Your style: a tool to promote your professionalism
Are you an entrepreneur with a start-up business? Have you just entered or re-entered the workforce after several years at home supporting your spouse? Perhaps you?ve received a promotion and you have new responsibilities.
With all of these situations comes a new challenge beyond the ones outlined in your job description. You may be asking this very question: How do I dress for this?
The first step is to analyze the way your employer and others in the office are dressing. No doubt there is an unwritten (and occasionally a written) dress code that others are adhering to. If you are not sure, ask your boss or someone you respect about what they expect their employees to wear.
If you are self-employed, pay attention to how others in your field dress. Always try to dress slightly above instead of below what seems to be expected.
Another factor to consider is the type of work environment. For example, if you work in technology, media or entertainment, you may find the clothing choices are quite casual. There may be no established rules, so it is challenging to dress appropriately without overdressing. At the opposite end of the spectrum, you may work in law, finance or education, and this requires a corporate appearance. This environment presents the challenge of looking current without compromising seriousness and class.
Addressing the latter, how do you dress appropriately in the corporate world?
First some don?ts: Don?t show cleavage. Don?t bare your shoulders with spaghetti straps or tank tops. Don?t show too much leg (2? above the knee is the highest your skirt should go). Don?t wear anything overtly sexy.
Why all these don?ts? Primarily you want to be taken seriously on the job. You do not want your clothing or body speaking before you do. Clothes should go hand in hand with the dignity and intelligence you already possess. Wearing anything too revealing actually compromises you and your company?s credibility.
Suit jackets are a great way to exude authority and intelligence. There have actually been studies done that analyze the effects of a suit jacket on a woman.
One such study was done by the University of Manitoba in 1993. It found ?that a woman wearing a jacket was perceived to have greater experience and legitimate power than a woman not wearing a jacket.?
What other ways can you dress for success in the boardroom and elsewhere?
Do allow your personality to shine through by using accessories (choose one to three as opposed to many). Do choose well-fitting tailored suits. Do incorporate some colour with your shirts, shoes, scarves and jewellery. Do choose neutral suit colours like grey, brown, charcoal, black and navy.
Remember, you should always keep your clothing clean and tidy. Find a good tailor and have your skirt hems fixed as they need it, pants hemmed to fit the shoe you wear them with most, and any other mending.
Always follow the instructions for the care of your garments. Go to work with everything pressed and in good order. These seemingly small areas go a long way in keeping your look professional.
Finally, a question that is often raised: Is it okay if I dress above my boss? The answer used to be a quick ?No!? However, things have changed over the years. While you should not dress formally (business suits, etc) in a casual workplace, you should dress appropriately.
For example, some bosses may be very laid back (wearing shorts and graphic tees) and occasionally sloppy. In this situation, you should not follow that attitude in your own attire.
Try to stay within the norms of the business environment, but always dress neatly, never sloppy, untidy or lacking seriousness.
Do not, however, try to outshine your boss if they do dress appropriately and/or they are overly sensitive in this area.
As you apply these quick tips, your style will be a tool to promoting your professionalism and skills in the workplace.