How to dress properly for work: The 5 levels of business attire

Believe it or not, dressing for work is a tricky business and many people actually do it wrong. In fact, picking the proper business attire doesn’t depend solely on your rank in the company, but your age and the type or work you do as well.

Since it’s easy to underdress or overdress, you need to be aware of the environment in which you work. If you’re unsure about how to present yourself in your business attire, this infographic from Business Insider should straighten things out for you. The five steps are based on the 20 years of corporate experience by Sylvie di Giusto, founder of Executive Image Consulting, and her book, The Image of Leadership. In it she explains the ways employees try to improve their image by modifying their business attire. Business Insider has taken that knowledge and placed it in the infographic below.

So, if you’re unsure if you’re overdressed or underdressed, scroll down and find out:

Infographic: The 5 levels of business attire

5 levels of business attire

If you want to look professional, then you need to take your work wardrobe seriously. First determine which dress code level is appropriate for the position you currently have, and follow the “+1/-1 Rule.” You can always dress one level higher, and it can even work to your advantage if you aspire to rise through the ranks. Jumping two levels higher, however, will just make you look overdressed. The only time you should dress one level down is on a casual Friday or other relaxed event.

Level 5: Baseline Casual


  • Nice T-shirts or casual collared shirts
  • Dark and elegant denims
  • Tasteful sneakers


  • Tidy and fitted T-shirts, blouses, or sweaters
  • Clean and crisp denim
  • Elegant sandals

Level 4: Mainstream Casual


  • Shirts and sweaters in a variety of colours and patterns
  • Slacks or corduroy pants
  • Relaxed but elegant shoes


  • Short-sleeved tops, maybe with a vest
  • Fashionable combinations of tops, vests, and skirts
  • Open toe shoes

Level 3: Executive Casual


  • Brightly coloured or patterned shirts and ties
  • Sports coats and jackets
  • Dressy slacks
  • Loafers or monk-strapped shoes


  • Brightly coloured shirts
  • Bigger and unique jewellery and accessories
  • Fashionable jacket and skirt
  • Closed toe pumps

Level 2: Traditional Business Attire


  • Traditionally patterned shirts and ties can be more brightly coloured
  • Dark and subtly patterned suits
  • Dark brown or navy blue oxfords


  • Professional tops without a deep neckline
  • Suits can be more brightly coloured
  • Tights and closed toe heels

Level 1: Boardroom Attire


  • Crisp white dress shirts with modest ties
  • High-quality accessories
  • Dark charcoal grey or navy blue two- or three-piece suits
  • Only black oxfords or derbys


  • Collared dress shirts or blouses
  • Dark and classic suits
  • Skirts not higher than two fingers above the knee
  • Only black tights and heels

Now that you have a better understanding of your business attire, you can learn to dress more dapper or ten creative ways to tie a necktie.

Source: http://www.businessinsider.com/how-to-dress-for-work-business-attire-2014-8

Daniel is an Art Director and Graphic Designer with over a decade of experience in advertising and marketing in the Greater Toronto Area.

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