Les codes vestimentaires dans différentes cultures : s'adapter à l’international

Dress codes in different cultures: adapting internationally

Dress codes in different cultures: adapting internationally

The importance of dress code in business

In the business world, the image we project is crucial. It is often the first element of judgment of our peers, our collaborators and our customers. This is why the choice of our clothing should never be left to chance. Your outfit can communicate your professionalism, attention to detail, respect for cultural norms, and even your understanding of current trends. Therefore, understanding and mastering dress codes is a huge asset for any businesswoman who aspires to succeed on the international stage.

Understanding cultural nuances

However, the dress code is not universal. It varies greatly from country to country, from culture to culture. Some attire considered appropriate and professional in one country may be seen as inappropriate or out of place in another. So, navigating the complex world of international fashion requires not only a keen sense of style, but also a deep understanding of cultural nuances.

For example, in some cultures, wearing bright, bold colors may be seen as a sign of confidence and innovation, while in others, it may be better to choose more subdued, neutral colors to avoid appearing too ostentatious. Likewise, in some parts of the world, traditional clothing is often incorporated into work attire, while in others, more Westernized attire is the norm.

The aim of this article is to provide you with a detailed guide to dress codes in different cultures, to help you adapt elegantly and professionally to any international business situation. We'll explore the history of women's fashion in business, examine the specific dress codes of different countries and regions, share practical tips for adapting internationally, and study cases of successful businesswomen who successfully navigate these complex waters.

Without further ado, let's begin this exciting journey through the world of international fashion for business women. Whether you are an entrepreneur looking to expand your market abroad, a business executive preparing for an international meeting, or simply a curious businesswoman eager to learn, this article is for you. Prepare to become a true international fashion professional!

The history of women's fashion in business

The evolution of women's fashion over time

The journey of women's fashion in the business world is a reflection of societal progress, and its evolution marks important stages in the emancipation of women. In the early 20th century, when women were just beginning to enter the workforce, clothing options were limited. Skirts and dresses were the norm, often accompanied by a hat and gloves.

It was in the 1980s that the women's pantsuit really took off, symbolizing a new era of female power in the business world. The "power suit", popularized by icons like Margaret Thatcher and later by television series like "Dynasty", has become the symbol of gender equality in the professional world.

Over time, women's fashion in the business world has continued to evolve, reflecting changing mindsets and advances in gender equality. Today, women have greater freedom of choice and can express their individuality through their outfit, while respecting professional codes.

Impact of fashion on the careers of business women

Fashion in business is not about vanity, but about strategy. A study conducted by Princeton University showed that judgments about a person's competence are formed in a fraction of a second, based on their appearance. Thus, the way a woman dresses can influence her career, whether in terms of perceptions of competence, promotions or salary negotiations.

Fashion as a non-verbal communication tool

Fashion is a powerful form of non-verbal communication. It can convey a multitude of messages, from your professionalism to your creativity, from your seriousness to your accessibility. For example, a well-fitted and neat outfit can convey a message of competence and professionalism. Likewise, the choice of colors can also have a significant impact . For example, blue evokes confidence, black sophistication, red energy and passion.

Additionally, understanding how to use fashion as a nonverbal communication tool can be particularly useful in an international context. Every culture has its own dress codes and what is considered appropriate or professional in one culture may not be appropriate in another. Therefore, tailoring your outfit according to cultural context can not only help you make a good first impression, but also build stronger business relationships.

Fashion is a powerful tool in the business world. By understanding its history, its impact on women's careers, and its role as a means of nonverbal communication, you can use fashion to enhance your personal brand, make a positive impression, and succeed in international business.

Country specific dress codes

North America and Europe

United States

In the United States, the dress code varies depending on industry and region . In the finance and law sector, for example, the dress code remains formal: suits, blouses and heels are the norm. However, in tech and creative industries, outfits can be more casual. In areas like Silicon Valley, it's not uncommon to see more informal outfits like jeans and t-shirts. However, even in these cases, it is important to maintain a neat and professional appearance.


