What to Wear to Work at a Retail Store

If you've interviewed for a retail job and received a job offer, congratulations! Before you show up on your first day, take some time to check on what you should wear to work. That will help you avoid arriving either overdressed or underdressed. 

What's appropriate to wear will vary depending on the type of store. It's possible that the hiring manager will share the dress code. If they don't mention it, and you're not provided with information in a welcome packet or online, just ask.

Here are guidelines for what to wear for a retail job, including designer stores, department stores, company stores, and big-box major retail stores.

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What to Wear to Work for a Major Retail Store

Shopkeeper helping man decide on shirts while shopping in mens clothing boutique
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When you work for one of the major retailers, the company will have a strict dress code for cashiers, as well as for other store employees.

Big box retail stores may provide a t-shirt for their employees or may require you to wear a shirt of a specific color. The retailer may allow some choice in pants or skirts for women, tops, and footwear. Your attire may be a combination of pre-determined colors, in addition to designated styles.

For example, Target store team members can wear khaki or denim as long as it’s accompanied by a red top. Walmart associates can wear khaki, any color denim, shirts of any color, and sneakers.

As with company stores, you may be able to use your employee discount to purchase what you need to wear to work.

Before you start your job, check to be sure you know what you should be wearing and make sure you have the appropriate attire to start work. 

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What to Wear to Work at a Department Store

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At a department store, there may be variation by department, but most likely you will be expected to arrive dressed in business casual attire. Business casual encompasses a wide variety of looks, some more formal than others, and as always, it is wise to dress a little more conservatively and formally at first, until you get to know the expectations of your supervisor.

For men: Business casual means chinos or dress pants, a button-down shirt with or without a tie, possibly a polo shirt, and loafers or dress shoes.

For women:  Business casual encompasses a skirt (not a mini!), slacks, blouse, sweater, twinset, (optional) jacket, and closed-toe shoes or boots. Some companies allow jeans all or some of the time. Most companies rarely allow sneakers or open-toe sandals. 

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What to Wear to Work at Company Stores and Outlets

Man shopping in clothing store
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When you are working at a company store or an outlet, you may be encouraged, if not required, to wear styles from their collection. Be sure you opt for outfits on the conservative side until you establish what the guidelines are for employee attire.

Not sure what to wear? Check with your supervisor or the store manager. Your supervisor will be happy to answer questions about what is acceptable during work hours.

Keep in mind that most stores offer employee discounts, so take advantage of the discount if you do need to wear the store's clothes. For example, Gap offers 50% off regular-priced merchandise at Old Navy, Gap, Banana Republic, and Athleta, and 30% off at Outlet for employees, spouses, and domestic partners.

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What to Wear to Work at Jewelry and Designer Stores

Woman shopping at a jewelry store
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When you are working at a jewelry store or designer shop, the expectation is typically that you wear business attire.

For men: This means a suit, dress shirt, and tie, or slacks, dress shirt, and tie, with a sports coat. Both should be worn with dark socks and dress shoes.

For women:  It means a pant or skirt suit with a blouse, or a dress skirt/slacks with a twinset, or with a blouse/sweater and jacket. Either ensemble should be worn with hosiery and closed-toe shoes. Women also have the option of a dress with a jacket, hosiery, and closed-toe shoes.

There may be some leniency and variation. For example, chinos may be acceptable for men, footwear may vary for women, and there may be days when business casual is fine. In general, though, it is always better to err on the side of conservative and formal when you begin a new position. 

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Check the Dress Code Before You Start the Job

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When you're hired by a retail store, you should be given a copy or told about the dress code. Be sure to check the company dress code if you have any doubts about what to wear to work. Some companies have a lookbook that you can review for guidelines. For example, Starbucks' Dress Code Lookbook includes pictures of what to wear, color palettes, and guidance for hats, footwear, and hair.

Also, you can always ask your supervisor, store manager, or a trusted co-worker, if they think a particular item or style is appropriate or not to wear to work.

As a new hire, if you have any doubt about whether a piece of clothing or outfit is acceptable, it's better to go conservative over casual. Don't take a chance on not being dressed appropriately for your new job.