Dressing for Success at Work

I have always been told I dress very well, even when I first entered the workplace many moons ago earning what seemed like pennies on the dollar. I am a firm believer that one can dress professionally and project an unyielding confidence without having to break the bank. It is how you piece together an outfit that matters.


When I was hired for my first job, I had no clue of how to dress professionally. In college, my ‘uniform’ was blue jeans, t-shirts and sweatpants. So when I landed a sales manager position fresh out of school, I faced the dilemma of what to wear.

I read through magazines, walked the malls and watched how women I admired dressed. I bargained shopped for shoes and clothes which when pulled together looked quite expensive. The key was that I looked professional and exuded an air of confidence that belied my experience.

Today, there are many definitions of professional attire. CEO’s wear jeans and hoodies; it has become acceptable for women to wear very short dresses (more than 5 inches above the knee) and body piercing is rampant.

However, at the end of day, first impressions are everything. You have no more than 3 seconds to make a good first impression.

What are the advantages of dressing for success?

1.  An immediate good impression
2.  Exude confidence
3.  Be treated with more respect and taken more seriously

My motto, always dress for the position above what you currently hold. This way you dress and perform in this manner with the bonus of upper management taking notice.
So what are the guidelines for dressing for success at work?

  • Know Your Company and Your Client – In recent years dressing for the office has become a little more relaxed and casual in certain professions where others remain highly conservative. Dress to reflect your job. If you are in fashion, you better be fashionable. Carefully consider your company’s dress code policy and whether it is casual, conservative, stylish or young and fresh, prior to going out and splurging on a new wardrobe. To extend your wardrobe, make sure your pieces are versatile.  For example, one day you may be meeting with a creative agency where everyone is dressed casually; the next day you may have a meeting with a financial institution client, where standard practice is suit and tie. So dress appropriately for your company and your client.
  • Organize – Keep all of your work-appropriate attire in a designated space in your closet. Not only will you save time in the morning scramble of trying to find something to wear, there will be no question in your mind as to whether or not the clothing is appropriate. By the same token, designate closet space for clothes that are not appropriate for work, like shorts, flip flops, t-shirts, miniskirts and sweats.
  • Be Appropriate – No matter the company, use common sense and be appropriate. Women – avoid anything too low-cut, formfitting or short. If you would wear it to a club on Saturday night or to the beach, don’t wear it to work, even if you add a scarf to it.
  • Shop Strategically – Professional attire is not something any professional should skimp on. The quality of your clothing shows and sometimes you need to fake it until you make it. It is worth it to invest in a few key pieces that will stand the test of time and are easy to mix and match. For the women spend more on things like shoes, purses and belts. For men, you can never have enough dress shirts and your “go-to” blazer.
  • Dress Your Age – In terms of work dress, many young professionals make one of two mistakes: they dress too young (in too tight or revealing clothing for women, or sloppy, college boyish attire for the men); or they dress too old for their age in an attempt to make themselves seem more “professional.” Dress your age. Let your intellect reflect your wisdom and worldliness, not necessarily your attire.
  • Easy on the Makeup and Cologne/ Perfume – Make up should be understated and neutral. Save the smoky eyes for Saturday night out on the town. The same can be said for perfume and cologne – pick something that is lighter and more day-appropriate and don’t overdo it.
  • Details Matter – For men and women alike, maintain clean, clipped, well-groomed nails to complete your professional appearance. For most professions, men – keep any facial hair properly groomed. Keep your shoes clean, as dirty shoes can throw off an otherwise polished appearance. Finally, no matter how casual your clothes are, make sure they are ironed and wrinkle-free.
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