First 7 Pieces Of Clothing You NEED To Buy If You’re Becoming An Accountant (For Woman)

fashion blog for professional women new york city street style work wear

Back to the mailbag:

I am 40 years old and have 18 months left in school until I get my MS of Accounting. I am attending an open house for one the firms on your Top 25 Accounting Firms list at the end of the month. This is my first time attending one of these. What do I wear?

Thanks. P.S. Are accountants ever allowed to show tattoos?

I always love these questions. Female readers asking for advice on their professional dress from me. Now, I did grow up surrounded by women (Mother and Sister), but I’m no expert in female clothes.

That being said, I do have some basic opinions that I’ve developed since being in the profession for a few years.

By saying “Open House”, I’m assuming you mean the accounting firm is opening it’s doors and letting students see what it’s like in the office of a real public accounting firm!

The first time I ever went to an accounting firm office was Warren Averett. A few months ago I had them on The Bean Counter podcast for a MUST listen talk over exactly what they look for in accounting candidates.

I remember thinking, “I don’t want to work in public accounting, I never want to work for the government”.

I had A LOT to learn. Public accounting is nothing about the government!

But to answer your question, I would probably go with business casual. If it was a career fair or interview, I would say business professional.

Here’s a basic definition of business casual and professional for accounting events (Women only):

Business Casual

  1. Pants or skirt
  2. Blouse and or a cardigan
  3. Typically heels or nice flats
  4. Minimal classy jewelry
  5. Clean and groomed hair, usually pulled back for first meetings

Business Professional

  1. Full Pant or skirt suit
  2. Blouse
  3. Heels
  4. Minimal classy jewelry
  5. Clean and groomed hair, usually pulled back for first meetings

Here’s a quick cheat sheet for accounting events:

Career Fair – Business Professional

Mock Interview – Business Professional

Weekly Beta Alpha Psi Chapter Meeting – Business Casual

Happy Hour – Business Casual

Social – Business Casual

Campus Interview – Business Professional

Office Visit (interview at firm offices) – Business Professional

Summer Leadership Conference – Business Casual

CPA Exam – Sweatpants!

If you are just about to enter this accounting career you will probably wonder at one time or another, what are the basic clothes I need?

Here is an excerpt of a total resource for women where I spent an hour with Fadwa Hilili going through every type of womens clothing and how it should look on you. You can find that as part of the course: Get Hired By Big 4 Accounting Firms.

But for now, here’s an excerpt that should help you if you are just getting started as a woman:

What 7 Things To Buy Today

  • An interview suit – at least one pencil skirt in a basic color like black or gray
  • 5-10 nice tops in flattering colors to wear beneath suits or on top of trousers
  • A neutral sheath dress in a flattering shape
  • Button down shirts in white, French blue, or light pink
  • Another cardigan, possibly in black or white
  • Good pair of black heels that are comfortable
  • 2-3 pairs of nice trousers (not too tight, not too lose; they can be as simple as Gap or Old Navy as long as they fit well)

What Not To Wear

  • Sandals of any kind; peep toe shoes are also often questionable at the most conservative offices
  • Tall boots (even knee-high used to be questionable, but over-the-knee styles are definitely questionable)
  • Anything that is overly noisy in the hallways (flip-flops are the primary offender here, but other things qualify also — corduroy pants, for example)
  • Denim or items cut like denim (e.g., 5 pockets) — cords, khakis, etc.
  • Lace or sheer clothing
  • Sleeveless tops or dresses (worn without a cardigan or blazer on top)
  • Any item that can be worn to the gym (sneakers, yoga pants, terry cloth wristbands, large shapeless t-shirts)
  • Anything too short, tight, or low-cut
  • Flip-flops (whether they’re plastic or leather, rethink)

In regards to your second question, on the tattoo…. I only know one prominent member of the accounting industry that flaunts their tattoo and that’s Adrienne Gonzalez. In fact, she even shared the tattoo right here on The Bean Counter! And, she’s not even an accountant but an honorary member of the industry.

For you, I’d cover it up for the interview process. I’d rather keep the focus on other things: your resume and personality.

You want to be dressed and appear appropriate, so people can focus on YOU! A tattoo, major hairstyle/color, and excessive jewelry and perfume just distract from what’s actually important. Are you making a connection with every person you meet at the company? Are you asking tons of questions and showing genuine curiosity and enthusiasm?

Focus on that, and you’ll be hired in no time!

  • Ashley

    As an employee at a Big 4 accounting firm, this list is very comprehensive. I would add that for me a tattoo is very distracting when recruiting prospective hires. Cover it up, please. I also would recommend you cover it up for clients as well as they may also have mixed feelings about it. Just my thoughts.

    • TheBeanCountercom

      Ashley, thank you for your thoughts! I agree. At some firms you’ll have clients ranging from religious organizations to oil and gas companies. You just never know how they will react.

  • Kekies

    This list of clothing options is great. On the tattoo front I waited three years before being comfortable to show a wrist tattoo at my public firm but so far no one within the firm or clients have said a thing. Keep it covered during interviews and don’t flaunt it and you’ll be fine.

    • TheBeanCountercom

      Great insight Kekies! The woman who asked me this question later told me she had a hand tattoo so that’s good to know!

  • big4dropout

    I agree with everything on this list.

    How do we feel about lace in the office? I see it as a no here but I see lace blouses (not sheer, like a 2 layer thing) in the office a lot and it never struck me as inappropriate. Just wondering what the consensus was.

    • TheBeanCountercom

      From discussing with a few lady friends and my wife, the 2 layer lace works great, just no lace panty hose!!

  • Suavratman

    What about attire for the guys?
    Would i need to cut hair gq style and wear a silly tie (all ties are silly, and hair is kept clean, but long pulled back)

    Dude on 40’s

  • warren_wilson_17

    I am looking to get my associates in accounting (entry level) so I would be involved with payroll, bookkeeping or any other entry level work. Would my attire be the same? I am looking to get a tattoo for my birthday. I am a person who wears slacks when in business attire. Do different employers have specific dress codes for female employees?

  • Jaydy

    Thank you so much for this list. You really helped. What of wearing African material, a skirt or jacket or maybe as a headband? Is that a no?