"Dress shabbily, and they remember the dress; dress impeccably, and they remember the woman." ~ Coco Chanel
Coco Chanel surely knew what she was talking about when she famously said these words. How you present yourself can make an impact on someone instantly. But, does dressing for success really work? While naysayers would be quick to spring with the age-old "never judge a book by its cover", there's no assuring that others will always extend this courtesy to you.
For example, did you know- people make their first impression within the first seven seconds of interaction with you? Now, that is saying a lot. Indeed, they're not scrutinizing you for your 'inner beauty.' Inevitably, in the corporate world, this also means that you have just a few seconds to make a good first impression—whether it's a job interview, a networking event or a business meeting.
Understanding Dress Code Terms
Dressing for success is not always about wearing the fanciest piece of clothing you own. Often, it can mean adhering to the dress code of your workplace in the best way possible.
Before you understand how to dress for success, you should be able to distinguish between the different types of dress codes in a workplace. Here are the main types you need to know about before you begin:
It makes sense to assess the type of position you're holding well before you understand if business formal is for you. For example, if you have a high-level position and are regularly meeting executives or if you're working in a law firm, then "boardroom attire" —as it's often called—is for you.
A well-cut pantsuit or skirt suit in a neutral colour is an ideal choice with closed-toe heels. Also, if you're wearing a skirt, it would be good to ensure that it's no more than 2 inches above the knee.
Choose a neutral colour for your nail paint, or go for a transparent coat; just to add a sheen.
Business professional is a step down from business formal. At the same time, it is still as neat and traditional as the latter; however Business Professional does allow for flexibility.
This means that pantsuits or skirt suits aren't a must. You can go for trousers with a formal top or a jacket in a neutral shade. You can also pair your workwear with jewellery, but be sure not to go over the top with distracting pieces.
Business casual is possibly the most common dress code in offices during recent times. The business casual dress code offers a lot of variety to experiment with and make it a much more personal style statement.
So, business casual means you can wear dressy tops or pants, separates that can be mixed, just as long as it’s not too brightly coloured or revealing. You can also wear chunky jewellery as well as scarves or stoles. For shoes, you can use flats or pumps but make sure they’re closed-toe.
It's good to keep in mind that business casual varies from each organization, and it's always better to check with the HR first, so you can be sure you're sticking to it.
A casual dress code is probably the most comfortable, but that doesn't mean you should throw all professionalism outside the window.
You need to make sure your clothes aren't too casual and keep cleanliness a priority. You should neatly groom your hair and nails, keep your shoes clean, and stick to closed-toe footwear. Simple dress codes also mean you can wear tops or blouses in non-traditional colours. However, to remain professional, steer clear of shirts with a busy design or a lot of wording.
Dress for success or failure
Why is dressing for success important, anyway?
Have you noticed that when you're dressed impeccably, you automatically feel more confident? It's not just that— wearing nice clothes to work also affects how people perceive you and your ability to think abstractly. You see it happen every day: people with great potential are often overlooked because they don't look or smell good.
There are countless horror stories of interviewees improperly dressed or groomed, possibly missing out just because of their attire. If you’re wondering why dressing for success is important, consider this: there's no telling who you'll meet and what opportunities you might miss if you don't look successful. After all, even Cinderella didn't snag her Prince Charming in her worn-out, tattered clothes! Here are just a few ways of why you should dress for success:
- It attracts the right crowd
To become successful, you should be able to impress the right people. You would likely want to surround yourself with people who have goals and ambitions like yours, in order to stay inspired and feel motivated to become better. When you convey that through your dressing, you will find people who think similarly on your way to excellence.
- It builds the feeling of productivity
Have you noticed that a set of PJs is more likely to push your productivity down a notch and set a feeling of lethargy even while you work from home? On the other hand, you feel more motivated to get things done and are up on your feet a lot more when you're dressed up.
- It reflects good personality
There's a reason why you never seem to suspect an impeccably dressed person in the movie you're watching to be villainous! Dressing well and staying groomed conveys more than just power, authority and confidence. It signifies self-respect. The way you decide to present yourself to the world is how they’ll take you. And if you show that you care for yourself by making sure you’re looking your best at every given opportunity, it makes you stand out from the crowd.
Dressing for success has always been associated with formal attire, but it doesn't come with instructions on designing your outfit. It's better to strategize your clothing rather than just throwing on a suit and calling it a day.
Here are a few tips and secrets that could be useful to you when the occasion calls for it.
Tips To Dress For Success
The best thing about dressing for success is that it's a piece of cake. You don't have to hit the jackpot for it, and if you keep these tips in mind, you'll give the impression of success:
- Get Inspired
Try to check out seasonal fashion changes to draw some inspiration and plan for your next outfit. You could flip through magazines, surf the web and gain some insight through your favourite celebrities' most stylish looks. This will help you build your own personal style while still staying with whatever’s in.
- Keep it simple.
Treat accessories as just that. They are meant to be add ons and not your whole look. When accessorizing, make sure never to go over the top. Your jewellery and belts should never be too distracting or jazzy. They shouldn't take away from your outfit so you can be confident in whatever you wear.
- Pick your path
Just because something is trending doesn't mean you should always go with it. All styles aren't for everyone, and this is a good thing. Get clear on which style cue resonates with you the most and go with it.
- Keep it clean
This is a no-brainer. Clothing should always be clean and pressed. Although, well-fitted clothing is something that most people overlook. Nothing is worse than when your suit is too baggy or too tight. Also, limit the use of perfume and don't overdo it just because you want to smell good. It could have the opposite effect.
- Dress for the occasion
Always make sure to dress according to the event, so if it's a black-tie, they are talking about a tuxedo. Add a jacket or stole regardless, when there's a more casual event and you're not sure about the attire. It's better to be the best-dressed person in the room than to be underdressed.
- Invest in timeless pieces
Some things are worth investing in if you can. The classic white shirt, a black pencil skirt, a grey pantsuit, leather handbags and good shoes. Why? Because they can elevate your look, and they'll always stay in trend. Pair them with a fabulous pair of shoes and less expensive apparel to create a stunning look.
- Embrace your Go-To’s
It may be tempting to feel like you have to dress a certain way when you’re already under pressure for a big presentation or a meeting. But when in doubt, stick to what’s comfortable. There’s nothing worse than jinxing an outfit that you’re obviously uncomfortable in when you have a lot on your plate. Don’t ditch that go-to for your important meeting. Wearing whatever makes you feel comfortable and confident can further motivate you to bring out your best self.
- Ignore the rules sometimes
The workplace is forever evolving and this means that dress codes change with the drop of a hat. What works today will not work tomorrow, so it’s better to experiment with your style every now and then and break some rules. Try pairing denim with denim or choose navy with black. Above all, have some fun and get creative when it comes to fashion. Isn’t that the way trends are created anyway?
Keep in mind that dressing for success doesn’t mean that the first impression lasts forever. It’s about making the best impression over and over again, every time you enter a meeting or an interview. Your workplace could have the most traditional dress code or may evolve into something more casual, but all arguments aside - How you dress matters a lot!
What you wear can affect you, the others you work with and can even influence the way your company is treated. By choosing to dress for success every day, you get to create an environment where you grow and continue to shine. With a great goal in mind, a good dressing sense will enhance your work ethic and become stepping stones to a larger, brighter future.