This article examines five factors which affect the perceived formality or informality of your attire and thereby influence the way in which you are perceived in your workplace.

Getting Started

Appropriate Subject Area(s):

Careers, business studies

Key Questions to Explore:

  • What image do I want to project?
  • How do I adjust my style of dress to ensure that it is appropriate to the situation?
  • How do I “dress for success”?

New Terminology:

Professional attire, semi-formal

Materials Needed:

No specific requirements exist for this lesson

Study and Discussion Activity

Introduction to lesson and task:

We have all, at one time or another, felt inappropriately dressed for the occasion. It might be that we were “over-dressed” in that we were dressed too formally or perhaps “under-dressed” in that we were too casually attired. The way we are dressed certainly affects the impression we create. Successful politicians know this very well and carefully dress to create the right image. This is true of the business world as well. Many casual Friday practices, for example, have staff donate to a specific charity box in the office and then wear a sticker on their lapel acknowledging their participation in the activity. This also serves to give notice that today’s casual wear is not standard for the office, thus reinforcing the need for professional dress on other days.

As the young people of today enter the workforce it is important for them to realize the impact that the way they dress has on how they are perceived. This, in turn, contributes to their perceived readiness for promotion and additional responsibility. It is generally acknowledged that dress codes, in some occupations at least, have become less formal but it is also true that  others remain very business-like and relatively formal.

In order for students to dress appropriately they need to understand some factors that contribute to creating the correct image. This lesson will have them discuss job situations, what they believe is the appropriate image for that position, and how they could dress to create that image.

Action (lesson plan and task):

  • Begin the lesson by asking the students to indicate if they have a part-time job and their position.
  • Compile a list of their responses.
  • Divide the class into groups of five or six students and ask them to discuss and complete the following tasks:
    • Pick four jobs from the created list.
    • Describe how the person holding each position should dress for work
    • Explain how that person should, if necessary, change their attire if they were promoted to the next job level. Explain your answer.
    • What does semi-formal attire mean and when would you dress in such a manner?
    • Give the groups time to complete their task and then have each group report.
    • Once the groups have reported, reconvene the class as a whole and ask them to identify specific ways that they can dress to ensure that they are creating the image that they wish.
    • Once this has been done, provide the students with a copy of the article and allow them time to read it.
    • Without discussing their personal response to the article, reconvene the groups and assign the task outlined in the “Consolidation of Learning” activity.

Consolidation of Learning:

Have the groups complete the following assignment:

Pick one of the following three job placements and, based on what you have just read and your understanding of the appropriate dress code for that position, describe how you would suggest that person dress.

  1. A sales clerk in a high end retail store. (Identify the store)
  2. A recent university grad applying for a position with a bank.
  3. A sales person in a large outdoor equipment store such as Mountain Equipment Coop.

Have the groups report their suggestions giving the reasons for their suggestions.

Success and Additional Learning

Success Criteria:

The students demonstrate an understanding of the importance of appropriate dress.

The students can explain some of the factors that contribute to creating the right dress code image.

Confirming Activity:

For homework have each student complete a short writing assignment explaining  what current job they have or would like to have, and how they would dress for that job given the information presented in today’s lesson.