Workwear 101: What To Wear, What Not To Wear & How To Nail 9 to 5 Fashion

Workwear 101: What To Wear, What Not To Wear & How To Nail 9 to 5 Fashion

If there’s one thing working women dread more than Mondays, it’s picking what to wear to work--especially when you’re running late! You might love fashion, but dressing up for office can still be a daily challenge. After all, you need something that looks professional and makes you look good! But last-minute OOTDs don’t always pan out the way you imagine them while in the shower. Are you nodding in agreement?

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    Thought so! But don’t worry, we’ve got your back! All you need is this ultimate guide full of appropriate and stylish workwear ideas for a chic 9 to 5, every day. To make things easier for you, we’ve divided the list based on different types of dress codes. Whatever the dress code is at your place of work, these are all the workwear dos and don’ts that you need to keep in mind.

     Also Read: Ethnic Outfits For Office

    Business Attire


    Proper business attire is a must in corporate jobs including the automobile sector, investment banking, real estate, sales, law, etc. When it comes to   , there is not much difference between ‘business formals’ and ‘business professional’ style of dressing. The most important thing to remember is to keep your outfit neat and crisp.

    What To Wear

    Have a formal dress code at work? Don’t know what to wear? Not anymore. Here’s everything you need to know about dressing according to the business attire.

    1. Outfit: Well-cut pantsuits, skirt suits, fitted dresses--sheath dresses or A-line dresses
    2. Topwear: Crisp button-up shirts with a straight collar--preferably solid coloured or with muted stripes, structured blouses 
    3. Bottomwear: Straight-fit trousers, pencil skirts
    4. Outerwear: Single-buttoned or double-breasted coats

    What To Avoid

    Now that you know what to wear, in a strict business set-up, you must also be aware of the don’ts as well. The first thing on your list should always be to be comfortable and wear what works for you. You can always check with your HR about the dress code policy.

    1. Generally, employees don’t wear too loose or too tight clothes to the office. The right way to check if you are wearing your size is to measure by the shoulders. 
    2. Creases and wrinkles don’t look appealing. See if you need to rethink your workwear fabrics.
    3. Check with your HR if three-fourth sleeves or half sleeves are allowed at your place of work. Not every office is flexible about these things.
    4. Shirt collars look neat when they’re properly ironed and not spread haphazardly. A crisp collar can instantly lift up your look.
    5. Check beforehand with the HR if there’s a mandate on the length of the skirt or dress.

    Other Things To Keep In Mind

    Now that you’re all caught up, here are some basic pointers to know when you go shopping for new formals.

    Colours: Dark colours such as black, navy blue, charcoal grey, grey, dark green or brown are great options. Your shirts and tops can be solid white in colour. If you want to take it up a notch, go for smaller prints such as pinstripes.

    Footwear: Closed-toe heels or brogues/oxfords in neutral colours such as taupe, black, grey, tan or brown say ‘classy’ in style.

    Accessories: Minimalistic jewellery such as diamond studs rather than drop earrings, a statement necklace, or rings preferably in gold, white gold, rose gold or silver make for a fine choice. High-end wristwatches look classy and equally glamorous. Go for a sturdy bag that is either a shoulder bag or a handheld bag. You can carry your laptop in a separate laptop bag or a sleeve.

    Hair & Makeup: Nothing says ‘I mean business’ like well-groomed hair. Check with your HR if it’s okay to have bangs, fringes or flicks. As for makeup, keep it light.

    Business Casuals


    Simply speaking, business casuals are a step down from business attire, but nonetheless sharp-looking outfits with structure and form. It is a common dress code in industries like banking, insurance, the IT sector, tourism & hospitality, some PR companies, some E-commerce companies as well as telecom.

    What To Wear

    Unlike business attire, business casuals allow employees to add personality to their workwear without looking unprofessional which means more choice in colours, prints and accessories for the ladies. Here’s all you can wear.