In Canada, the dress code is similar to that of the United States, with a tendency to be a little more formal . Business suits and dresses are commonly worn, especially in larger cities like Toronto and Vancouver. It is also important to note that Canadian winters can be very cold, so it is essential to bring suitable warm coats and boots.

The United Kingdom

In the United Kingdom, the business dress code tends to be conservative and formal , particularly in London and in the financial and legal sectors. Suits are the norm, often in muted colors like black, navy or gray. However, accessories can be used to add a pop of color or personality to your outfit.


In France, style is considered a form of personal expression, and this is reflected in the professional dress code . There is a delicate balance between professionalism and chic. Suits, dresses and skirts are commonly worn, often in neutral colors. However, French businesswomen don't hesitate to add a touch of personal style to their outfit, whether through a designer handbag, a silk scarf or an elegant pair of shoes.


In Germany, the business dress code is generally formal and conservative . Suits in muted colors are the norm, and jewelry and makeup are often discreet. However, as in many countries, the degree of formality can vary depending on the industry and region. For example, in Berlin, which has a thriving tech and creative scene, the dress code may be more casual.

Asia and the Middle East


In China, the business dress code tends to be formal and conservative, particularly in large cities and the financial and government sectors. Business suits and dresses in neutral colors are commonly worn. However, red is also a popular color, as it is associated with luck and prosperity. It's important to note that modesty is valued in China, so it's best to avoid overly revealing outfits.


In Japan, the business dress code is very formal and structured. Black, gray or navy blue suits are the norm for women, often accompanied by a white shirt. Jewelry and makeup are generally discreet. It is also common to wear tights or stockings, even in summer. Compliance with rules and standards is very important in Japan, so it is essential to follow the business dress code.


In India, the business dress code may vary depending on the region and industry. In larger cities and in industries like technology and finance, the dress code may be similar to that of Western countries, with business suits and dresses. However, in some regions and businesses it may be common to wear traditional clothing, such as the sari. Bright colors are generally accepted and even encouraged. However, it is important to note that modesty is valued in India, so it is best to avoid overly revealing outfits.

South Korea

In South Korea, the business dress code is generally formal and conservative. Neutral colors like black, gray and navy blue are preferred for business suits and dresses. However, there is also a strong emphasis on fashion and current trends, so modern and stylish variations of business clothing are also common.

It's important to note that appearance matters a lot in South Korea, and a neat and fashionable outfit can help make a good impression. However, modesty is still important, so it's best to avoid outfits that are too revealing.

Finally, because South Korea has cold winters and hot, humid summers, it's important to consider the weather conditions when choosing your outfit. For example, during the summer, opt for light and breathable fabrics, and during the winter, don't forget to wear a warm coat.

United Arab Emirates

In the United Arab Emirates, respect for local culture and Islamic traditions is crucial. Although dress codes in international companies are often similar to those in the West, it is important to remain modest. Suits, long-sleeved blouses, and long skirts or pants are commonly worn. Neutral colors are preferred, although pops of color are generally acceptable. When meeting with clients or local partners, or visiting more traditional sites, clothing may require greater coverage.

Africa and Latin America


In Nigeria, the business dress code may vary depending on the context. In international companies and in large cities, the dress code may be similar to that of the West, with business suits and dresses. However, in many contexts, traditional clothing, such as the boubou or kaftan, may be worn. Bright colors and African prints are often welcome and can be appropriately integrated into business attire.

South Africa

In South Africa, the business dress code is generally formal, although this can vary depending on the industry and region. Business suits, blouses and dresses are commonly worn. However, due to the warm climate, lightweight fabrics are often preferred. Additionally, Friday is often considered a casual day where more informal attire is acceptable.


In Brazil, the business dress code tends to be formal, but with a touch of Brazilian flair. Business suits and dresses are commonly worn, often in brighter colors than in other countries. However, due to the hot climate, it is important to choose lightweight and breathable fabrics. It's also common to wear accessories, like jewelry or scarves, to add a pop of color or personality to an outfit.


