Dress for Suc­cess!

Enterprise - - Business fashion -

T

he way you dress speaks vol­umes about who you are as a per­son and as a pro­fes­sional. When you en­ter a room, it takes only a few sec­onds for peo­ple you’ve never met to form per­cep­tions about you. You don’t have to ut­ter a word be­cause, re­gard­less of who you are, your clothes and body lan­guage al­ways speak first.

To be­gin with, there is no sin­gle set of rules that will work for ev­ery­one. But there are a hand­ful of char­ac­ter­is­tics that most suc­cess­ful busi­ness com­mu­ni­ca­tors share when it comes to dress and groom­ing.

The cor­po­rate cul­ture and the role you play in it should guide your choice of busi­ness at­tire. It all hinges on the norms of the busi­ness cul­ture or the in­dus­try you are in. It is also true that while your at­tire can be a ve­hi­cle for per­sonal ex­pres­sion, you can pay a price for vi­o­lat­ing the writ­ten and un­writ­ten codes.

It needs to be borne in mind that busi­ness at­tire is dif­fer­ent from so­cial at­tire and is more for­mal. How­ever, de­ter­min­ing just how for­mal can it be is a bit tricky. The pa­ram­e­ters that cover busi­ness at­tire are nar­rower than they are for so­cial at­tire. For ex­am­ple, so­cial at­tire can be more sug­ges­tive or flashier or make more of a state­ment, while busi­ness at­tire is tuned to the needs of the busi­ness cir­cum­stance.

At the busi­ness or pro­fes­sional level, your cloth­ing and groom­ing should not dis­tract. Typ­i­cal for­mal busi­ness at­tire has an ad­van­tage be­cause it can eas­ily di­rect lis­ten­ers to your face and eyes. A light shirt un­der a closed dark busi­ness jacket forms a ‘V’ that opens to­ward the face. A con­trast­ing tie can heighten this ef­fect. Wear­ing some red in the tie can help draw the eyes of your au­di­ence to your own.

In con­trast, a flashy belt buckle can draw the eye to the waist. Bright but­tons, shiny tie clips, colour­ful lapel pins, big metal watches, or other con­spic­u­ous dress ac­ces­sories can di­vert at­ten­tion from your eyes. The same goes for cloth­ing that is overly tight, shiny, or loud.

When you’re in front of a group giv­ing a pre­sen­ta­tion, mak­ing a speech or just plain talk­ing, you typ­i­cally need to dress one notch of for­mal­ity above your au­di­ence. That means if they are wear­ing slacks and shirts, you may want to add a sports jacket to your out­fit. On the other hand, wear­ing a suit and tie in front of an au­di­ence in jeans and T-shirts would not be a good idea.

Re­gard­less of what you are wear­ing, make sure it works. Af­ter all, noth­ing sends a worse mes­sage than a poorly tai­lored jacket. Among the com­mon mis­takes is the wrong sleeve length. The jacket sleeve should end at the mid­dle of your wrist bone, with the shirt sleeve ex­tend­ing three eighths of an inch be­yond. Since many peo­ple are born with one arm longer than the other, make sure the tai­lor checks the length of both sleeves.

If you are not wear­ing a long-sleeved shirt un­der a sports coat, the jacket length should ex­tend to the end of the wrist bone. This will pre­serve the vis­i­bil­ity of your hands with­out call­ing at­ten­tion to the bare­ness of your fore­arms. Con­versely, your jacket sleeve should be shorter if you wear French or dou­ble cuffs, to bet­ter dis­play the cuff and links.

Trouser legs should reach the top of your shoes, form­ing a sin­gle break a lit­tle above the point of con­tact. Socks should cover your calves — this will help you avoid show­ing leg hair ev­ery time you cross your legs. And, on the sub­ject of feet, let’s add a word about shoes. The great Amer­i­can dancer, Fred As­taire, who wrote the book on pop­u­lar dance, said this about footwear: “If you want to know if a fel­low is well-dressed, look down.”

With busi­ness suits wear sim­ple lacedups shoes, not slip-ons. A proper shine on smooth leather will not only pol­ish the up­per, but also elim­i­nate any bare or dull ar­eas along the edge of the sole or the heel. A shoeshine should in­clude edge dress­ing and “heel black” to ad­dress these ar­eas.

Busi­ness pre­sen­ters need more than a pro­fes­sional look. They need to be able to move in their clothes. Tight pants or form­fit­ting jack­ets re­strict move­ment, though de­sign­ers and stylists agree that a per­fect fit con­notes con­fi­dence, ease and au­thor­ity.

Be­ing well-dressed in a cor­po­rate set­ting can greatly in­flu­ence per­cep­tions. Your dress must bring you out as au­thor­i­ta­tive and com­pe­tent.

Al­ways re­mem­ber – suc­cess­ful busi­ness dress­ing is all about be­ing your­self, but a bet­ter, nicer and more ap­peal­ing self. And please don’t overdo it ◆

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