You’ve heard the saying - clothes make the man. Despite being told not to judge a book by its cover, we still assess people by how they look and dress. Researchers at the National Research Council of Canada found that a person’s appearance strongly influences how people perceive his/her financial success, authority, intelligence, trustworthiness, and even suitability for a job or promotion.
But your dressing also affects how you see yourself. Yes, your clothes don’t just say something about you; they say things to you as well. Professor Karen Pine from the University of Hertfordshire conducted a series of social experiments and discovered that when dressed in a superhero t-shirt, people became more confident than when they donned plain t-shirts. Women who wore swimsuits while taking a math test performed poorer than those who wore sweaters. Participants given white coats to wear showed increased mental agility. What they wore affected how they thought of themselves which affected their performance.
If you want a winning formula at work, start by taking a peek inside your wardrobe
1. Interview Essentials
Know the corporate culture of the company you are interviewing with. Then, dress to suit the culture. If you look like you fit in, you are more likely to be welcomed into the fold because you are subtly sending the message that you understand the heartbeat of the company.
For the interview, it is always advisable to dress a little more formally than what is expected daily at work. So, men, throw on a blazer; and women, pull on a pant suit, skirt suit or a blazer over that dress.
If you want some patterns, go for small prints or fine checks. Eschew bold (read: loud) prints and florals in bright colours, especially for more traditional industries.
In creative industries like design, media, retail, technology and advertising, some measure of personal style may be appreciated. You might add a splash of colour with a scarf, a touch of the quirky with an unusual accessory, or fine details for a little distinction. Moderation, however, is still the key. Avoid casual tops and jeans, even if it may be acceptable in the industry. Don’t dress as if you have already gotten the job when you haven’t.
2. First-day Fashion
On your first day (and probably first week), you will be introduced to many people, both colleagues and bosses. You will want to make a good first impression. Research shows that all it takes is seven seconds to make that first impression. Whatever style you picked for the interview, continue with it. It obviously worked. As a safeguard, bring along a tie and blazer (for him) and a blazer (for her) in case you are called to meetings that require you to dress a little more formally.
3. Daily Wear Dos
Most offices adopt what in fashion circles is termed a ‘business casual’ dress code (what we commonly call ‘office wear’). But this is a notoriously difficult look to define. For men, this often means dress pants and long-sleeve business shirts; for women, skirts or well-cut pants with shirts or blouses, skirt suits and pant suits, and shift dresses. The silhouette, whatever the choice, is tailored not flowy or flouncy.
The preferred colours are black, grey, blue, and earth tones though for women, the colour spectrum can be wider and jewel tones or even pastels in moderation are acceptable.
There is, however, some debate about the necessity of a tie or blazer. In some circles, having either is fine but wearing both will up the formality level to ‘business wear’.
4. Business Meeting Style
For business meetings, especially if you are meeting people outside of your organisation, you may want to take it up a notch. Business professional is the look you want. Dark-coloured suits in navy or grey with a tie for men; pants or skirt suits for women in muted tones. Whatever the choice, make sure the fit is right and it allows you to both sit comfortably or stand and move around for your presentation.
Heading to the negotiation table or trying to secure a deal at the meeting? It might be useful to take note of colour psychology – how colours can influence moods and behaviours. To establish trust and credibility, blue is the best colour. It is universally liked by both genders so you have a higher chance of pleasing everyone. Dark blue, navy, and dark grey are power colours that convey authority and professionalism.
A touch of red (either a tie or accessory) helps to establish assertiveness. Be sure it is just a hint because too much red can be threatening and come across as aggressive. To appear friendly and approachable, lighter colours are preferred – lighter blues and greens, creams, and beige.
5. Casual Friday Confidential
In some companies where the business casual and business professional dress codes are fiercely adhered to, Dress Down Friday is a welcomed policy. But remember, it is still a professional environment. For men, safe bets include dark jeans, khakis, casual slacks, cargo pants, short-sleeve shirts, collared t-shirts, and loafers.
For women, dark jeans, capris, a blouse with nice details like lace or sequins, slightly more flowy sundresses (but no spaghetti straps) and open-toed footwear are acceptable. Colours can be brighter and the silhouette more relaxed.
The idea is to show your individual style and fun side while still looking smart and sharp. So, keep those shorts, cut-offs, raggy jeans, t-shirts with cutesy slogans or cartoons, revealing tops (transparent, too tight, too short, too sexy) and flip flops for the weekends!
6. Corporate Dinner Directives
Business dinners run the gamut of formality. Read the dress code carefully. If it is an after-work business dinner or cocktail with clients or business associates, business professional (what you would wear for a business meeting) would suffice. For women, a well-cut, structured shift dress or an elegant wrap dress will work.
If it is a more formal corporate event like an award ceremony, then a lounge suit is preferred. The lounge suit is one rung down in formality from the cocktail suit. For men, that means a three-piece suit in blues or greys with a tie.
For women, a dress that falls below the knee or one that ends at the ankle will do nicely. Avoid anything too revealing but feel free to accessorise with tasteful, accent-piece jewellery. After all, this is still a formal professional event.
Dressing appropriately can impress people and open doors. Work your wardrobe well and you will be on your way to being a winner in the workplace.
Where to shop:BCBG Max Azria
BCGC Max Azria