How to Dress for DECA Competition

As a chapter advisor the past ten years, I’ve seen many different looks when it comes to DECA members dressing for competitive events. While many members do an excellent job, there are those who leave me shaking my head as I wonder: “What were they thinking?” 

Here are a few tips for all competitors to keep in mind, as well as suggestions for both male and female competitors:

  1. Make sure to follow the district and association dress codes at your local level. And make sure you have read the international guidelines before arriving at ICDC. They can be found here:
  2. You should not wear a black skirt or black dress pants with your navy DECA blazer—this is a major fashion faux pas! Stick with khaki or grey. 
  3. On the same note, you shouldn’t wear black dress shoes with a khaki skirt or khaki dress pants. These colors don’t go well together and therefore aren’t a professional look. Wear a brown or cordovan-colored shoe for a better match.
  4. Don’t overdo it on fragrance (cologne and perfume) or jewelry. I always tell my competitors that if they have to ask if something is okay, it probably isn’t!
  5. Think conservatively for competition and treat it as you would a job interview. I understand the desire to stand out and look flashy, but remember that “dressing for success” isn’t the same as “dressing to impress.” Stick to conservative colors and an overall conservative look.
  6. When wearing a blazer or suit jacket with two buttons, only button the top button. When wearing a jacket with three buttons, only button the top two. Unbutton your buttons when sitting down.

Female Competitors

  1. Skirts should be within two inches of the knee. 
  2. Hosiery may seem old fashioned, but it is still a more conservative look and therefore perhaps the preferable one for some judges.
  3. Shoes should be close-toed and you shouldn’t have an extremely high heel. If you can find a professional looking flat, go with that. In almost all cases, boots simply don’t look professional for DECA competition.
  4. If you have long hair, find a way to wear it up in a professional fashion so you don’t play with it. You may not think you play with your hair, but it’s amazing what people do when they’re nervous.
  5. Keep makeup simple and professional in appearance.

Male Competitors

  1. Wear a tie and learn how to tie it properly. Just don’t try to learn how 30 minutes before a role-play, when you ought to be focusing on your presentation and not worrying about your outfit. One of my pet peeves is ties that are too short! Your tie should hit your belt buckle—it shouldn’t be any shorter or any longer than this.
  2. Shave any facial hair. This doesn’t mean trimming it, but rather losing it completely. While people in the business world may have beards, goatees, etc., I would caution against facial hair for DECA competitions or job interviews. Being clean-shaven is simply more professional looking.
  3. Your dress sock should match your dress pant as closely as possible. Athletic socks are absolutely unacceptable.
  4. Athletic footwear is never acceptable as a dress shoe, no matter what color the shoe is. Buy dress shoes!
  5. There are so many great, conservative ties in patterns that incorporate navy blues, light blues and yellows that go very well with the newer DECA blazer patch. I would recommend a conservative tie somehow incorporating these colors against a white or light blue dress shirt for the most powerful look.

Good luck in all levels of competition!

Follow Keegan O'Brien on Twitter @AEastDECA.