The Importance of The Adage “Dress for Success”

Mar 5

“Child, you are not stepping out this house with those torn jeans.” said my mom one morning when I decided to wear a pair of torn jeans to class in high school. My mother for as long as I can remember always emphasized the importance of proper attire, and constantly mentioning the adages “dress for success” and “dress to impress.” It was not until my first corporate job I understood the importance and influence of the term “dressing for success.” As it’s said, mothers know best.    

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Over the last decade, the evolution of office wear from professional suits to business-casual wear has been identified as both a social phenomenon and cultural movement. The emergence of Silicon Valley has played a pivotable role in this socio-cultural shift. A shift mostly, but not exclusively, driven by the Millennial’s significant presence in the labor market; impressively, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics predicts by 2030 millennials will make up 75% of the workforce.    

“Fashion is a tool … to compete in life outside the home. People like you better, without knowing why, because people always react well to a person, they like the looks of.”  Mary Quant  

The Millennial generation considers casual dress code a corporate perk relatively as important as 4-days’ work week, working remotely and vacation days. Therefore, various industry sectors such as banking changed their dress code policy to remain competitive in the labor market. Nevertheless, I find office dress-code guidelines ambiguous and accompanied by many unspoken rules. Perhaps, it’s due to the subjective nature of fashion.    

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Let’s talk about a few benefits of dressing for success:   

Confidence booster.

When you look good, you feel good; and, that feeling can do wonders to our productivity and performance.  Furthermore, feeling good empowers us to speak and act confidently, especially in meetings. Even when your day consists of conference calls, dress as though they were face-to-face meetings. Select outfits that illustrate your sense of style and promotes self-confidence. Confidence is attractive and demands attention; as such, others can witness your radiating professionalism, thoughtfulness, and ambition.  

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Sweater | Jacket | Pants

Dress for opportunities.

Dressing for success is linked to income opportunities and promotions beyond the office environment — dress for the job you want, and not the one you have. We are often evaluated by our appearance, and being dressed for the part is a nonverbal advantage. Within an organization, it is critical to observe and create a profile of the senior management team dress attire: business formal, business casual or smart casual? For instance, my executive team style profile is business formal, men always wearing suits and women wearing dresses and suits. As such, I often dress accordingly, to align my dress code with their lead and unspoken expectations. So, observe and follow the leaders while maintaining your unique sense of style.  

Managing perceptions.

Unmanaged perception can easily become an unintended reality. Remember, we hear and see whatever is important to us; hence, why our personal presentation (posture, accessories, body language, fragrance, clothing, etc.) should be chosen with care. Accordingly, our fashion choices can intentionally or unconsciously communicate to others our personality. For instance, a neatly well-dressed employee is perceived as organized, detail oriented and sharp; whereas, a messy dressed employee is seen as disorganized, neglectful, and more. Unfortunately, both perceptions may be inaccurate resulting in false assumptions. Then it is best to dress for success.   

Regardless of the popularity of casual attire in the workplace, the founding rationales of the adage “dressing for success” remains pertinent in today’s work environment. It empowers us to be more confident, influences people’s perceptions, enhances work ethic and leads to growth opportunities. Taking intentional command of how you dress is imperative to your professional success. Please do not be the women in a quarterly departmental meeting wearing a sheer dress revealing her thong underwear. 

Please feel free to comment below with your thoughts.

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