfit.
- Boots are also appropriate, especially in rainy or snowy weather. The key is to wear something at the level of the rest of your outfit, even when in a suit.
- Sneakers can even compliment tailored clothes. But, wear something under the suit or sport coat that bridges the formality of the tailored piece and the sneakers. This could be an elevated T-shirt or a fine gauge knitwear item.
Business Casual Meeting Style for Men
Business casual meetings are, in some ways, trickier to dress for because casual can create a chase to the bottom. If you’re meeting with a bunch of hoodie-wearing engineers, it’s your choice to wear one, too. Or, you can wear another laid-back and relaxed outfit to your level of comfort. It is important to show you understand the people in the room while also honoring your individuality.
Even though the common language for informal dress is business casual, casual dress suggests leaving something to chance. So, give yourself the opportunity to organize your look so that you leave nothing to chance. There is more to this than organizing the right items to make an appropriate outfit for a meeting. You also want to take care of the clothes you wear are in good order – be sure they are clean, odorless, steamed or pressed nicely, and fit properly.
Tips for Organizing Men’s Business Casual Meetings Look
Especially for meetings where no jacket is required, your shirt becomes the clothing object that brings people to your face. So, whether you wear a collared shirt, a knit, or a T-shirt with a crew or v-neck, choose the best item. A collared shirt still has more authority than a knit or T-shirt, when worn by itself. If you’re having a meeting where there’s no obvious hierarchy, a sweater knit is entirely appropriate. Denser fabrics look more polished, finished and professional than thinly weighted T-shirts.
Without more traditional formal attire, such as suits and ties, patterns become very important to a business casual outfit. This is especially true of shirts and sweater knits. Look impactful with pattern and color (refer to tie patterns above for relevant information and about color inspiration below). The great thing about business casual meetings is that they don’t need to be entirely predictable and certainly not boring. A great colorful pattern choice can break the ice and get people to subtly pay attention to you and your ideas.
Causal Jeans/Slacks for Men:
When there’s no “business” on top [no jacket], a wool dress pant still shows who’s a leader. If wool dress pants are too dressy for the meeting, choose a pair of jeans that fit well and are darker in color. The darker the color of the blue jeans, the more executive or leader-like it looks. And when you decide to wear a pair of jeans like that, it impacts your choice of shirt/top and even footwear.
Casual Men’s Footwear:
Dress shoes are always acceptable for business. But, here, you can opt for shoes with a heavier sole, if that is your personal style. To relax the look, a loafer does the trick. If you choose one with a metallic adornment, you dress up your outfit a bit. Sneakers that you never wear to the gym and have a designer sensibility make more a more interesting and conversational selection. If you want people to talk the talk, you’ve got to show that you can walk the walk.
Colors for Men’s Casual Meeting Outfits:
The colors you wear are incredibly important and, yet, most people completely overlook the power of color and their messages.
Gray: Wearing a gray suit suggests that you are passive enough in your role at the meeting to attentively listen. However, if you wear a gray hoodie to a meeting, it could convey that you are tired or need protection. A navy suit suggests that people can trust you and your executive and independent thinking. Even in a more casual context, the color navy instills the sense that you are competent.
Olive green: This isn’t a typical business suit color, however, a guy with hazel eyes can wear that as an accent color in a dress shirt or tie and bring people together.
Light blue: This color is a signal a sense of optimism and, importantly in high tech, creativity.
Red: Although red is the largest band of color in the rainbow, wear red with great intention because it conveys a lot of passionate and high energy. Its boldness can appear pretty dramatic unless the meeting is pretty formal.
Finally, one of the best things you can wear is your smile. If you need to wear white under a suit, for example, be sure to match that white to your smile. No one will ever look at your smile as too bright or too dull.
That self-assured feeling that you are comfortable in the company of others is crucial to having successful meetings.
Joseph Rosenfeld Fashion & Personal Style Strategist of New York City & Silicon Valley. He has 30 years of executive personal style experience. To learn more, he can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org, or visit josephrosenfeld.com.
Closing Business Style Tips
While how to dress up for business meetings may be foremost on your mind, other things should also be taken into consideration by both men and women. For example, hairstyles should always be neat, while colognes and perfumes should always be as subtle as possible.
By keeping these tips in mind when selecting business meeting outfits, you’ll be able to walk into any meeting feeling confident and looking your best.
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