Dress Coding: Business Professional

Dress Coding: Business Professional

To kick off my Dress Coding series, today I’ll be cracking the code behind “business professional” dress, also known as “business formal.”

If you’re a fashionable girl working in a buttoned-up, ultra conservative world, dressing professionally is an absolute must. Unfortunately, professional settings are not exactly friendly to the fashion forward. Luckily, you can maintain a level of style by working in fashionable elements through subtle accessories and chic silhouettes.

Business professional attire for women is very similar to what men are expected to wear: The Power Suit. No, this doesn’t mean you have to wear a boxy jacket, pinstripe pants and a tie… Instead, opt for a slim cut pantsuit, a skit and jacket combination, or a structured (and modest) dress.

While there are no rules in fashion, there are rules for fashion in the workplace. A few basic guidelines for business formal dressing include the following:

  1. Wear colors based on a neutral color palette (black, navy, cream, charcoal or grey). Unfortunately lime green and bright pink won’t cut it in the boardroom.
  2. Avoid gaudy accessories. Think simple, sleek and chic.
  3. All suits and skirts should be tailored to fit close to the body (but not tight). Skirts should hit at the knee or below. And blouses should be conservative, freshly pressed and always tucked in.
  4. Wear scuff-free heels or flats in a neutral color. If you go for the heels, don’t wear anything higher than 3 or 4 inches. These would not be okay.
  5. Hair and makeup should be groomed, neat, and simple. I think the ballerina bun is the perfect hairstyle for any female powerhouse. It’s feminine, yet strikingly authoritative.

Now, just because you work in a conservative workplace doesn’t mean you have to sacrifice style for the sake of your career, ladies. Update classic looks with these simple tricks:

  1. Try cropped trousers paired with a sharp blazer. These tapered pants from Topshop are perfection for achieving this updated look.
  2. Swap out your basic blazer for a lightly accented jacket a la Dolce & Gabbana fall 2011 or simply scrunch up your sleeves for a cooler and more modern vibe. This Rouched Sleeve Blazer from Urban Outfitters is a great option.
  3. Instead of wearing a matching two-piece suit, mix it up and wear a black blazer with a charcoal or burgundy pencil skirt or pant. As long as your colors are subdued, you should have the freedom to mix it up a bit. Traditionalists may argue that matching sets are a must, but let’s be honest here, there’s a new wave of professional women and times have changed. If you’re really daring, throw in a few punchy colors here and there…
  4. Cinch your waist with a thin, colored belt. It’s an easy way to add a fashionable pop to an otherwise basic or drab office outfit. J.Crew has a lovely assortment of skinny belts.
  5. Swap out your pencil skirt for a high-waisted A-line skirt. The Tiered A-Line Skirt I designed for my LC Lauren Conrad collection is the perfect alternative to a traditional pencil skirt.

If you work in this buttoned-up, high-stakes work, snap a photo of your most stylish outfit, upload it to your LaurenConrad.com profile page and link the image in the comments below. Click here to learn how to upload and submit photos.

I’ll feature my 3 favorite “business formal” photo submissions in a follow up post!

Next up in my Dress Coding series? I’ll make sense of the ever-confusing “business casual” dress code!

Click here to check out my top ten style staples every working woman should have!

XO Lauren

P.S. Still in school? Click here for my back to school picks.

Categories: Lauren Conrad, Style Guide, Wear
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  • Mary Rawley

    LOVE this!

  • Melissa Panici

    I love this post Lauren! My work is business casual so your next post about this will be awesome for me:) Thank you so much!

  • Finn

    very cute!

  • Glorietta88

    Very lovely post!!..unfortunately bussiness code is not for me..but i’ll wait mine :)

  • Cat

    Those tapered pants *are* perfection :)

  • Maria Elgaard

    Lauren Conrad! This is great! I think there is too little focus on faschion for the proffessional and conservative buisness ladies, at least, we in Denmark do not have any magazines with good tips and advice on this fashion area (if one can say that). So please, keep the tips coming :-) – Best, Maria.

  • Aimee Major

    Lauren this is brilliant, although I am currently a mature student in university I find it hard too find the perfect outfit for job interviews, although im not really a trousers person prefere skirts, this outfit is gorgeous and professional. <3

  • Rachel Civ

    Great post! I love the “”Dress Coding”” series idea! You know what would be really helpful? Dress coding for job interviews! I spend hours thinking about what to wear, and I never know if what I choose is 100% right!

  • Michela Garau

    Thanks LC. I’m a worker girl and I needed some fashion advice to go to the office xoxo

  • Clyde Felix

    Hi lauren, can you please advice on how to wear office uniforms? I mean we have 4 blouses for monday to friday, how can i dress it up a bit. Thanks

  • Latoya Lay

    I’m not down with pants that are flooding… maybe I’d go with the more Kate Walsh look, keep everything from the top, and the shoes… but maybe add a nice pencil skirt or some kind of shirt to the bottom… I just can’t do too short pants…

  • Jennifer Sellen

    OMG thank you so much for this post… sometimes i never know what to wear to work. whether or not i should wear bright colors or just keep it neutral. i work at a college and i would prefer to wear neutrals but i see some people wear bright colors and i think to myself “”is that ok to wear?”” or i’ll see some of the girls wear really high heels and i think “”doesn’t that kill your feet?”” i know when i wear a 3 in. heel my feet hurt sometimes lol Thanks so much!!!

