Dressing for Leadership Roles

Going back a generation or two (depending on your age!) every professional, almost regardless of their industry put on a suit for work.  Today, the uniform of the suit has dissolved and we are left with having to make our own interpretation of what is formal and business casual attire. It means it’s very easy to look sloppy or over dressed. At ISL Recruitment we recommend for interview it is always better to be over rather than under dressed.

Sylvie di Giusto has written a new book called “The Image of Leadership”. In this book she has broken down the 5 levels of dress code she uses with her clients in her Executive Image Consulting business.  The book makes for interesting reading. The highlights of the 5 levels are:

dress_for_successLevel 1 – Boardroom Attire
– Crisp white dress shirts, modest ties
– High quality accessories e.g. watches, cuff links
– Dark charcoal gray or navy blue 2 or 3 piece suits
– Only black oxfords or derby shoes

– Collared dress shirts or blouses
– Dark and classic suits
– Skirts not shorter than 2 fingers above the knee
– Black tights and black low heeled shoes

Level 2 – Traditional Business Attire
– Traditionally patterned shirts. Ties can be more brightly colored.
– Dark and subtly patterned suits.interview-tips-dress-for-success
– Dark brown or navy blue oxford shoes

– Professional tops without a deep neckline.
– Suits can be brightly colored.
– Tights and closed toe, low heeled shoes.

Level 3 – Executive Casual
– Brightly colored or patterned shirts and ties.
– Sports coats and jackets.
– Dressy slacks.
– Loafers.

– Brightly colored shirts.
– Bigger and unique jewelry and accessories.
– Fashionable jacket and skirt.
– Closed toe pumps or shoes.

Level 4 – Mainstream Casualprofessional-dress-for-men-and-women
– Shirts and sweaters in a variety of colors and patterns.
– Slacks or corduroy trousers.
– Casual shoes.

– Short- sleeved tops.
– Fashionable combinations of tops, vests and skirts.
– Open toe shoes.

Level 5 – Baseline Casual
– Smart T-shirts or casual collared shirts.
– Dark and elegant denims.
– Tasteful sneakers.

– Tidy and fitted t-shirts, blouses, or sweaters.
– Clean and crisp denims.
– Elegant sandals.

At last, there is a modern checklist for what to wear. If you’re not sure what level is best for an interview or your first day in a new job the general rule is the more you deal with a client’s money, the more traditional and conservative you should be dressed. Your dress code shows you are serious. People working in finance, law and accountancy should stay with level 2, traditional business attire whereas often if you work in marketing or another creative industry your dress code will be expected to be more casual.


If you are being interviewed by the board or having a formal meeting with a member of the board then Level 1, boardroom attire is the most appropriate across all industries, with few exceptions.

At ISL Recruitment it is not unusual for candidates to ask about the recommended dress code for a particular interview. We know our clients well and are always happy to offer advice.

Please contact us to find out about your next career steps.

Photo Credit: positiveleadershiplimited.blogspot.com, mgt.buffalo.edu, beyondcareersuccess.com, hnmagazine.com