Dressing for Business Success

What You Need to Know

If you have ever travelled for business you know there are a lot of things to consider. The different time zones, your opening line to a prospective client and of course, arguably the most important, what you’re going to wear. While you may feel totally confident dressing for your daily work environment, international business travel can pose an entirely new set of wardrobe expectations and potential for a serious wardrobe faux pas.

According to a recent survey* conducted by, the global leader in connecting travellers with the best places to stay, 32 per cent of our friends south of the border agreed that inappropriate attire was among the top three business etiquette blunders. Not surprisingly, the majority to notice this wardrobe faux pas were female business travellers (41 per cent women vs. 28 per cent men.)

You never get a second chance to make a first impression so make sure you do it right the first time. Follow these eight guidelines to ensure you’re fashionably flawless on your next business trip.

Do your research

Take advantage of being connected. Browse the company's social media pages for snaps of employees at the office and other work-related environments. Preparation is key and researching the nuances of your destination, specifically how to dress, was recommended by almost half of the survey respondents (47 per cent.) See if your business wardrobe matches, and if not, consider bringing along some accessories to either dress up or dress down your outfit.

Business attire in the US is more Casual

Most companies in the U.S. follow a business casual dress code. Suits are often optional and only really worn in more conservative industries such as finance, law or accounting. There is a focus on accessorizing your wardrobe to help standout as opposed to blending in.

Keep it uniform in China

No matter how scorching it may get in China, businessmen dress nearly uniformly in black suits and white shirts although ties are optional depending on the industry. Women on the other hand dress less formally, typically sporting blouses and skirts. With 91 per cent of Chinese business travellers believing awareness of cultural norms is crucial, it’s important to respect and adhere to their fashion choices if you want to seal the deal. Remember, forgo flashy accessories and heavy makeup as these are perceived as making one seem less focused on business.

Pack clothes that are well made but versatile

Bringing clothes that are easy to care for and wrinkle resistant means you can go from airplane to boardroom without having to stop and change. Consider packing clothing in neutral colours that you can mix and match easily while using accessories such as scarves, ties, pocket squares and jackets to add some contrast and pull your look together.

Always look the part

With the already cramped conditions of most airplanes, we will do almost anything to make ourselves a bit more comfortable. While you may feel most relaxed in jeans or yoga pants you may regret your attire if your luggage is lost and you have to go directly into a meeting. You also never know who you will meet on your travels. A potential client or VIP could be sitting next to you.

Formal in Europe

While styles vary across Europe, dressing formally for business is the general rule of thumb, especially considering 44 per cent of French business travellers view a wardrobe mistake as a serious etiquette error. Men should consider wearing a quality suit and tie to look put together but not flashy. Women can choose to wear a stylish suit or a conservative dress with a jacket. In doubt about what footwear is appropriate? Men generally match belts to their lace ups and women favour heels over flats (although bringing a pair along in your bag wouldn’t hurt.)

Don’t be fooled by the Australian ‘surfer-dude’ image

Although often portrayed as fun-loving sun worshippers, Aussies take their business attire seriously. When it comes to professional settings, Australians favour a conservative dress code, usually a dark suite and men often have a tie on. Save your shorts for the beach.

Style can differ throughout a region

Just because you are travelling from one country in a region to another don’t assume your look should stay the same. Be aware that each country, and sometimes even city, has its own unique brand of business dress. In Latin America for example, Argentina is very formal while those in Brazil are more casual dressers.

* The Better-quette Survey commissioned by and independently conducted among 4,555 people (18 -65) across USA, UK, Germany, France, Spain, Japan, China, Italy who had travelled internationally for business four times or more in the past year. Research took place between 29th of January through the 11th of February 2016.