  • Maribel C

    Thanks for sharing, but could you include more pictures of the examples you’re talking about! Thanks!

  • Caitlin Pickett

    LOVE this article!! I am anxious to see what is up for the Dress Coding series! I am a graphic designer so my attire would be more “”business casual”” but with a creative flair and personal touches.

    I will be sporting the Ballerina Bun as my hair is long and this is a quick updo. Also going to try incorporate skinny belts, rouched sleeve blazer and the mix and match coloured suits. Thanks Lauren!

  • hattie stearns

    same as the above comment by Caitlin – i’m an Art Director in Chicago. it’s an odd combo b/c as a creative it’s sort of in the rules to dress the part, but the city itself has its own bar of expectations for fashion. very excited to read your ‘biz casual’ post as that might be more tailored to my personal every day office wear. also apprecaite that you toss in clothing recos across the affordability spectrum (keep it up!). curious too… any tips for those who have to dress nice but in crazy cold weather? i walk 15 min to the L, sit on the train for an hour, and walk another 10 min outside to get to work. with that routine, leggings & pencil skirts just aren’t possible.

  • Liz Ashbaugh

    It’s like you read my mind! I have to attend a business formal event for law school next week, and was looking around for some tips on what would be appropriate. This is perfect! Thanks so much for sharing!

  • Steamy BainMarie

    Hi Lauren, I love your site!!! I go to your Dress Coding for advise. I went to two different weddings in a week so your pointers were very helpful! Now your Business professional will truly help me when I am lost in my closet. I do agree with adding a bit of color. I always believe in showing a little piece of your character specially on interviews. Like selling to them, I am a hard worker and a fun person to be around. :)

  • Kellie Norton

    Awesome advice!! I literally LOL when I clicked the “”THESE are not okay”” I was not expecting stripper heels :) I’m loving your fashion advice, keep it coming :)

  • Leah G.
  • Brittany McDonough

    awesome post! i am now having to dress professional in school now, and this is extremly helpfull

  • Kiwi

    This is great but I’m not working yet! Could you give advice on what to wear to highschool? Thanks!

  • ashley courtemanche

    I really liked this blog. I found it really helpful because I will be starting my internship soon and I have to wear a more professional look rather than a casual look. so thanks for this posting! =)

  • Patricia Angelica Pena

    Awesome post!!

  • samah AS

    thank you lauren, great post! xoxo

  • Amal.S

    Good tips, thanks. Although I would like to point out a tiny proof reading error in paragraph 3, line 4, first word. The word should be corrected to ‘skirt’ from ‘skit’ as it is currently written.

  • debora f

    i love this style…good lauren

  • Joanna

    always loved your style lauren! and this blog is amazing. gives us all types of tips! check out my blog if you like. :)


  • Emily Knauer

  • Marie Luise

    All the links to Urban Outfitters doesn’t work :/ also in our older posts.

  • ana mantovani

    love these tips! thanks

  • Marcia Araque

    Love it..!! ๐Ÿ˜€

  • kemi subulade

    this was super helpful

  • Bianca Christian

    I love this style! I really like how it is showing us what goes and how to wear it. Can’t wait to buy clothes, like this!

  • Leah G.

    I wore this the other day to work:



    I also posted this outfit on my blog! I love the dress… check it out…


  • Diana Pham

    This is so amazing, I just got a job in the “”corporate”” world, and the standard clothes are not cutting it for me. Love the advice you give along with your previous post about the 9-5 job! Please continue with articles like this! I want to look decent and feel comfortable with my outfits for work!

  • Emma Lambert

    Does anyone know where the suit in the main picture is from??

  • Kacey McArthur

    Yes, if someone (or Lauren/Admin) could post the store or designer of the cream suit in the main picture, that would be so wonderful! I’ve been looking for comparable tan/cream/beige suits for years and this one is perfect. Even the blouse!

  • Rawkinrawmama

    Where is this cream suit from? I noticed that no one has been answered on this post at all. I really like it.

  • Stephanie Hackett

    None of the links work anymore. :c

  • http://www.gkfashionstore.com/ GKFashionStore

    What a cool collection of womens casual dresses. I am damm sure girls will love your collection of dresses products. They are looking trendy and beautiful I will make sure to calculate them for my new products once I’m updating with my current store. So that I can earn more business with the help of these dresses. Check this website http://www.gkfashionstore.com for more collection of dresses, footwear and handbags for womens.

  • http://www.99th.in/ 99th Packers

    Very useful information. Thank you for sharing
    it. Thanks 99th.in

  • rakib

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  • Elizabeth

    Hi! Using this for an academic paper and wanted to mention “skirt” was spelt incorrectly. No big deal. Just an oversight, I’m sure! Thanks for the tips!! ๐Ÿ˜€

  • http://www.vapelink.co.uk/ robert yarn

    Your post is really good providing good information.. I
    liked it and enjoyed reading it. Keep sharing such important posts.

  • Michelle Perez

    Awesome article. Check out the newest one i just wrote about the importance of business attire and style. http://www.peacelovemimi.com/2015/07/06/women-in-business-dress-for-success/


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