How to dress for success
The question of what’s appropriate to wear in the work place or to a job interview, is one we are often asked at Dress for Success Sydney. With so many women of all ages, ethnicities, shapes and sizes, it’s not always an easy one to answer. Here are a few
Choose an outfit that makes you feel confident. What we wear is in part an extension of who we are, so it’s important to look and feel yourself. Of course this doesn’t mean wearing flip flops or track suit pants, it means selecting attire that makes you feel confident and at your best. Research shows your mood and confidence can have an impact on your performance, so make sure you start your day with an outfit that makes you feel good.
Dress helps build executive presence. One of the things that sets leaders apart is their executive presence. This is made up of many elements, from strong communication skills and likability, to charisma and a polished appearance. Undoubtedly an executive’s dress plays a strong role in creating this perception. Find an outfit that helps created this polished appearance and builds executive presence.
First impressions count. According to 2011 research by Harvard Medical School and Massachusetts General Hospital, people assess your compe- tence and trustworthiness in a quarter of a second (250 milliseconds) – based solely on how you look. With this in mind, women need to ensure their dress gives a positive and memorable first impression.
The research also found that good grooming habits, which include looking ‘polished’ or ‘pulled together’, are vital in dressing for success. It identified that 83 per cent of senior executives believed ‘unkempt attire’ (which included wrinkled or tootight clothing and visible lingerie) detracts from a woman’s executive presence. There was a marginally smaller percentage (76%) that believed it undermines a man’s.
A suit is not for everyone. Women often fall into the trap of opting for a masculine suit, covering themselves from head to toe. When we surveyed the women from Dress for Success, they too had a perception that a suit was critical in order to look the part.
In fact if you look at the attire of many successful Australian women, you’ll see a dress, skirt or pants is just as prevalent – if not more so. You don’t have to wear a suit to look confident, comfortable and professional.
Dress for the occasion. Not all outfits are created equal. Check your calendar the day before to see if you have an important meeting that may require a slightly more professional look. It could be as simple as adding a jacket, or wearing a nice pair of heels to match the occasion.
Less is more when it comes to accessories. Don’t over accessorise your work attire. It’s important to have character but not at the expense of attracting unnecessary attention. We often suggest jazzing up a work outfit with accessories after hours.
Lead by example. Work attire is part of the cultural fabric of an organisation, so managers need to empower the standard of dress. If your manager comes into the office with wet hair and training shoes it sets the bar for the rest of the team. To create a high performing, positive team, set the standard by taking pride in how you dress.