Friday, 15 March 2013

Dress code

One of the things you'll probably start thinking as the beggining of your traineeship approaches (specially women) is: what will I wear? Many of the trainees have recently completed their studies and have little to none professional experience, so they wonder how they should dress in order to be appropriately presented in this new corporate world.

As mentioned in the FAQ's the EC provides for the selected trainees, there is no official dress code, however, you are expected to dress adequately. Well, this leaves us in the same point as we started: what does adequately means? There is no general formula to apply on this (even though, on one of the first presentations given for the trainees, they mention that men shall never wear white socks and women's skirts shall stay under their knees when seated), but I am going to give you a few tips which hopefuly will help you stuff the right clothes when packing.

The dress code for the Commission (and, from what I have seen so far, this applies to the other European Institutions) is described as smart casual. Which means you don't have to dress up in a very formal way, but you're also not supposed to come up with shorts and sneakers. Although I have seen people wearing jeans or leggings with short sweaters (and we all know leggings are not pants!) and of course no-one will say anything to them, but I personally do not find it work appropriate and would not appear here dressed that way. Usually women wear straight-legged pants or pencil skirts with a shirt and a cardigan or a blazer on top. Not too bright colors, everything in the tones of black, blue, brown, grey, cream, white and then maybe one piece or accessory a bit more colorful to top it up. Most women wear boots, flats or shoes, but some of them dare to come up in high-heels (a minority, though). Here are some examples of the type of clothes I see people wearing around here:

All outfits are from Mango. I had some difficulty finding clothes appropriate for the cold weather that we still have right now here in Brussels, as all shops already have their Spring/Summer collection on, but I think from these you can see the style I was talking about (even if now they are all topped up with warm coats, scarves and gloves).
As you can see, it is not a very formal style (you don't have to wear black pants with a matching blazer and a white shirt all days), but it is still not the type of clothes you would probably wear on a weekend or on holidays. For those of you who already had previous work experiences in the corporate world (in companies, enterprises, consultancy firms, law firms, banks, etc), you'll just have to keep the style you were used to and you'll probably be able to bring the clothes you were already used to wear and do not have to buy new ones. I am one of the people who just kept the style she was used to, as the dress code here is pretty much the same as of the law firm where I worked.

Bear in mind, however, that you should wear something more formal in the days you have special events (like a meeting with someone important, or a public conference you'll have to attend). You'll notice that the higher the people are in the internal hierarchy, the more formal they dress (it is completely different to be a Head of Unit or a Director who has meetings and events all days, or a secretary or a trainee who stays in the office most of the time). It also depends on the DG and Unit you work on, I guess. In mine, most people are lawyers, so they dress up in the style I have mentioned... I suppose that in some DGs where most people are engineers, journalists, human resources people, the style can be more informal and seeing people in jeans could be more frequent.

As for men, there's not much to suggest: all of them here wear suits, but during the office hours they hardly ever wear ties. Nevertheless, they have some ties saved in the office in case they have to leave for a meeting or a conference and, in those occasions, they always wear them. In the end, it will be up to you to understand what style you should adopt here and what is appropriate in the context of the work you'll be performing.


  1. Very nice article, but sadly that it reflects only women dress code, I think to read smth about dress code for men would be very nice too ;-)

    1. Thanks, Linas!

      As for men, I mention it in the last paragraph: I think there's not much to suggest as I see them all wearing suits and shirts :) maybe in other DGs they are a bit more "creative", but here lawyers are like that eheh.

  2. Thanks for this! I am starting next month at the EP as a trainee and have been worrying about how formal the dress code might be.
    So now I'll have to make the trip to Mango (fine with me!)

  3. Thank you so much! Finally I found the information I needed :)

  4. Thank you very much for the information.