Dress Code Decoded: The Working Woman’s Guide to Corporate Attire

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By Nica Dobles from THREAD PH

Work it, girl.

Personally, one of the most nerve-wracking things about entering the workforce was the change in wardrobe. Moving from my staple t-shirt-and-jeans outfits in college to the world of corporate attire was a scary prospect — especially since I wasn’t sure exactly what corporate attire was, exactly.

The truth is that in the modern corporate world, dress codes are a little more relaxed and the rules aren’t as hard and fast as they used to be. That said, there are still some general guidelines that are essential knowledge for any working woman. Read on for our beginner’s guide to corporate attire!

Rules of Thumb

Err on the side of conservative.

If you aren’t sure how strict the dress code is at a specific office, it’s safer to go overdressed rather than underdressed. If you’re starting out at a new job, go with a conservative wardrobe to start with and take a week or two to get a feel for how everyone else dresses before adjusting accordingly.

Stick to well-tailored pieces in classic colors.

Neutrals are a safe bet: black, grey, dark blue for jackets and bottoms, and whites and pale neutrals for shirts and blouses. Avoid flashy prints; a subtle stripe is okay. All your clothes should fit perfectly — not too baggy, and not too tight. Don’t forget to give your outfit a good iron before putting it on!

When in doubt, go with a suit.

You really can’t can’t go wrong with a coordinated suit. The blazer + matching pants or skirt combo is a classic that will make you look polished and professional.

Corporate Attire for Women

Blouses + Pencil Skirts/Trousers

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The most basic corporate attire top is a button-down, long-sleeved shirt with a collar, usually in white or a light pastel. You can also opt for other types of dressy blouses, but make sure that they aren’t too tight or too low-cut. If you wear a sleeveless blouses, play it safe with thick straps, and bear in mind that some offices have rules against sleeveless tops — so make sure to have a blazer on hand to cover up.

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Pencil skirts should hit your knee, or just a little above it. Make sure the skirt doesn’t ride up when you sit down — there’s nothing more uncomfortable than having to keep pulling down a skirt. For pants, tailored trousers are both sleek and comfortable. Just pay attention to the length — the hem shouldn’t be long enough to drag on the ground.


Workwear Dresses

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If you can’t be bothered to match tops and bottoms, nothing says #GirlBoss like a sheath dress. A slightly more comfortable option is a demure fit-and-flare dress. Whatever the cut, like with pencil skirts, the key is to make sure your dress is an office-appropriate length. Pair with a skinny belt for an extra-polished look.




Whether you go with separates or a dress, throwing on a tailored blazer on top will emphasize that you mean business. Every working woman should have a structured black blazer — it will truly go with anything, even your weekend denim.

                               1.  ZALORA Collarless Blazer , 2.  Y.A.S Yaspatzy 7/8 Blazer

                               1. ZALORA Collarless Blazer, 2. Y.A.S Yaspatzy 7/8 Blazer

Here’s how a classic workwear blazer should fit:

  • The sleeves should fully cover your wrists — at least for full-length sleeve blazers. You can also opt for blazers with 3/4 length sleeves.
  • It should fit just across your shoulders — the shoulder seams should line up with your own shoulders.
  • You should still be able to button up the blazer without it stretching uncomfortably.
  • In terms of length, the general rule of thumb is that the hemline should hit your hipbone. Because of proportions, though, many women recommend pairing shorter blazers (think just touching your hipbone) with skirts and dresses, and longer blazers with pants. Experiment to see what works best with your body shape and your outfit.

If you work in a less traditional office, feel free to play around with different colors, patterns (we’re big fans of checked blazers), and even more flowy constructions.


Shoes and Accessories

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Always go with a closed toe shoe. Some offices require heels — pointed-toe pumps are sleek and forever stylish, although make sure to avoid heels that are more than three inches high. If you can get away with flat shoes, ballerina flats or even menswear-inspired loafers are chic but professional options.

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Keep your bag and jewelry simple. A black handbag is a great investment piece — a well-made one will go with anything and last you forever. Stick to basic studs for your earrings, and maybe a classic watch to finish off your look.


Got any other dress codes you want decoded? Let us know in the comments section below! Head on over to ZALORA Malaysia to shop our Women’s Workwear edit.