Dress for Success: What to Wear to a Business Meeting

Choosing the right outfit for a business meeting is just as important as preparing notes. Use our tips on what to wear with this handy guide!

Reviewed by Melina Theodorou

Business Meeting Dress Code Attire

Whether you’re attending a meeting with your employer or a client, it’s important that you dress to impress. Just like at an interview, your appearance during a meeting can say a lot about you. So, you’ll want to ensure that you’re dressed appropriately.

That said, it can be hard to figure out what to wear, depending on the organization’s dress code. In the corporate world, employees are normally encouraged to dress smarter than at a start-up. And since a lot of meetings are now conducted virtually, it’s even trickier to decide what attire to wear.

So, to help you, we’ve created a detailed guide for formal and business casual attire for any type of meeting.

Formal attire for women (tips)

Formal attire for women doesn’t necessarily mean that you need to walk into the room in a power suit.

Depending on your personal style, you could opt for smart trousers and a blouse, a fitted or A-line dress, or even a skirt if that’s what you feel comfortable in. Yolandie Hamilton, a professional stylist, teaches her clients to choose key descriptive words for how they want to feel and look in a situation: “For example, in a business meeting, they may want to look and feel powerful, smart and creative as well as friendly. We then translate these descriptors to traits in clothing. Powerful equals structured and bold. Smart equals neat and polished. Creative can mean innovative and unusual. Friendly equals casual and unpretentious”.

Depending on the descriptive words you would choose, you can translate them into items of clothing; “powerful” may mean a two-piece suit, while “neat” and “polished” could equate to a dress paired with a waist belt.

If you’re still unsure of what to wear to a formal meeting, follow this visual guide:

Boardroom Formal Dress Code For Women

Formal attire for men (tips)

When you think of formal attire for men, you typically think of The Apprentice’s boardroom look; smart suit, styled hair, polished oxford shoes and a trendy watch to match. But depending on your industry, you can jazz this up slightly with the cut of the suit, the pattern of the fabric and the accessories you want to add.

To add a touch of your personal style, play with cuff links, ties, and pocket squares so you can add your unique twist on traditional boardroom attire. Similarly to the women’s guide above, think about the message you want to portray while selecting your outfit.

Let’s face it: we all tend to judge a person that we don’t know by their clothing before they get the chance to speak and offer an insight into who they are as a person. As such, your choice of attire will help you make a good first impression.

If you need help putting together a formal boardroom ensemble, take a look at our guide: 

Boardroom Formal Dress Code for Men

Business casual attire for women (tips)

If you work in a creative environment that is a lot more casual than a corporate office, it may be challenging to determine the dress code for a meeting. That said, with managers and higher-ranking individuals around, it’s essential that you dress the part and smarten up your day-to-day look.

Sonya Schwartz, founder of Her Norm says: “As a business expert, I believe that a professional's attire speaks a lot about him or her, as clothing can reflect a person's character. Make sure the apparel you wear to a business meeting is respectable and can help you feel better about yourself. A patterned top and a blazer would be appropriate for women, while a skirt and pants would suffice to pair them. For the bottom color, dark hues would be ideal. Pairing the attire with heels is much better.”

If you’re not a heels type of girl, then don’t fret. A pair of pumps or loafers are also suitable options. The key here is to be comfortable in what you’re wearing so that you can project your confidence outwards.

If you need some more ideas, here’s our guide to business casual attire:

Business Casual Attire for Women

Business casual attire for men (tips)

A t-shirt may appear too casual unless it has a collar. To smarten up your look, pair it with smart trousers, a leather belt and a blazer (if it’s not scorching hot outside!)

Matthew Paxton, founder of Hypernia, says that “Business casuals are typically a mix of classic formals and contemporary modern patterns and crop wear elements… for males can be a combination of pants, a sweater, and a jacket, which is a variation of business casual yet still looks professional.”

As for footwear, you don’t necessarily need leather polished shoes, a pair of boat shoes or Chelsea boots will do the job – as long as they are clean and go with the rest of your outfit.

Still wondering what to wear? Check out our guide below:

Business Casual Attire For Men

Top tips

Paying attention to the details of your look conveys preparation, planning and respect for those whom you meet. To leave a lasting impression, follow the below tips:

  • Choose the right fit: Your clothes should be well-fitted. Make sure your trousers aren’t dragging on the floor, your belly isn’t popping out of your shirt and your blazer fits well (you don’t want a fashion faux-pas with a split mid-meeting).
  • Complete your look with the right hairstyle: How you choose to wear your hair is just as important as your outfit. Men’s hair should be well-trimmed and tidy, while women should opt neat and tidy hairstyles that will keep their hair out of their face.
  • Go for a subtle fragrance: You don’t want to overwhelm everyone at your business meeting with an overpowering perfume or cologne the minute you walk through the door. So, make sure to go with a lighter choice.
  • Makeup should be natural: Opt for a natural look with a bronzer and a hint of highlighter. Wear a light layer of mascara and a nude lip color.
  • Accessories should be kept to a minimum:  Simple and minimalist jewelry are a good choice. Stick to classics like stud earrings and pendant necklaces.
  • Be comfortable and confident: The bottom line is that you need to be comfortable in what you are wearing – if your personal style leans on the casual side, find ways to spruce up your business attire without compromising any opportunities. When you are content with what you are wearing, your confidence will show naturally.

Final thoughts

With these tips, you will be prepared for every type of business encounter, making sure that you not only act the part but look it, too. Select the style that works for you and that helps you shine in your next meeting, effectively leaving the impression of a trustworthy, credible and successful professional.

What style best suits your business meetings? Let us know in the comments section below.


This article is an updated version of an earlier article originally published on 15 January 2018.