September 15th, 2011

Clothes the Deal: What You Wear to Work Really Does Matter

by Jacqueline Whitmore

Business women spend countless hours on their education, networking, writing papers, getting credentials, taking workshops and classes — anything to stay competitive and get ahead, but a majority of them overlook their own visual résumé as part of the package.

Never underestimate the power of your own image. When you dress in a way that lets people know you have a sense of security, and present yourself in a professional manner, it makes a huge difference.

Call it “dress for success” or “dress for the job you want” — it’s more than an adage for women. Style and image have played and continue to play a crucial role in the career strategies and trajectories of many high-powered execs. How you look says a lot about you — whether you’re organized, lazy, fashion-forward, creative, or serious.

When you make an effort to present your best self, it shows respect for your employer, your job, and the career strata in which you aspire. When you dress sloppy, you send the message that your comfort and the way you like to dress are more important than your potential audience. When you dress well, you command the respect of your peers, and communicate what kinds of business opportunities you’d like to have.

Critics may think that focusing on appearance as part of one’s career strategy sounds superficial — that we should be judged for our intelligence and experience, not our style. But will someone really want to listen to you if you look dull, boring, meek, and frumpy? Sure, it’s what’s on the inside that counts, but sadly, that’s not how the workforce works.

When you dress professionally you feel more suited for the job. You feel the authority, the professionalism, and the respect internally, and you project that out onto the world.

Here are my top seven tips on building image and showing style at work:

  1. Prevent wrinkles and missing buttons.
  2. Keep your clothes and shoes looking fresh and in good condition. Make friends with your local drycleaner, tailor, and bootblack.
  3. Pay attention to details like your nails. If you wear open-toe shoes to work, maintain a nice pedicure. Your nails tell an employer that you’re likely to pay attention to details at work, too.
  4. Don’t skimp on shoes. You have only one pair of feet, so buy the best shoes you can afford.
  5. Avoid the “soccer mom” uniform for work: khakis, sneakers, and a cardigan don’t convey authority.
  6. A jacket is an empowering garment. Keep one on the back of your office door in case you’re called to attend an important presentation or an unexpected meeting with the boss.
  7. You sabotage your power when you wear anything over-the-top or too sexy.

What are some other ways that women sabotage their visual brand? Let me hear from you!

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4 Responses to “Clothes the Deal: What You Wear to Work Really Does Matter”

  1. Rina Delaplane on September 22nd, 2011 3:26 pm

    I always liked to dress in a suit, still do. I had the experience many times, that people walked up to me, thinking that I was the boss. That made me take notice. Now that I am the boss I have a strict dress code. Nothing sloppy allowed.

  2. Jacqueline on September 22nd, 2011 7:22 pm

    Thank you, Rina, for your comment. I agree with you! ~Jacqueline

  3. Sheronda on September 23rd, 2011 1:30 pm

    I realized that I was unhappy in my job and it showed in my style of dress. Khaki’s, sneakers (ugh) just like you said. I want to move up in my company and one thing I can do is start with dressing for the job I want to have.

  4. Jacqueline on September 23rd, 2011 6:52 pm

    Good job, Sheronda!

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