Business attire: the complete guide to dressing like a PRo

By Allison Zullo

As college students, all we really want to wear are sweatshirts and leggings all. the. time. I mean, they’re just so comfortable! However, as budding PR professionals, sometimes we have to break out the blazer or pencil skirt in order to dress in “business casual” or “business professional.”

If you don’t know what those terms mean, have no fear! Here is your guide to dressing like a true PR professional, from “snappy casual” outfit ideas to how to dress in “business professional.”


Snappy Casual

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This is a relatively casual style of dress that is can be seen in the workplaces of agencies. Basically, this means that you can wear jeans, but you must make sure that you look nice, and that whatever you’re wearing is modest enough for the workplace. If you would wear it out on a Saturday night, it’s probably not the best idea to wear it to work. Examples of snappy casual include jeans and a button-up or nice-looking t-shirt for guys, while for girls can include anything from jeans and a cute button-up to a maxi dress, normal dress, or skirt paired with a cardigan.



Business Casual

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This is a step up from snappy casual, and is probably this most vague of all the business dress terms. Basically, don’t wear jeans: guys, wear khakis or nice blue/black/gray pants with a nice-button up and a tie, and even a sport coat if you’re feeling extra fancy; girls, you can wear dress pants too, again with a button-up or cardigan, or wear a nice- and professional-looking dress or skirt with a button-up, and throw on a cardigan if you’re feelin’ it. Feel free to add pops of color here and there; business clothes tend to be neutral (and kind of boring), so you can express yourself with a little bit of colorful jewelry or a colorful pair of shoes. 

Business Professional

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Basically, what dressing business professional means is that you just add a blazer to your business casual outfit. It also means to tone down the colors to neutral and the jewelry to very little and very simple. Make sure your pants (or skirt) and blazer match if you’re wearing a suit. You will dress business professional for interviews, client meetings, and possibly every day if you work in corporate PR.


Other Tips and Tricks

 For those of you who are new to professional dress, or are looking for ways to update your current wardrobe, here are a few tips and tricks to help make it a little easier.

  • Invest in one nice black blazer, a matching pair of pants/skirt, and a pair of shoes: For your first business-wear purchase, investing in these three essential, high-quality pieces will go a long way. You can mix and match pants and blazer with other shirts, bottoms, and dresses, and they will honestly last you far into your professional, post-grad years. The shoes should be closed-toed, neutral colored flats or low heels (think: no more than two inches) for girls and nice- and professional-looking dress shoes, not loafers or slides, for guys.
  • Then, accessorize and find cheaper pieces to create more looks: Spend your money on the quality pieces that will still be in style ten years from now, and spend a lot less money on the trendier pieces that will be out of style within a year or two. This allows you to accessorize and create some stylish looks, but still allows you to feel better about your budget.
  • Find what works for you: Not everyone can rock the pencil skirt, myself included. But maybe dresses that flare out at the waist, come down to around the knee, and are modestly cut are for you. There are tons of these dresses that are professional looking as well. If the pencil skirt works for you, by all means, work it! But if it doesn’t, don’t be afraid to experiment and find what works for you.
  • Shop the sales and discounts: While some of the quality, timeless pieces often don’t go on sale, many dresses, skirts, shoes, and shirts to wear under blazers will. And when they do, snatch them up ASAP! In addition, many stores have student discounts for college kids who provide either a school ID or email, so ask while shopping or checking out. Some stores that offer student discounts include J Crew, Ann Taylor, and Madewell.
  • Have fun with it! Even though the rules of business dress may seem confining, there still is room for you to express yourself and add your own style twist to a business professional or casual look, just as long as you look appropriate and professional. After all, fashion is supposed to be fun!


nouHV0BMAllison is a sophomore majoring in strategic communication and minoring in sports management and marketing. She is also completing a social media certificate. After graduation, her dream job is to work in sports PR. Follow her on Twitter at @allisonzullo!

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