What to wear to work

What to wear to work

Once you are hired, the employer will generally tell you what the office dress code will be. If they have not told you yet, this is something that you can inquire about with your supervisor or human resources.

Generally, there are three dress codes that you may encounter in D.C.:


  • An organization that does not work with clients may value the comfort of its employees and elect for a casual dress code.
  • However, not all casual dress is appropriate – clothes should be clean, free of tears and wrinkles, and should not show too much skin.
  • Anything that you would wear to a beach, club, or gym is not suitable.

Business Casual

  • The most common dress code you are to find in Washington D.C.
  • It can be very ambiguous and varies between organizations, so it is better to slightly overdress than underdress.
  • A business casual outfit generally consists of slacks or knee-length skirt, a collared shirt or a nice sweater, and dressier shoes (no sandals or sneakers).

Business Professional

  • Suit sets in darks colors with dress shoes

The chart below breaks down what men, women, and gender non-conforming individuals can wear for each dress code.

Casual Business Casual Business Professional
  • T-shirts may be fine (depending on the office), but logos should be work appropriate.
  • Polos, blouses, button-down shirts, cardigans and sweaters are good options.
  • Jeans are acceptable, as long as they are dark in color, free of rips/frays/bedazzling, and are worn at the waist.
  • Skirts/dresses should be knee-length.
  • Clean, closed-toe shoes (dressier sneakers and sandals may be allowed in some offices, but gauge what your colleagues wear first).
  • Sportcoats or blazers.
  • Button-down shirts, blouses, nice sweaters or sweater sets. Note that polos may be considered too casual in certain offices.
  • Slacks or other dressier pants – no jeans. Khakis may be considered too casual in certain offices, so avoid them until you see what others are wearing.
  • Skirts/dresses should be knee-length.
  • Tailored dresses in more conservative colors and patterns are appropriate.
  • Dress shoes – no white socks! Heels or flats with a closed toe. Avoid overly bright colors and patterns.
  • Ties are not required but it never hurts to be overdressed on the first day.
  • Well-fitting suits in dark colors (black, navy, gray).
  • Button-down shirt or a nice blouse.
  • Tailored dresses in dark colors are also appropriate.
  • When wearing a dress or skirt, tights may be required in more conservative industries.
  • Ties in conservative patterns and colors.
  • Dress shoes – no white socks! Heels or flats with a closed toe. Avoid overly bright colors, stilettos, and patterns.