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The Business Fashion Style Guide: What do you wear when?

Advertising* I think everyone is at first a little at a loss when they just get into the job fresh from school or university. Even "old hands" like me are still undecided in front of the closet from time to time. What do you wear at meetings, at official events, at company celebrations? Can you go to an appointment with a pair of jeans or does it have to be trousers? And if so, what do you wear? Blazer or sweater? Do you need a shift dress? A costume? Twenty white blouses?

I can still remember my first job very well. In addition to everyday office life, there were also official events, conferences or customer appointments. In the beginning I was hopelessly overwhelmed with the choice of clothes and admittedly I really went wrong one or the other time. I went to the breakfast meeting in a pencil skirt and blazer and was completely overdressed. Another time I stood in front of three managers in black suits in ill-fitting and way too long trousers and it was immediately clear to me that my shirt with the eye-catching print made me appear more than underdressed.


Business fashion has to be right

It was my mistake at the time that I knew what was going on with me in everyday life, but I still had absolutely no feeling for business fashion. So I bought the first black pants I came across - of course way too long and too tight on the thighs - and a blouse. Back then, I more or less affectionately called the blouse “the blouse board” because it was so stiff that you could put it down and it almost stopped. I often have the problem with blouses that they fit me at the waist, but then are much too loose in the chest area. It is similar with trousers. Most of the pants are too long for my short legs and the area where the knees should be is at calf level. Somehow the pants never fit 100% perfectly, even if they are shortened. I believe that many women (and men) feel the same way. That's why I've often wished that the cuts could be adapted a little to me. Then I would save myself a lot of time in the search. And above all money, because running to the seamstress is not exactly cheap in the long run. In business, however, it just has to be right, nobody wants to look sloppy, with sleeves that are too long or poorly fitting pants. As superficial as it sounds, in business it is not uncommon for the first impression to count.


Made-to-measure clothing: an alternative

My boyfriend has done it before and had a suit made to measure for him. A tailor-made shirt also hangs in his closet. I myself have often wondered whether it wouldn't make sense to have one or two blouses made to measure for me and maybe also a pair of pants that finally fit perfectly in all places. So far I thought this luxury was too expensive. However, I was able to get to know Dolzer made-to-measure manufacturers for this blog post. A traditional company that has stood for the finest made-to-measure clothing, high-quality fabrics and tailor-made cuts for over five decades. Every part that you buy from Dolzer is a personal one-off.

I was very surprised by the prices, because tailor-made clothing from Dolzer does not necessarily have to be expensive. For example, you can get a blouse for as little as 59.90 euros. When you consider what off-the-peg business blouses cost, this is really an acceptable price. My last one, which I bought about a month ago, cost almost 90 euros, it is not tailor-made and a bit too far for me upstairs. In addition, Dolzer is currently running the “Young Generation Weeks” campaign. There is a 50% discount on the first shirt or blouse for new customers.
Incidentally, there are Dolzer branches in 19 German cities and the way to a tailor-made suit or a tailor-made blazer is not that difficult. First you choose your favorite from over 3,000 different fabrics in the store. The tailor-made garments also assist with the selection of the basic cut and details such as buttons, pockets and so on. Then measurements are taken and the garment is made. Then you come back to the final inspection, where corrections can still be made. And you can take your made-to-measure garment home with you.


The business fashion style guide

In cooperation with Dolzer, I came up with a style guide as a little support - as a cheat sheet for important business events, so to speak. I would have needed something like that years ago, then I would certainly not have come to an official award ceremony in a flower dress. Business formal, semi-formal, business casual ... who can look through all the dress code names? I took a closer look at these three dress codes and give you hints what they mean, what you should wear and what you should rather do without.


Business or business formal:

For example, if you contribute:
• Business meetings with managers or company bosses
• Business meetings in large corporations

The business formal design code requires very formal clothing in muted / dark colors. As a rule, the following applies to men: the higher the position in the company, the darker the clothing. For women, trouser suits or suits are in demand here. The dress code is worn on the executive floor, in banks or at insurance companies. If you have a meeting in such a place, I would definitely recommend formally business, especially if it is about the managerial or executive floor. Fortunately, women have a little more leeway than men - we can at least choose between pants, a skirt or a shift dress.

Even if the colors should be muted (black, dark blue, dark gray, subtle dark red, medium to dark brown), fortunately we don't have to walk around like a gray mouse. In addition to the anthracite-colored costume, it can also be the pale pink silk blouse. I am also in favor of unusual cuts: a skirt with light flounces, a blazer with a stand-up collar ... Even the most formal outfit leaves a little room for individuality here and there. Bare legs are a no-go, by the way. If skirt, then always with sheer tights (not shiny and appropriate to the skin color) and closed shoes (no sandals or peep-toes). By the way, you can't go wrong with knee-length skirts, mini-skirts are taboo.

Image source: Dolzer




For example, if you contribute:
• Business events where the executive suite is present
• formal business travel
• Dinner after an event
• Cocktail reception
• Awards ceremony

Although semi-formal sounds quite casual, this dress code should be treated with caution. A level of elegance that should not be underestimated is expected here. For us women, semi-formal during the day means that we have to slip into an elegant costume, a knee-length skirt or a shift dress. However, it can be a little more casual in terms of color than business formal. But you can't go wrong with the little black guy either. After 6 p.m., this dress code can also mean an evening or cocktail dress. Semi-formal does not mean “semi-formal”, which is often a mistake here and I fell for it myself. I think sheath dresses are beautiful, they are now available in great cuts and fabrics. Dark colors always look elegant and with an updo and pearl jewelry, the outfit quickly becomes formulaic and suitable for the evening.
You should be careful with semi-formal with jeans, as these are not really wanted here. If in doubt, I would do without it and go for elegant trousers. At the top it doesn't necessarily have to be the blazer during the day. An elegant blouse or a fine, high-quality fine-knit sweater will also work.

Image source: Dolzer



Business casual:

For example, if you contribute:
• Business lunches
• Business trips
• Business brunch
• workshops
• Lectures
• Meeting with a customer
• Kickoff meetings
• in everyday office life

Business casual is a little more relaxed and you dress according to the motto “no jeans, no tie”. The art is to be casual but still professionally dressed. When it comes to colors, you can be bolder here and mix materials with each other. Blouses with bows on the collar, twin sets, tweed or boucle blazers, knitwear, cashmere or cotton sweaters or chinos are allowed. I always like classic pleated trousers with light silk blouses. In summer, ankle-length trousers with elegant, flat shoes are pretty. This also makes things easier when you have to take a few more steps. Despite all the casualness: Skirts that are too short are a no-go. However, peep-toes or sandals are safe to wear if they match the rest of your outfit. By the way, jeans are also allowed here, provided they are not broken or have been washed too lightly. I am of the opinion that you can combine ripped jeans in a business-like manner, but I would still be careful with that and not necessarily advise you to do so. Especially when you see your business partner for the first time and cannot assess them.

Image source: Dolzer


I hope I was able to shed some light on the right business wardrobe with my business fashion style guide. Once you have understood the "code", there will definitely be no more faux pas. I now have a few combinations that I keep putting on again and again. Most of the time I don't meet the same people anyway, so it doesn't matter if I wear the same thing three times in a row to a business lunch, for example. The main thing is that you feel good. Because you radiate that too. Just like uncertainty. Well-fitting, suitable clothing can therefore provide security. If you don't have to worry about the baggy trousers or the blazer that is too tight on the upper arms, you have your head free for the essential things that are actually at stake.


* Advertising: This article was created in collaboration with Dolzer.