Dress to Impress for Interviews and Professional Workplaces

Dress to Impress Approach

This site was designed to demonstrate professional workplace dress under the premise that men and women are applying for similar positions or are colleagues in the same workplaces. Notice a similar perspective from recruiters who input to Professional Dress Advice from Recruiters 2015 (PDF).

Appearance as a Professional Tool

As a first impression, your appearance communicates your confidence, credibility, and potential performance in the position you interview for or begin as a new hire. Employers expect people they hire and promote to be appropriate representatives of their company to supervisors, coworkers and customers. Your well-strategized appearance is also their evidence that you understand and respect the people, position, and environment. To understand what is appropriate:

  • Research each prospective company’s culture and expectations for interview and work
  • Study the ‘brand” of a company presented on their websites
  • Contact the HR department for recommendations on attire to clarify expectations
  • Ask for dress code information when first hired to continue exhibiting appropriate attire
  • Observe your supervisor and other successful employees for what works well
  • Use this resource to become familiar with visual examples of types of professional dress

Credibility in the Workplace

Credibility is highest when your attire convinces colleagues and clients to keep their focus on your face to reinforce your capacity to perform the job. Avoid distractions that lower credibility, put emphasis on sexuality, and infer poor taste:

  • Styles that focus attention on your attire and potentially on body
  • Fit that is overly tight or loose and draws attention to body
  • Neatness oversights such as personal grooming, noticeable wrinkles, food stains, missing buttons, convey lack of respect for people in the workplace.
  • See Dress to Impress Handbook (PDF) for more details on managing your appearance as a professional

Level of Formality in the Workplace

Professional workplace cultures include:

  • Professional Formal has a clearly defined dress code associated with traditional corporate
  • Professional Semi-Formal has more range in meeting the dress code for a less formal professional
  • Professional Semi-Casual to Casual has the most range and uncertainty in what is appropriate for a more laid-back professional style. This category is often called “Business Casual” where it is important to not dress too formally or too casually as to be a poor representative of workplace culture and imatte.


This website was created in 2015 by Carol Salusso, PhD and Quinn Sullivan, Intern to replace an earlier Dressed to Impress website. We appreciate support from a 2015 CAHRNS internship grant and long-term support from the Department of Apparel, Merchandising, Design and Textiles and JC Penney, Inc. We designed this site to facilitate access to content and appreciate hearing from you how it is used.