    1. Outfit: Business separates rather than a full suit, smart co-ord sets such as trousers with a matching top, a pantsuit/skirt suit with a fitted T-shirt instead of a formal shirt, dresses in either sheath, A-line, shift or blouson styles
    2. Topwear: Coloured or printed (striped, checked, micro-dotted etc.) shirts rather than mandatory white button-downs, blouses, high-neck tops, texturised or self-design tops 
    3. Bottomwear: Straight-fit trousers, ankle-length trousers, high-waisted trousers, khaki pants, pencil skirts, pleated but structured skirts
    4. Outerwear: Soothing coloured coats, blazers and waistcoats--can have a muted print too such as vertical stripes, checks, etc. Professional-looking jackets such as duster jackets, tailored jackets

    What To Avoid

    Now, let’s check out what not to do when wearing business casuals to work.

    1. While colours and prints are allowed, big and bright patterns are rarely seen in a business casual set-up. 
    2. It’s better (read high-street) to wear shorter hemlines with dark or skin coloured hosiery. So sexy!
    3. Generally, women avoid wearing low-cut necklines, such as on the days when meetings are scheduled.

    Other Things To Keep In Mind

    When picking your OOTD, make sure you have the following pointers in mind before getting dressed. 

    Colours: Primary colours and jewel-toned colours are the best. We’re sure you are all caught up about prints and patterns by now. Alternatively, you can also go for clothes with colourblocking technique. It looks especially stylish on dresses. 

    Footwear: You can wear comfy flats such as loafers apart from brogues/oxfords. Closed-toe heels are always a rockstar. As for colours, we suggest you go with what best goes with your outfit.  

    Accessories: Larger jewellery such as a statement necklace or cuff-style wristwatch will look chic. Alternatively, you can also wear a smartwatch. It’s okay to glam up with gold hoops if you’re not in the mood for studs. Scarves may also be appropriate. You can complete the look with any type of handbag, but avoid backpacks and crossbody bags with formals.

    Hair & Makeup: Hair can be more casual but neat nonetheless If you want to keep them open, style them using a hair straighter, curler or blow-dryer. A subtle colour or highlights should not be a problem, but it’s better to check with your HR first. Do your makeup as it suits your outfit.

    Indian Formals


    A lot of offices in India, especially government establishments across different industries, follow an Indian dress code at work. Schools and some colleges also have an Indian formal dress code when it comes to what to wear to work. If you’re in a government job or a teacher, this space is for you.

    What To Wear

    Indian formals are all about adding a desi touch to your workplace. So, here’s how you can do it with panache. 

    1. Outfit: Traditional sarees, Indian suit set complete with salwar/churidar, kameez and dupatta, ethnic maxi dresses/kurta dresses 
    2. Topwear: Kurtas, kurtis, tunics
    3. Bottomwear: Churidar, leggings, salwar, Patiala salwar, dhoti pants, palazzos, ethnic maxi skirts, ankle-length trousers
    4. Outerwear: Ethnic jackets, dupattas, stoles, shawls

    What To Avoid

    Figuring out what to wear in Indian wear is pretty easy but it is important to understand the difference between Indianwear for work and festive wear. These tips will come in handy:

    1. OTT outfits such as with heavy embroidery, gota patti work and shiny embellishments might make you feel uncomfortable when worn for such long hours.
    2. Check with the HR if you need to know about any rules regarding saree blouse designs such as backless blouses or deep-cut necklines in kurtas.
    3. Check if there’s a policy against sleeveless outfits at your place of work. Some offices don’t allow off-the-shoulder and cold-shoulder clothes.
    4. Some offices with Indian formals as dress code don’t allow jeans. Check with your HR if there’s such a policy at your organisation.

    Other Things To Keep In Mind

    So far so good, am I right? Here are some tips to nail 9 to 5 fashion elegantly and gracefully with Indianwear.

    Colours: Colours of your choice.

    Footwear: Traditional juttis and mojaris look absolutely gorgeous with Indianwear. You can also wear flats, wedges, mules, heels whatever you’re comfortable in.

