We are taught not to judge the book by its cover, and yet generally we go off and do exactly that. You can look at clothing as aliberating means of self-expression or just another opportunity for socioeconomic stereotyping, but inthe career world, it provides a shortcut for clients, employers and business partners to assessing one’s attitude and professionalism. Like it or not, your appearance contributes to other’s opinion of you, so you might just as well try to make the best of it.
It does not matter whether you work in an office and are expected to wear a business attire, or at a fast food restaurant and have to show up in a uniform. You should always look neat. Whatever your clothing, make sure to avoid stains, wrinkles, missing buttons or muddy shoes. As petty as it may sound, not being able to take care of your clothing can make people doubt if you are capable of taking care of their business.
Avoid tacky items. You can look “fun and approachable” even without a plastic butterfly in your hair or a cookie monster tie. Also sticking to simple principles like wearing the right size or choosing clothes that are appropriate for the current season can help you avoid making an impression of someone who lacks basic insight. You would not wear a summer dress in January, would you? And if the temperature is below zero and you absolutely have to wear your fluffy boots to a meeting, it may be a good solution to take a pair of business shoes with you to change into.
Know Your Dress Code, Then Tweak It
Dress codes – whether official or not – are a part of corporate culture and as such they will always matter. Even when you are told the company does not have a dress code, it is quite likely that there are certain unwritten expectations you should watch out for. When in doubt, it is always a good idea to simply ask about a dress code, or observe what your boss or colleagues are wearing.
You will likely find that the dress code depends largely on the industry you work in. Business tends to prefer classic smart style with neutral colours, creative industry expects to see a little more of your personality, and if you work in fashion – well, that would be a story on its own.
Dress for your audience. Even if you are a fashionista with impeccable style, your corporate office world may not be ready to see you in culottes and a croppedfur coat, no matter how “in” it is. You can dress in compliance with the dress code and still let your personality show. Pick a feature that will become your signature – a part of your personal branding. Like a certain type of glasses, red lipstick (if allowed), or a briefcase of specific design or colour.
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