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How to Dress for Business Success

Posted on: August 13th, 2012 by No Comments

In a business world where we’re often hiding behind our computer monitors instead of holding face-to-face meetings, it’s sometimes easy to forget the impact our clothes have on making people want to work with us – or scaring potential clients away. In addition to a solid work history and a great business card and handshake, an aesthetically pleasing wardrobe is essential for anyone who wants to be taken seriously in the business world. Here are some tips to ensure you’ve got what it takes to make a good impression.

1. Over-dress, Don’t Under-dress.

Casual Fridays and under-enforced workplace dress codes have made it easy for employees to get away with outlandishly unprofessional attire in many American workplaces. Surveys have shown that some professionals perceive a decrease in productivity and an increase in absenteeism when dress codes become more lax. Whatever the requirements for your workplace, your best bet is to stay at least a few steps above them to keep your own enthusiasm high and to convey to others that you’re not fooling around.

2.    Dress Your Sizebe sure to dress your size

European-style skinny trousers and summery loud-patterned shirts may flit into fashion this season, but if you’re one of the nearly 70 percent of Americans who are overweight or obese, these trends should not affect the way you dress! We interviewed a fashion expert who runs an elite clothing boutique in Miami’s Design District, and she had this to say on the matter: “In Italy right now, they’re going with the ‘geek chic,’ a shorter hemline. But I wouldn’t recommend that for somebody who’s overweight.” In the interest of elongating the silhouette, bigger people should look for longer cuts on shirts and jackets. Short-cropped shirts will make your torso look stubby, or worse, allow peeks of your jiggly belly or cavernous butt crack. This should be avoided at all costs, especially if there are small children around the workplace. And above all, go for clothes that fit – not too big or you’ll look like you’re wearing a circus tent, and not too small, for obvious reasons.

3.     Stick to the Classics

A wise man once said “You go to school to learn, not for a fashion show.” Okay, so that “wise man” was Will Smith mocking his mom in his hit 1990s rap Parents Just Don’t Understand. But that doesn’t mean we can’t glean some wisdom from his words. Work is about getting work done, not making a spectacle of yourself. If you constantly wear loud or revealing outfits that just beg people to take notice of you, you might soon start to be known more for your outrageous clothes instead of for your outstanding work. For those who are especially clueless, “classics” mean: blue or white button down shirts, black or khaki slacks, modest ties (no sports themes or cartoon characters!), black socks and conservative dress shoes or loafers. For women, it means skirts that fall just above the knee, conservative blouses (cleavage can come out on the weekend), well-made flats or sensible heels, sparse jewelry, and minimal makeup.

4. Don’t Be a Slob

Wearing wrinkled or stained shirts, jeans (outside of casual Friday or weekend meetings), sneakers, or thread-bare or cheap-looking clothing is a sure-fire way to destroy your image as an employee or a professional. Even the kindest person in the world is incapable of withholding judgment when they’re doing business with a person who looks like he just crawled out of a cardboard box. This applies differently depending on your line of work; obviously the owner of a beer and burger joint has a little more leeway than the CFO of a Fortune 500 company. But regardless of your enterprise, it is always advantageous to look clean and polished – even if that simply means pulling on a fresh T-shirt and getting your hair trimmed.

5. Do Not Underestimate Your Interview Clothes

First impressions canDress well for your interviewnot be undone. Wearing ill-fitting clothes to an interview – a jacket so big it dwarfs your shoulders, or so small that it makes you look like you turned into the Incredible Hulk after you put it on – will do nothing less than make your potential employer think that you are a poor planner in general. Wearing clothes that are too casual – jeans and a jacket, for example – will make you run the risk of appearing not to take your job seriously. Avoid these situations by keeping things excessively simple: have one conservative, ironed, and perfectly fitted suit, shirt, tie, and shoes ready to go on the morning of your job interview. If you get the job, wear a similar outfit on the first day. The guy next to you might tell you you don’t have to dress that nicely tomorrow. That’s a lot better than him telling you to dress better tomorrow.