How To Dress For Career Success: Tips From Image Expert Erin Miller

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Making the switch from jeans and t-shirts or sweatpants and hoodies to appropriate business attire can be stressful. After dressing casual for so long, putting on a suit can kind of feel like raiding your parents’ closet.

What do business formal, business casual and casual dress for students and new graduates look like?

In this video tutorial, image expert and long-time recruiter Erin Miller explains a number of options in each style for both men and women. Each outfit was carefully selected for students and new grads by Erin from Banana Republic‘s Bloor Street store in downtown Toronto.

Business formal

Business formal (also known as “business dress”) is typically seen in the interview process and in more formal organizations, such as those in the financial services sector. Business formal is always characterized by a suit. So if you’re not wearing a suit, you’re not formal enough!

Business formal for men

  • Do a collar test to determine the right fit: one finger in the collar is the right size
  • Colour can be fun and age appropriate
  • Shoes always have laces
  • Pant leg should hit the front of the shoe and the top of the back of the heel
  • The lapel, tie and collar should be in sync: thinner tie, thinner lapel, short collar

Business formal for women

  • Pant suit or skirt suit
  • If you can afford it, buy the skirt and the pants at the same time for more variety in your wardrobe
  • Jewellery and accessories should be minimal and classic
  • Always wear a modest heel: no more than 3 inches
  • If you can’t walk in heels, wear a kitten heel

Business casual

Business casual is the most common dress code across all industries in Canada today. Erin says she thinks it’s also the most challenging because it has the word “casual” in it, and it can be easy to dress too casual. Business casual means dressing a step down from business formal while still maintaining a professional look every day.

Some of the business formal items you’ve integrated into your wardrobe for job interviews or client meetings can also do double duty as business casual by pairing them with different pieces and accessories.

Business casual for men

  • Always means a trouser
  • Slip on shoe
  • Still a collar involved
  • Can remove the tie and jacket and replace it with a sweater or cardigan

Business casual for women

  • It can be a skirt, pants or a dress – or a combination
  • Don’t be afraid to wear colour – it’s age appropriate and can still be professional
  • Wear heels or flats

Casual

Casual dress codes are becoming more common in industries such as marketing, advertising and technology. It is often defined by the ability to wear denim to the office while still looking professional. We have a pretty casual dress code here at TalentEgg and we call it “looking put together”.

Casual dress for women

  • Darker hued jeans always convey the image of dressiness
  • Nice jacket, underpinning and flats

Casual dress for men

  • A more casual button-up shirt, a light jacket and dark jeans

Erin’s Top 3 tips

1. Know your audience: Pay close attention to how your co-workers and superiors dress at your workplace, and always mirror the style of dress of your clients. It’s a sign of respect.

2. Get the right fit: When you buy retail, it’s common for clothes not to fit perfectly. You should work with a tailor to ensure everything fits properly – that means no excess material and the clothing should fit closely to the contours of your body. Don’t get caught up in the number on the tag, it’s about the fit!

3. Take advantage of retail discounts: Keep a close eye on group buying websites for retail discounts and take advantage of student and new grad discounts. Students get a 15% discount on regular priced merchandise at Banana Republic. Click here for details.

Special thanks to our models from the University of Toronto’s Rotman School of Management: Commerce students Peter Hu, Herry Dai, Erina Paluka and Teresa Lam.

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About the author

Cassandra Jowett is TalentEgg's Content Manager. She joined the team as a student intern in the summer of 2008, and since then her heart has never really left the Egg Carton. Cassandra is a recent graduate of the Ryerson University School of Journalism, where she earned a Bachelor of Journalism with a focus in writing and editing for newspapers. She has also written and edited for The Globe and Mail, The National Post, t.o.night newspaper and other publications.