Business Dress to impress! Can your appearance affect your career prospects?

‘Dress how you want to be addressed’

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I came across an article recently. It was giving women advice on how they should DRESS for the workplace in the summer… The kind of advice which makes YOU really question your own ability to dress yourself!

Are you allowed to wear open toe sandals? Well, apparently YES if they are Manolo Blahniks latest design, oh but the heel should not be above 3 inches.

Are you allowed to wear a sleeveless blouse? Only if you are not showing too much ‘bare leg’ at the same time. And so it went on!

When it comes to business dress options, we have quite a few more choices than men!

Men can wear a two piece suit with shirt and tie or a three piece suit with shirt and tie….and that’s kind of it. If they are feeling particularly daring, they may even take the tie off and unbutton their shirt!

For WOMEN it gets way more complicated and my clients often ask me HOW they should be dressing in the workplace, especially when it comes to heading into negotiation OR even being taken seriously in meetings.

I FEEL pretty!

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Once women get into managerial positions in the workplace, their appearance can actually become a liability. They are often judged by the fact they are too blonde or too pretty… casting a stereotypical dark shadow on how they could possibly be capable of doing their job well.

You have to know that how you look and dress will have an impact on how your colleagues and management perceive you. Yep, your appearance could actually be distracting away from all the amazing things you are achieving.

Take a LOOK around you

It pains me to say this, BUT take a look around you or spend some time online looking at business women in power. You will notice one thing. They have all had to change their appearance to be taken seriously in the position they are in. I am not talking about celebrities, I am talking about women in business.

This is not just an appearance issue, age can also be a reason for change too!

For Example;

Silicon Valley CEO Eileen Carey dyed her blonde hair brown, toned down her dress and even started wearing glasses, all because she deemed being ‘dowdy’ would mean she would be taken seriously.

I actually find this SAD and sends a poor message to WOMEN. If we cannot DRESS for ourselves in the workplace, are we just being FAKE?

Another, but different Example;

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Throughout her presidential campaign, Hilary Clinton was constantly judged on her outfits rather than her message. Having spent an estimated $200k on clothes alone, she was well aware of how SHE dressed was going to WIN or LOSE her votes. Sad but true.

BUT for her, it was about glamming up, rather than glamming down. She had to come across as youthful, modern and appeal to both MEN and WOMEN alike.

You are your own personal BRAND and clothing is another way of expressing this to the world and ultimately in business too.

DRESS for YOU or THEM?

I always say DRESS for yourself and how you feel comfortable. Sure, be aware of the occasion you are dressing for and use common sense, BUT do not dumb yourself down.

Here are the top 5 tips I give my clients when they are entering the workplace or a negotiation scenario.

1. As I have said. DRESS for YOU.

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If that cute little black dress with a pair of black killer heels makes you feel good, confident and empowered, those feelings will ooze out of you in the workplace. When you feel good, you look good and people will notice your confidence.

2. Research the workplace and dress accordingly.

If you are going to an interview, why not pop into the office or reception area and get a feel for the look of the company. Look online or on Linkedin profiles, can you see what current employees are wearing? All else failing, give the receptionist a call and ask! Receptionists are the front of the company and will be fully aware of the importance of appearance.

For example;

You may want to wear a red suit, but honestly, you know the company seems reserved, so get out that AMAZING black suit instead, but hey why not wear a red pair of earrings. Do not CHANGE yourself. DRESS for you, but use your common sense. Employees at a startup company in California will dress differently to a law firm in Paris!

3. USE color to EXPRESS your confidence and personality.

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COLOR can play a huge part in our lives and we are often drawn to COLOR without even realizing. Using color in the workplace can have a HUGE effect on how you are perceived.

You will notice most business dress is black or grey, both of which are SAFE colors, but equally too much black in the workplace can give an impression of FEAR and be OVERPOWERING.

For Example;

RED is a great power color. RED is the color of passion, confidence, leadership, danger and is very primal. If you have a meeting you want to feel empowered in, wear a RED suit jacket and see what happens?

4. Smell like a ROSE not like a PERFUME counter.

Too much perfume can actually be just as bad as dressing BADLY. How many times have you been in an elevator with someone who is wearing strong perfume? You feel sick, you cannot breathe and you just WANT fresh air. The last thing you want to do it PERFUME yourself away from that job offer or salary increase.

5. FEEL good in your SKIN.

This is probably the MOST important point. We all have body issues, certain hang-ups and FAT days, BUT if these thoughts are sabotaging your career - DO SOMETHING to change it. Feeling good in your own skin will lead you to FEEL good in everything you wear. Put yourself first and SEEK help, join a gym or even just start to talk positively to yourself.

The Devil wears PRADA

Great movie - right? The truth is we all judge and are judged, that’s life AND yes as WOMEN we get judged more so in the workplace. BUT knowing how to PLAY to your advantages in the workplace will only help you achieve your goals. DRESS for THEM and the occasion, but ultimately DRESS for YOU.

 

 

 

Olivia Jaras