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What is unprofessional to wear to an interview?

What is unprofessional to wear to an interview?

Deciding what to wear to a job interview can be a tricky task. You want to make a great first impression and show that you’re taking the interview seriously, while also feeling comfortable and confident. Some clothing choices, however, can come across as too casual, sloppy or revealing for an interview context. Knowing what’s considered unprofessional interview attire can help you avoid making a poor impression before you even say a word.

In this article, we’ll outline some of the main clothing items and styles to avoid when dressing for a job interview. We’ll also provide tips on choosing interview outfits that strike the right balance between professional and personal style.

Overly casual tops

Some tops are simply too informal for interviewing, regardless of the type of job or industry. Steer clear of anything with a casual vibe like:

  • T-shirts
  • Tank tops
  • Crop tops or other bare-midriff styles
  • Tops with large slogans, graphics or logos
  • Sweatshirts
  • Sheer, see-through or low-cut tops

T-shirts, graphic tees and sweatshirts exude leisure time rather than professionalism. Tank tops and crop tops bare too much skin, while sheer and low-cut tops are overly revealing. Save them for the weekend instead.

Opt for dressier tops in conservative cuts and solid colors or subtle patterns. Button-down shirts, blouses, sweaters and blazers convey professional polish. Make sure any top fits properly and isn’t too tight or revealing.

Super casual pants

Along with the wrong top, too-casual pants can ruin the professional look you’re aiming for in an interview. Types of pants to avoid include:

  • Jeans
  • Sweatpants
  • Exercise leggings
  • Cargo pants or shorts
  • Leggings (unless under a dress or tunic)
  • Low-rise pants
  • Overly tight pants
  • Shorts

Denim, sweats, gym leggings and cargo pants are way too casual for interviewing. Leggings by themselves can look unprofessional too. Low-rise pants and tight pants of any kind are unflattering and show too much. Shorts just don’t work for a formal business environment.

Instead, wear dress pants, trousers, a pencil skirt or dress. Dark neutrals like black, gray and navy are versatile colors. Make sure any pants or skirt fit comfortably and aren’t too tight. An ironed, wrinkle-free look polishes off the outfit.

Casual dresses and skirts

Dresses and skirts provide great options for women’s interview attire, but not all styles translate well professionally. Steer clear of dresses and skirts that are:

  • Mini skirts with hemlines above the knee
  • Super casual sundresses
  • Beach cover-ups and caftans
  • Splits up the side that are too high
  • Bright colors or distracting prints/patterns
  • Bodycon dresses that are too tight
  • Spaghetti strap dresses without a blazer

A mini skirt or a dress or skirt with a revealing slit can easily vent into inappropriate territory for interviewing. Sundresses, beachy styles and anything too tight or low-cut looks too casual. Make sure dress and skirt lengths are at knee-length or below. Opt for solid colors or simple, muted patterns and prints. Having a blazer on hand can dress up a more casual dress for interviewing.

Poor footwear choices

Along with the wrong clothing, bad footwear choices can really do in your interview look. Avoid these types of shoes when interviewing:

  • Flip flops or beach sandals
  • Chunky platform shoes
  • Flashy athletic sneakers
  • Worn-out shoes with holes, stains etc.
  • Over-the-knee boots
  • Fishnet tights
  • Any shoes that are dirty

Flip flops and casual sandals exude a beachy vibe rather than professional. Platform shoes and chunky styles are distracting and too casual. Flashy sneakers make it look like you just came from the gym. Steer clear of shoes that are dirty, scuffed or have holes and stains. Overall, go for a simple, classic shoe in a polished, neutral color like black, brown, navy or gray. Pumps, loafers, dress flats and clean boots are good options for women. Men should wear dress shoes in black or brown.

Poor accessories

The wrong accessories can stylize an otherwise professional interview outfit. Avoid these accessory faux pas when interviewing:

  • Large, flashy jewelry
  • Clunky bangle bracelets that jingle
  • Strong perfumes or colognes
  • Hats or visors
  • Sunglasses

Oversized jewelry, jangly bangles, strong fragrances and hats can be distracting in an interview. The interviewer’s focus should be on your resume and experience, not loud accessories. Stick to minimal, basic jewelry in silver, gold or pearl tones for understated style. Skip the perfume or aftershave altogether to avoid causing an allergic reaction.

Poor personal grooming

Looking polished and put together is crucial for interviewing success. Be sure to avoid these personal grooming mistakes:

  • Messy, uncombed hair
  • Visible body odor or bad breath
  • Wrinkled, stained or torn clothing
  • Chipped nail polish
  • Stains on clothing
  • Clothes that are too big or too small
  • Facial piercings beyond simple stud earrings
  • Socks without shoes

Greet your interviewer with a firm handshake, not messy hair, body odor, or chipped nails. Wrinkled, stained or torn clothes give the impression you don’t care. Make sure your outfit fits right and remove any facial piercings beyond a simple pair of earrings. Little grooming details like clean nails and hair free of tangles go a long way in an interview situation.

When casual wear is okay

While it’s best to err on the side of formal interview attire, dress code standards do vary by company and industry. Casual styles may be perfectly acceptable if you’re interviewing in a more laid-back work environment such as:

  • Startups
  • Tech companies
  • Creative media firms
  • Youth-oriented companies

Do your homework beforehand on the company’s dress code. You can gauge how formal to dress based on employees’ style in online photos and social media. When interviewing at a casual company, you can relax the look a bit with dark denim, polos, blazers with sleeves rolled up, and dress flats or loafers. Just avoid overly distressed or ripped denim, shorts, strappy tanks and flip flops.

Key takeaways

While you want to show your personal style, erring on the formal end for interview attire proves you’re taking the interview seriously. Avoid clothes that are:

  • Too revealing or tight
  • Sloppy or wrinkled
  • Sporty, beachy or lounge-worthy
  • Distressed, stained or torn
  • Bohemian or hippie-inspired
  • Flashy, jangly or distracting

Stick to conservative, polished pieces in dark, muted tones. Clean, pressed clothes signal you pay attention to details. Above all, dress neatly and professionally to make a great first impression! Confidence comes from looking sharp and pulled together.


Deciding what is inappropriate or unprofessional for interview attire comes down to using good judgment. Think formal over casual, and be conservative with styles to showcase professionalism. Avoid clothes that are overly revealing, tight, sloppy, distracting or lounge-worthy. Pay attention to personal grooming details too. With the right interview outfit, you can feel polished, put together and confident talking about your qualifications without your clothes saying the wrong thing. Remember, you want the focus to stay on your experience, skills and personality, not loud or improper attire choices. Dress for the job you want to convey you’re serious about the opportunity.

Type Unprofessional Styles to Avoid Professional Choices
Tops T-shirts, tank tops, crop tops, sweatshirts, sheer/low-cut tops Button-down shirts, blouses, sweaters, blazers
Bottoms Jeans, sweatpants, leggings, shorts, cargo pants Dress pants, pencil skirts, trousers
Dresses/Skirts Mini skirts, casual sundresses, bodycon styles Knee-length or longer skirts, sheath dresses
Shoes Flip flops, sneakers, chunky platforms Pumps, loafers, dress flats
Accessories Big jewelry, jangly bangles, hats Simple jewelry, no accessories