If you want people to perceive you as capable, honest and hardworking—all the attributes that success requires—attention to the way you dress is paramount.
Understand that proper business apparel depends on the region you live in, the company mandates, the culture of the department you work in and how your job functions. For example, a traveling pharmaceutical rep who presents drug sample cases to medical clinics is expected to arrive in a conservative suit or jacket, with neutral accessories. If you show up in a pheasant blouse and capri pants, you are not only distracting from your mission, but will be perceived as less intelligent, unsophisticated, unprofessional and, consequently, untrustworthy.
Everyone wants to be an individual, but are your clothes fashionable or foolish? Assess your fashion garments using this criteria: is it too far out or faddy? For instance, leather can be beautiful and rich looking such as a lamb leather blazer in navy, beige or brown. If you show up in a shiny or luminescent fuchsia leather that is too tight or accompanied by leather pants and boots, you’re over the top unless superhero is the agenda. (Keep the furry vest for casual wear.)
Other fad garments that bespeak foolishness: ponchos, capri pants, furry vests, and bedazzled tops.
Fit & Flare
Well-tailored clothing says you pay attention to details, know how to dress your body, and that you care about fit and taste. It displays good knowledge, discretion and a proper foundation in etiquette.
Skirts that are too narrow, tight pants, and stretch blouses that have the buttonholes pulled into smiles are all offensive. You want to capitalize on what you can do, without exposing too much skin. How effective is a speaker when her cleavage is blossoming out of her top or she is wearing a knit that is clingy and shows off nipple outlines? You want to attract them with your competence not your sexual attributes. Men need shirts that fit into pants neatly and don’t look like yesterday’s casual golf game.
Overly-wrinkled clothing that looks like you slept in your suit is distracting from your competence. So, too, are sportswear-like tops, hoodies or pants made from spandex. Today there are enough good fabric choices that offer wrinkle-shedding, travel-worthy and spot-free finishes that you don’t need to look like a sports figure or a safari adventurer after the long hunt.
Many businesses have a casual dress weekday. But often this brings out the most inappropriate looks. Trouser-like dark-wash jeans or Dockers may be quite appropriate but the low-slung, belly-baring, deconstructed jeans with holes and faded spots are probably not. And men have their offenders too. Basketball wideleg shorts or beach party Bermudas are not conducive to compliments.
Skorts, mini-skirts and spaghetti strap dresses aren’t office attire, whereas cotton shirtdresses, easy knit separates are another story in good taste. Cargo pants chock-a-block with pockets filled, or camouflage combat clothes are no-nos for men; a better choice, cotton-blend trousers and a striped, easy-care shirt.
Don’t Ignore the Feet
Flip-flops, Manolo 5-inch spiked heels, or platform shoes reminiscent of the 60s are unacceptable, as are shoes that show-off dirty toes or some barely-there sandals that feature flat feet. Men’s clogs, basketball sneakers, or thongs look tacky. Stick with leather deck-type shoes, comfortable loafers, walking shoes or minimal boots. Ladies try conservative leather pumps with lower, 2-inch heels.