Formal Wear – How to Put Together Your Work Wardrobe

Women have such a plethora of options when it comes to clothes that it’s not possible for all employers to specify what works and what doesn’t. A lot is left to personal judgment, which can cause a lot of confusion about what is work appropriate. As a result, we tend to have either a very boring wardrobe or something that is too outrageous for work. In this article, by putting together a variety of formal wear options for different professions, I have tried to convey that formal doesn’t have to be boring.


The most imp factor determining your work outfits is your workplace. Each profession requires a different level of formal wear. And you can certainly make a great impression even in the most formal places by dressing in style while maintaining the decorum. Listed below are the popular professions each requiring a different level of formal attire along with tips of what is good and workable.


Investment Banker

This, I consider the most formal profession. Partly coz, it’s more male dominated than most others and women are expected to dress in suits that too only in dark colors. You definitely need to follow the culture to an extent in order to be taken seriously, but at the same time, you can add a personal touch that is feminine and sets you apart by following these tips: wearing suits is mandatory but you can always go in for knee length pencil skirts instead of trousers. This is the 1st step. Choose jackets that have some detailing like a cinched waist or an unconventional collar. Don’t go overboard – just one little detail at a time. Go in for blouses with lace or ruffles to add just the right amount of feminine touch. If you can’t play too much with the colors, go for different fabrics like a satin blouse. Since you will always wear a formal jacket, this won’t be the focus of your outfit but will definitely make it more interesting.


When it comes to shoes, always wear close toed shoes – pointed toe, stilettos are perfect. Again play with the texture like a snake skin or croc leather shoe since the colors have to be formal (black, navy, brown, grey and if you are lucky, beige). So is the case for bags. Invest in a couple of good formal bags. They don’t have to be designer bags or even too expensive. But don’t go for something jazzy or with embellishments. Keep the jewelry simple. Pearls are the best but even delicate diamond or other precious stones work just as fine. Avoid chunky stuff.



You still need to be formal but you can definitely play more with your wardrobe when compared to investment bankers. You should have at least 2 good quality suits. One preferably dark grey, the other can be pin striped black, navy or brown. Avoid plain black as it looks too tacky (harsh). For all practical purposes, you might wear them as separates and not as a complete suit but you should own suits nonetheless. If you can mix and match the jacket of 1 suit with the skirt or trouser of the other, it’s even better. Buy blouses in different fabrics like cotton, satin, silk – they make any outfit look rich. Avoid 100% polyester – it just looks cheap. Play with a wide range of colors but keep the patterns formal. You shouldn’t wear animal print to work. The geometric prints are the safest for formal wear. You can go in for more detailing like small embellishments and good embroidery in addition to ruffles and lace. As for shoes, you can wear pumps, wedges, peep toes but sandals are best avoided. Depending on the kind of law firm you work for, you might probably be able to get away with a leopard print shoe as well. But if you wear that, make sure you are wearing a trouser that covers a considerable portion of the shoe. As a lawyer, leopard print shoes paired with skirts are a strict no-no. You don’t want to send out wrong signals.



The reason I have a special mention of these professionals is coz a considerable number of them think it’s their birth right to wear scrubs 365 days a year – they practically live in scrubs! Trust me, you can do a lot better than that. Scrubs are best left at the hospital where they belong. Change into them when you have to but make sure you change back before leaving your workplace. Anything that works for a lawyer pretty much works for the doc too. The suits will come in handy when you attend a conference or preside over a seminar.


