We have all heard the phrase, dress for the job you want not the job you have. This came to my mind while shopping with my daughter. My daughter was looking to upgrade her wardrobe for work and struggled with what she should buy. I began to wonder, with the new generation coming into the workforce, does this phrase still ring true? Or are we becoming a workplace of casual and self-expression? Don’get me wrong I LOVE expressing myself through fashion. Feeling regular – maybe I will wear a v-neck t-shirt, cute scarf, and khakis. Feeling like a rock star – silky cargo pants, fitted button up shirt, and a spiked heel. Then there are days when I want to wear PJ’s to the office and fuzzy slippers (no suggestions at this time LOL). It just depends. But what do you do when it comes to this phrase and the workplace? I want to rule the world, does this mean I wear my crown and my royal mantle to work? Not to be extreme but these are the things that came to mind when this topic came up. And of course, it took me down a rabbit hole of what do I want to be when I grow up and how does that persona dress?
Just because someone wears a polo style shirt and khakis does not always mean they work in IT or Target. Whatever happened to don’t judge a book by it’s cover (even though I do this)? The keyword is judge. Most of us pride ourselves on not judging others. But who are we kidding, we are judging everyone all day long in the workplace. Think about it, you’re sitting in the meeting room waiting on the other participants and it’s like an episode of What Not to Wear or Who Wore it Best. Okay maybe that’s just me but I KNOW MY TRUTH!!
There are studies about first impressions and how people make their judgement when meeting someone new within the first seven seconds of the introduction. Now that’s pressure! You’re probably thinking about all of the new interactions you have made over the week and now it has hit you, you have judged. Okay again, I know my truth! But let’s flip this on it’s side, what did that person think of you? First, that’s none of your business, but let’s roll with it for this post.
You have seven seconds and with our reduced attentions spans (thanks technology) it is probably four seconds to make an impression. So interviews, meetings, speaking engagements, deal pitches, 4 seconds before you even open your mouth the person and/or people are evaluating how they feel about you. With this pressure how do you establish yourself as a successful person? The easiest answer is, the way you dress.
While researching this topic I found that the dress code in corporate America and the standards are pretty low. But this makes it fairly easy to impress. The Goddess of fashion has so many quotes to live by. A girl should be two things, classy and fabulous; fashion fades only style remains the same; dress shabbily and they remember the dress, dress impeccably and they remember the woman. YOU BETTER WERK!!! #CoCoChanel
I tell my team all the time, you are always on an interview at the workplace. Especially in front of leadership. Therefore, how you dress is the first thing people see and it is very important. Now I can do a whole post on shopping on a budget, that said, dressing nice does not equal break the bank. This is an investment in the most important person in your life *YOU*. One last thing before I go into the tips. What is your style and do you have or are you working on your brand (new term of the century)?
Tips – Back to the Basics
Investing in a more classic and staple wardrobe can give you a better bang for your buck and you won’t have to worry about an item going out of style. Below are a few classic items you will need in the workplace that are easily mixed and matched.
- Black slacks, brown slacks, and gray slacks
- White button shirt and blue button shirt
- Black skirt
- Blazer (probably the most expensive item on this list)
- Brown leather shoes (pump/heel)
- Black leather shoes (pump/heel)
- White cardigan
- Black dress (sheath style is classic)
Below is an example and how to add on more pieces and ideas on how to mix & match.
Rule of Thumb
If you are wearing dark pants/skirt and dark shoes, wear dark socks (vice versa on light clothes). There is only one man (God rest his soul) that can pull off white socks in a black (rhinestone) suit and that’s Michael Jackson. Some of us hate pressing our clothes but your clothes should be wrinkle free. Use your clothes dryer and hang immediately to reduce wrinkles and the need to iron. Leave your tight clothes at home and while we are on this touchy subject, invest in some good shape wear. Believe me even the super models wear them. Dress for the occasion, casual Fridays bring out your rip free jeans. Black tie event you will need a very nice dress or gown.
Just to expand on dressing for the occasion, know your audience. If you are meeting with IT experts their dress code may be more relaxed. Meeting with someone in the financial or legal industry, the dress code may be more formal. A little research on the company and the person goes a long way prior to your first engagement. LinkedIn is a great site to learn more about an individual professionally. Are you on LinkedIn, you should be.
Accessories can be your best friend or your worst enemy. Don’t wear too many. For instance, a scarf, statement necklace, long earrings, bracelets on both wrists, a watch, and more than one ring on each hand. TOO MUCH!! Don’t be afraid to accessorize but limit how many at once. Your accessories can spice up a classic look. A great brooch can bring your outfit to another level.
Don’t forget your work bag, especially when walking into a meeting. Invest in a good-functional work bag. If you bring your cell phone to meetings, don’t forget your cell phone case will be on display. Last but not least, invest in a good watch. Select a nice face (big faces are in right now) and purchase different bands so that you can swap them out. I would go with a brown leather band and a black leather band. Just a suggestion.
While being in the office or an external meeting, perception is reality. This is a fact that you need to remember while you are dressing for different occasions. You should always put your best foot forward in the workplace. Remember you are always on an interview even when you don’t expect it. Have a good one!