    Accessories: Except for a backpack, every kind of handbag goes with Indianwear. But don’t hold back if you can rock one in your own style *wink wink*

    Hair & Makeup: Experiment with different braids and buns to keep things happening at work. Keep your makeup light and simple for all-day comfort.

    Western Formals


    Westernwear is a common dress code in media, agencies, private colleges, some public relations agencies, to name a few. There’s a fine line between business casuals and western formals (also known as ‘smart casuals’) and we are here to clear that out for you in 3...2...1...

    What To Wear

    Westernwear is probably the quintessential dress code that most of us need clarity on. Here‘s what all you can wear under the western formals dress code to work.

    1. Outfit: Dresses--shirt style, fit & flare, wrap dresses, empire-line and sweater dresses apart from the ones already mentioned above  
    2. Topwear: Fitted tops and blouses, coloured as well as printed shirts (not necessarily button-downs or with a collar), polo neck T-shirts, tunics
    3. Bottomwear: Casual trousers, treggings or structured tights, chinos, wide-legged pants, culottes, skirts
    4. Outerwear: Jackets such as front-open, leather, etc., winterwear

    What To Avoid

    In the case of westernwear, here are some things you might want to check with your HR:

    1. Ripped or frayed-hem bottoms can look unprofessional. Ask if your office has a rule against the style.
    2. Not everything that falls under westernwear can be taken to work. A lot of organisations don’t allow shorts, mini skirts and mini dresses. So, check with your HR first.  
    3. The same thing applies to transparent or sheer tights and tops. It’s always a good idea to ask HR or look around at what the existing employees are wearing.

    Other Things To Keep In Mind

    Other than the above-mentioned suggestions, ‘Sky's the limit’ is an understatement when it comes to styling westernwear. What this means is:

    Colours: Colours of your choice.

    Footwear: Can wear sneakers too.

    Accessories: Can carry backpacks too. Statement pieces in jewellery are fine. You can also complete your look with a chunky wristwatch.

    Hair & Makeup: Something light and easy that keeps you comfortable all day long.



    Coming to the dress code which is the most common one in the metro cities of India, especially among start-ups, all we have to say is tread carefully. People often take the seriousness of ‘casuals’ casually. The trick is to know just how casual the guidelines of your workplace are before you get too creative with your outfits.

    What To Wear

    By arriving at work in casual clothes that are still neat, ironed, and appropriate for the type of work you do, you can make sure that a casual dress code isn’t holding you back. You can go for:

    1. Outfit: Dresses including T-shirt dresses, drop-waist dresses, pinafore other than the ones already mentioned above, comfy jumpsuits
    2. Topwear: Tops, blouses, T-shirts, shirts - you can wear these in a boxy fit, too; sweatshirts, hoodies
    3. Bottomwear: Jeans, jeggings, cargos, smart joggers, casual trousers, capri pants, skirts
    4. Outerwear: Shirt-jackets or shackets, jackets--denim, bomber, biker, sporty, etc., longline shrugs, winterwear

    What To Avoid

    In addition to the don’ts given for ‘Western Formals’ above, here are some more things that can be not HR-approved:

    1. You can wear flip-flops or sliders to work if your office allows. If not, you know what to do.
    2. Pyjamas and sweatpants or other loungewear are sometimes frowned upon. You may want to check on that with your HR.
    3. Some organisations have strong guidelines disaffirming sheer clothes, distressed jeans, strappy sleeves and low-waist bottoms. Check if yours falls under that category.

    Other Things To Keep In Mind

    And now for the final time:

    Colours: Colours of your choice.

    Footwear: Footwear of your choice.

    Accessories: Accessories of your choice.

    Hair & Makeup: Something light and easy that keeps you comfortable all day long.

    Well, there you go. We would like to end today’s lesson on a pro tip that is tried, tested and trusted, and has never failed us. It’s a practice we swear by and highly recommend everyone for a stylish business attire  for hassle-free 9 to 5 every day. Here you go:

    POPxo Tip: Make it a point to keep your entire outfit, complete with footwear and accessories, ready the night before.

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