In Mexico, the business dress code is generally formal. Business suits, blouses and dresses are commonly worn. However, due to the warm climate, lightweight fabrics are often preferred. It's also common to wear accessories, like jewelry or scarves, to add a pop of color or personality to an outfit.

Australia and New Zealand

In Australia and New Zealand, the business dress code can vary depending on the industry, but it tends to be more casual than in Europe or North America. Business suits, blouses and dresses are commonly worn, but they can often be paired with more casual pieces, like flats or more informal handbags. Due to the warm climate, lightweight, breathable fabrics are often preferred.

However, remember that a casual dress code does not mean sloppy. It is always important to present yourself in a neat and professional manner. Additionally, in some industries, such as finance or law, a more formal dress code may be the norm.

As you can see, whether you do business in Australia, New Zealand, Africa, Latin America, the United Arab Emirates or elsewhere, respecting the local dress code and understanding the cultural context is essential. By tailoring your outfit to each situation, you can not only make a positive impression, but also strengthen your reputation as a respectful and adaptable professional.

Practical tips for adapting internationally

Understanding cultural nuances

The importance of understanding cultural nuances cannot be overstated. Doing thorough research on the country's culture before traveling there on business can help you avoid missteps and adapt more easily. For example, in some countries it may be inappropriate to show too much skin, even in a professional context. In other cultures, certain colors or patterns may have symbolic meaning that is important to know.

Meet local expectations while maintaining your style

Respecting local dress codes is crucial, but that doesn't mean you have to abandon your own style. You can always express your personality through your clothes, whether through the choice of accessories, patterns or cuts. For example, you could wear a colorful scarf with a neutral suit, or choose a jacket cut that flatters your figure. The key is to find a balance between respecting local expectations and expressing your own style.

The choice of colors and patterns

The choice of colors and patterns may vary from culture to culture. In some countries, bright colors and bold patterns are the norm, while in others, more neutral and subdued colors are preferred. Again, the key is to do research and understand the cultural context. However, as a general rule, it is best to choose colors that look good on you and reflect your personality. Patterns can also be a great way to add interest to an outfit, but it's important to use them wisely so you don't appear too extravagant or casual in a professional context.

As you can see, adapting to international dress codes requires flexibility and a willingness to learn. With these tips in mind, you will be well equipped to confidently navigate the world of international fashion business.

Case Studies: Businesswomen who have successfully adapted

Analysis of their fashion strategies

Take the example of Indra Nooyi, the former CEO of PepsiCo. Originally from India, she has successfully navigated the Western business world while remaining true to her roots. She was often seen wearing classic suits, but with a twist: colorful scarves or jewelry that reflected her cultural heritage.

Another example is Isabelle Kocher, former CEO of Engie. Known for her sober and elegant style, she favors dark suits, often embellished with a touch of color in the form of a blouse or accessory. She managed to combine formal Western style and French elegance.

Lessons to learn from their experiences

These women are a perfect example of how you can adapt to business dress codes while maintaining your personal style. They teach us that authenticity is essential and that it is possible to express our identity while respecting the expectations of our professional environment.

To conclude...

Summary of key points

To adapt to international dress codes, it is essential to understand cultural nuances, meet local expectations while maintaining style, and make wise choices when it comes to colors and patterns. Examples of successful businesswomen show that it is possible to successfully navigate diverse environments while remaining true to yourself.

The importance of remaining authentic while respecting dress codes

The most important thing is to stay authentic. The clothes we wear are an expression of who we are, and it's crucial to feel comfortable and confident in what we wear. While respecting local dress codes, remember to express your own style and personality. It is this combination of authenticity and respect that will allow you to succeed in the international business world.

By following Mademoiselle Grenade's advice and learning from the experiences of others, you can become a true international fashion professional. 

Enjoy your fashion adventure! ✈️

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