What to Wear on Your First Day at Work

what to wear on your first day at workHere’s a fun question for today: What are your best tips for someone on what to wear on your first day at work? Do you play it very safe with your interview outfit? If it’s a business casual environment and a suit isn’t appropriate, what do you wear for your first-day outfit?

We’ve talked about how to make your first day on the job a GREAT one, as well as what to wear on your first day at a very casual law office, but it’s been a while — I can’t wait to hear what the readers say!

Here are some factors that I would consider when picking out what to wear on your first day at work:

  • Professionalism: I always tell people that it’s OK to wear your interview clothes to your first day — so if you interviewed in a suit, you should probably wear a suit on your first day. (It’s OK if it’s the same suit you interviewed in; odds are low your interviewer(s) will remember exactly what your suit looked like.) This may be a pantsuit instead of a skirt suit, of course (and for my own $.02 would probably be my choice, for comfort reasons as laid out below), but may also be a sleeved sheath dress or something along those lines. (And to echo what commenters are saying: yes, absolutely expect to take your blazer off if you’re wearing a suit on your first day!)
  • Comfort: Of course, you always want to be comfortable, but I’m thinking of some particular situations where I might choose a more comfortable option over something else. For example, you may find yourself having to run around from one department to another, either for introductions or training — so wear comfortable shoes. Furthermore, on the shoe point: During a normal workday there are often options to quickly kick off your heels under a desk or change to commuting shoes to run and grab lunch, whereas on your first day those options may not present themselves and you may be in your shoes for nine or ten hours straight. If you’re wearing a skirt, I’d urge you to do the Mirror Test because on your first day you may often be sitting in someone’s visitor chair, across the desk from them, or (if you’re starting with several new workers at once, as in many BigLaw firms) in a group situation like an HR presentation or a packed conference room.
  • Office temperature: This can be something of an unknown, particularly if you’re starting work in a month like May or September, where the office A/C or heat may or may not be switched to the appropriate setting — so dress in intelligent layers! Don’t wear a sleeveless dress or shell as your base layer in case you end up sweltering in whatever you intended to wear on top (because if going sleeveless isn’t considered appropriate at your new office, you’re stuck). By the same token, if you wear something too lightweight you may be freezing all day, so it’s a good idea to add a cardigan or blazer to your ensemble so that you have something intentional to put on top.
  • Pockets: This can be a little like hunting for a unicorn, but if you’re between two options and one has pockets and the other does not, then go for pockets. (Here’s our last discussion on sleeved dresses with pockets; do note the widget at the bottom of the post with 2018 options for sleeved dresses with pockets.)

Readers, what are your best tips for what to wear on your first day at work? Have you ever started a job and really regretted your outfit choices? Do you have any memories (good or bad) of what a work colleague wore for his or her first day at work?

Stock photo via Shutterstock / Dean Drobot.what to wear on your first day at work

Wondering what to wear on your first day at work? It can be tricky to strike the right balance between casual, comfortable, and professional -- plus you don't want to be the dork sticking out in the suit! Here are Kat's best tips on work outfits for your first day at work:


  1. As businesses increasingly lean to biz casual, I’d be far more likely to wear a solid color dress (bring a jacket in case it is a formal-only setting). I think in a lot of places wearing a suit will make you stand out poorly. Like you’re out of touch.

    • I respectfully dissent. In a legal job, you MUST start out as dressing conservative, meaning no open toed shoes (closed toe with a 3-4″ heel is OK) a dress not more than 1″ above the knee, a blouse fully buttoned with long sleeves, and a conservative blazer. After learning the lay of the land, you may loosen up a bit, but NOT until you are counseled by your manageing partner to do so. If you take liberties and dress more recklessly, you run the risk of being considered a maverick who is not to be viewed favorably.

    • Anonymous :

      Agreed. I always interview in a suit, but don’t wear one on my first day. (I guess I would if it was a traditional office, but I’ve never worked in one)

    • My coworker and I started on the same day. He wore a suit and tie, I wore dress pants and a blouse. Engineering company, very casual side of business casual. He definitely got made fun of.

  2. This is such a great topic. Since you won’t know your office that well yet, I would always dress more conservatively on your first day. No one will think it’s weird if you suit up on your first day, but if you go for a casual cardigan in an office where people normally wear suits, some people may find it a bit off. You can always take a jacket off to make the outfit more casual, but it’s hard to make it more conservative unless you bring other clothes.

    Nice tip to consider the air-condition. I would bring a scarf or something that you could layer on top of whatever you’re wearing in case the office gets cold. I do this most days anyway, and the rest of the women in my office do this as well.

    • Anonymous :

      I agree with this – I’d rather be too formal, but do agree it would be best to have an option where you can just take your jacket off to be more casual. Even if you’re out of place, I don’t think anyone will judge you negatively for it. Especially if you’re personable. On the other hand, I feel like people are more likely to judge you negatively for being underdressed.

      Also, it is totally acceptable to ask HR, or another person you’ve been corresponding with about the job offer, what the typical dress for your position and those a step or two above you are.

    • Anonymous :

      I also disagree with the advice to always wear a suit. In every office in which I’ve worked, everyone WOULD think it strange for a new employee to show up in a suit. Very, very strange. Hopefully you’d have picked up on our dress code during an interview. If not, just ask the person who was working with you about all the hiring details.

    • Overdressed :

      Highly highly highly depends on the office. I recently started a job at a new law firm on the west coast. It would have been absurd to wear a suit on the first day. At the advice of the recruiter, I didn’t wear a suit to the interview – blouse and skirt, and still felt overdressed (in recruiter’s defense he told me to wear jeans, but I clutched at my pearls). My interviewers were in T-shirts, jeans, flipflops or some variation of that. My first day, I wore a blazer, dark jeans, and flats, which was OK, but I wish I would have just worn a nice shirt and jeans – felt very overdressed in the blazer, and I couldn’t take it off because I was wearing only a cami under it. I now just wear casual shirts, jeans, casual skirts, and sneakers/flat sandals to work.

  3. Strawberry :

    Would say to dress flexibly – so you can make an outfit more formal or less formal easily. I work in a casual side of business casual work environment. People we’re interviewing generally range from (on the female side) non-matching dress/blazer (most formal) to skinny pants, heels, and a nice blouse. Day-to-day attire (for no big meetings) for me is jeans and a blazer, and that’s only because I’m more senior – most of the more junior women wear a sweater/jeans or top/jeans.

    It would be really odd for someone to wear a suit the first day. I’d encourage a dress + blazer + heels, with a cardigan + flats in your purse – can easily dress it down or up a bit depending on your schedule that day.

    I would totally disagree with the poster above – in a Business casual environment, showing up in a suit would be more out of place than being too casual.

  4. Anonymous :

    Just ask whoever you’re talking to about your first day what the dress code is. I don’t understand firms who are hiring someone and don’t have the courtesy to give them information about dress codes, lunch arrangements and so on before they come in.

Add a Comment

Your email address will not be published.

Thank you for commenting. On the off chance that your comment goes to moderation, note that a moderation message will only appear if you enter an email address. If you have any questions please check out our commenting policy.

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.