Real Estate Agents

There are no rule books governing this profession. But if you want to be taken seriously and be able to sell houses, you definitely want to pay attention to what you wear. You cannot walk around in tracksuits – that just shows a very careless attitude. Likewise a mini skirt is a terrible mistake. Your clients should be spending more time looking at the house and not you. Trousers are more work appropriate as compared to skirts as you might have to do quite a lot of moving around indoors and outdoors. For the same reasons, choose shoes that are comfortable. Kitten heels or taller shoes with chunkier heels or even formal flats would work. Play with colors. There is no restriction as long as you feel comfortable in it – even for the shoes. As for tops, you can do a variety of knit tops or sweaters and even try layering to add visual interest. Avoid deeper necklines or very tight outfits. This tends to lean on the cheap side. You can also go for a variety of prints and feminine detailing in blouses. If you pick a blouse that might be too revealing, pair it with a lacy camisole underneath. Go in for chunky accessories in bright colors. Make your outfit as interesting as possible while keeping dignity intact.


IT Professionals

Some it companies just don’t have a dress code, while others enforce strict discipline. But what I have described below is something I feel is suitable for pretty much any IT professional. Have at least 2 good suits – coz you never know when you are going to have to make that client presentation. Buy crisp shirts in stripes and solids. You can also go in for shirts with some ruffles or an attached tie. Stock up on satin, silk and cotton blouses in a variety of styles and prints. These can be paired with trousers or skirts. Some firms frown upon knit wear. So avoid them if your firm happens to be one of them. Skirts should be knee length and can be A-line or pencil skirt, preferably in fabrics like cotton, linen, wool or polyester mix. Avoid 100% polyester or the very long and flowy bohemian skirts. Wear jeans on days designated for denim but no holes, rips or worn out look please – you are not a teenager anymore. Avoid message tees at all costs. Shoes can be pretty much any style – pumps, sling backs, open toed, wedges, stilettos, kitten heels. Even sneakers are ok with jeans. Jewelry can be junk or delicate depending on the outfit. The more formal the outlook, less bulky the jewelry should be.



Somehow they live with the attitude that nothing is off limits. The crazier their outfit, the more passionate they consider themselves about their work. Well you may think you have the license to dress weirdly but trust me you will garner more respect if you keep some of these tips in mind. You have the most leeway but don’t get carried away. You guys are really lucky and can even get away with bohemian skirts and flowy dresses. Sure, wear these once in a while but don’t always dress in loose garments. You should have clothes that define your shape, give you structure and emphasize your assets – for instance, bootcut jeans, empire waist dresses, faux wrap blouses, A-line skirts, structured jackets are some universally flattering pieces. You have tremendous flexibility in bringing creativity to your outfit – but do that in the right way. Probably a hand painted scarf or a vintage floral skirt. Just make sure you don’t hide your body in clothes or wear stuff that’s too revealing and you would be just fine. You can wear clothes and accessories that are uniquely crafted, extremely creative and one-of-a-kind that represent you and at the same time look fantastic.



  • Investment banker: Wear skirts instead of trousers and look for feminine detailing in blouses and jackets. Play with textures.
  • Lawyers: Own at least 2 good suits. Play with colors but patterns formal. 100% polyester is a strict no-no.
  • Doctors: Keep the scrubs where they belong – in the hospital.
  • Real Estate Agents: Avoid tight, revealing clothes and uncomfortable footwear. You can play with colors, patterns and textures. Go for bold accessories.
  • IT Professionals: Invest in at least 2 good suits, formal shirts and blouses in a variety of fabrics, knee-length skirts and trousers. Avoid dressing like a teenager.
  • Artists: Go for artistic, exclusive clothes and accessories but make sure they fit you right and flatter your figure.



  1. First of all, congratulations on such a fabulous website! I recently stumbled upon it and I totally love it.

    This is a great article on formal wear. This definitely guides you after you land the job. But, I am also interested in getting some ideas on what is appropriate for a job interview. I am always worried about overdressing or underdressing for an interview! It would be great if you can provide some tips on that. Thanks!

  2. Hi Casey,

    Thanks so much for the kind words!

    You have given a great idea for my next article on fashion. I will soon write on how to dress for a job interview.

    Do keep visiting the website and provide feedback. It really helps me do a better job. Thanks again!

    Update: Check out the article I published on How to Dress for an Interview.

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