It’s easy to dismiss the importance of your workplace attire as being something that seems minimally important. That it shouldn’t reflect on you as much as your performance and productivity. But the truth is that people make inferences about your capabilities based on your appearance — whether it seems fair or not.
Traditional wisdom is to dress for the job you want and not the job you have. And that is savvy advice — if you are not sure what your wardrobe should look like, a great way to get started is to study and then emulate other successful people in your company. Keep in mind that every company and industry are different — what might be an appropriate wardrobe option in a creative industry might be all wrong in a bank, for example. Find out what your company and industry norms are and make sure you look the part.
Of course there are some rules that apply no matter what the industry or job. You should never wear clothing that doesn’t fit — if it’s too large, it will look sloppy and if it’s too small it can send the wrong message.
And workplace attire stretches farther than just your actual clothing. Your grooming — which includes whether you are clean shaven for men, and how you do your hair and makeup if you are a woman — is an important part of your overall profile.
Similarly you should consider your accessories, including shoes and briefcases/purses. Accessories like scarves, jewelry and ties can help change outfits so that they look fresh even if they are basics that you wear frequently. Stretching your budget is much easier if you invest in solid pieces that are high-quality that can be made to look different with accessories. It’s also a great way to incorporate trendier looks without wasting money on clothing that will look dated sooner rather than later.
Shoes are an important anchor to any outfit. Choose shoes that are comfortable, but high-quality, and make sure that you get them professionally heeled and shined when needed. Believe it or not, the quality and upkeep of your shoes can be an important indicator of your attention to detail and should not be overlooked. Briefcases and handbags are another area where you should buy the best you can afford. High-quality pieces you carry for a long time beat out lower-quality pieces that you need to constantly replace, or that don’t reflect professionally on you. Something that you use every day and take to client meetings should reflect the best you can afford. When you consider “cost per wear,” and that this is something you use every day, you can see how investing in high-quality pieces is vital.
Not sure how to dress well on a budget? Most department stores have personal shoppers who can help you select clothing that fits well and looks good on you. They might push you to experiment with color, add accessories or otherwise change your look in a way that’s more flattering, modern or tasteful but something that you might not have thought of trying on your own. They also can help you select clothing pieces that will work together so you don’t end up with a closet full of clothes but nothing to wear. Best of all – and not everyone knows this – but their services are free! They are employed by the department store to help customers with their look. So it’s in their best interest to find pieces that you like and that are affordable because the only way they make their money is when you buy something. That’s why it might be worth the time to visit and have them help steer you in the direction of a look that’s right for you. Even if the clothes they select are out of your price range, you will have a better idea of what to look for at a lower priced store.
Your workplace attire is more important than you think — it shows people that you understand social cues, and it also shows them how you feel about yourself. It’s not about dressing expensively but about dressing appropriately.
But no matter what you wear, don’t forget the age-old advice that you are “never fully dressed without a smile.” That’s the one accessory that you should never leave your home without!
Following are some more workplace attire tips: