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Dressing for Success

Tim Millett
Published by Tim Millett
08 October 2013

It used to be quite simple to decide what to wear in order to look successful or at least to appear up-and coming or in tune with the corporate culture. A business suit for men was never wrong and a skirt and blouse for women was the success “uniform”.

But like most things in the world today, there are no more hard and fast rules. Some places of business are quite casual and others insist on traditional wear. The key is to blend your personal style within the boundaries of the corporate climate in which you work. Good taste and style will never be out of touch with the reality of dressing for success.

Presentational Style

One of the qualities found in a leader is the ability to successfully function within the work environment in a way that is inspirational and productive. This extends to the very clothes worn to work each day. Dressing for success doesn’t mean spending a fortune on expensive clothes. It means dressing to give the right impression and that impression is one that speaks of competence and productivity.

In other words, it is important to consider presentation just like managers concentrate on presentation when selling concepts, products or services. The care a person takes with his or her appearance is a reflection of personal confidence and belief in the company. When you want to promote a company as professional then dressing like a professional only makes sense.

If there is any doubt about this idea, then just think about all the times you have heard someone say, “She (or he) looks so professional.” It is meant as a compliment on multiple levels including personal and business. People that dress for success are taken more seriously by others, get more notice and are more likely to be promoted or selected for choice assignments.

The general rules for dressing for success include the following.

  • Dress as if you are always prepared to lead a committee or meet the top executive
  • Dress in a way that matches how you wish to be seen as a member of the business community
  • Dress to support the corporate culture
  • Dress to comply with written policies
  • Dress on the side of traditional as opposed to trendy or daring
  • Dress neatly

Dressing for success requires wearing attire that will promote professionalism. It is dressing for the role played as a member of a community which is the work environment. But dressing for success also means dressing so that the professionalism of the organisation is transmitted to customers, suppliers and even competitors.

Promoting Credibility

The general rules of thumb are to choose more traditional clothes. For men this includes pressed slacks and a colour complementary jacket, or suit in a more formal environment, a business shirt, a tie and polished shoes. Women can wear slacks, skirts or suits; polished shoes; and basic jewellery. Colours should be coordinated and flashy accessories need to be avoided.

Dressing for success is a simple and effective way to promote competence and credibility. Dressing inappropriately sends the wrong message to others. One of the best ways to determine the best dress is to look at those within the organisation who have achieved success already. It is a great place to start when looking for dress guidelines.

And remember, if you are looking to move up in your organisation – “dress for the job you want, not for the job you have”.

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