We've all heard the old adage, "dress for the job you want..." but how do we do that in 20-teen years? Striking a balance between looking good and feeling good yet still remaining professional and fashionable is not easy.
"Getting dressed for work is tricky," says Levo CEO Caroline Ghosn to Glamour Magazine. "Because of diminishing boundaries and an individuality-embracing culture is taking over, the idea of what success looks like is becoming less clear-cut."
So whether your first day is tomorrow, you've got a new promotion, or you're showing up for the 1,272th day, here are some of our go-to tips to help you when it comes to dressing for work.
1. Think about Company Culture
Company culture is key when it comes to what to wear. Dressing now includes creating and cultivating your personal brand, but "don't be duped by the Instagram-approved message of 'doing you' 24/7," says Glamour Magazine, especially if "you" is a mesh crop top wearing Gothic.
According to the last report by the National Women’s Business Council, The Wall Street Journal says women launch over 1,100 new businesses in the U.S. every day and generate over $1.4 trillion in revenue annually. "As entrepreneurs, they are redefining the whole raison d’être of getting dressed for work. It’s less about playing by the rules and more about promoting your unique brand," they say.
A great general rule? Anything requiring special undergarments is a no-no at the office. A good tip Glamour offers is to take a look at the company culture and imagine how a character in a movie would dress. (Anne Hathaway in Devil Wears Prada anyone?) "Finding a blend between your identity and that cultural image is the sweet spot," says Ghosn.
2. Nail the Interview Attire
Getting the dress code right at the interview is key. Toni Thompson of Conde Nast cites a study saying people make judgments of you within 14 seconds of meeting you. Your look shows how prepared and confident you are. "People who take the time to pull themselves together from head to toe do better on the job," she says.
Don't forget to do your homework. Ask your Recruiter for advice on the company dress code and atmosphere, as well as checking out sites like Glassdoor and Instagram for photos of current employees to get an idea of the company culture.
Executive Account Manager Karen Smith likes to quote Tom Ford: "Dressing well is a form of good manners." Make sure you make the right first impression by dressing well, especially for interviews.
That means if you're heading to a corporate environment, blue or black suits are a sure bet. Headed to a more casual office space? Sweaters and slacks can work in a more relaxed environment.
Regardless of your profession or the dress code, don't be too casual...and don't make casual Friday the downfall of the dress code.
Here are some things you should steer clear of:
- Ripped Jeans
- Offensive T-Shirts
This goes triple for interviews! Keep that hoodie at home.
3. Never Dress Like a "Freelancer"
How often you're in the office is another key point to consider. If you work off-site or rarely sit in meetings and one pops up, step it up a notch.
Being an off-site employee can be scary for some, especially at traditional companies, says freelancer Kirsten Agnello-Dean. "As a freelancer, you're an anomaly, so put higher ups at ease by dressing a bit more traditionally or formally than the rest of the office usually does." It will make you appear capable, stable, and in control.
How do you do this? If office employees usually wear jeans and sweaters, pop on a pair of slacks and heels to exude confidence. For men, add a sport jacket to the usual dress shirt and slacks look. Stay within the dress code of course, but don't be afraid to up the level of professionalism on your in-office visits.
It's also important (freelancer or not) to protect your personal brand with the way you dress. You visually represent your business — your dress is your business card. What you wear says as much, if not more about you than your LinkedIn profile. “What you have on is your business card,” Houston-based LaQuishe Wright, managing partner of Q Social Media Ltd., tells The Wall Street Journal (WSJ).
'I understand how to get across [the promotional work] I do in what I wear,' said Ms. Wright, who dresses in minimalist dresses and separates with signature jewelry, a look that’s adequately businesslike but emphatically personal too. Sending that message is integral to networking and growing her business, she said.
4. Do Dress Like the Boss
The easiest way to dress for success? See what your boss is wearing and then make it work for you. There's a concept in cognitive behavioral therapy called "Act As If." Basically, it means act as if you are what you want to become, says Jennifer Baumgartner, Psy.D and author of You are What You Wear. "If you want a promotion, dress as if you already have it."
But don't worry if you're not a fan of the three-button look. The suit is no longer a catchall, WSJ reassures. Ask yourself, "What are you trying to say in life, business and fashion?" says filmmaker Rebekah Paltrow Neumann, WeWork’s founding partner/chief brand officer.
Just as with a company brand, 'you want your message to be consistent; otherwise, it’s very hard for people to latch on to it. "Your shirt or shoe is an opportunity to say as much about your company as your prospectus," she says.
Speaking of, don't forget to....
5. Accessorize Correctly
Especially if you're headed to an interview, carefully consider your whole look. Does you bag match your coat? Will your bracelets get caught up in your mouse? Details like a sharp resume case or iPad cover count too. Handbags are another way to prove you've got it together, says Saks Fifth Avenue Fashion Director Roopal Patel. What style bag you carry says a lot about you.
Don't forget to layer up as well! It's good practice to always have a jacket with you. You never know who you might end up meeting. If the CEO of your company comes to lunch unexpectedly, you'll want a nice blazer to throw on. Don't forget about fluctuating office temperatures too, stash a warmer jacket or cardigan in your office just in case.
Need More Tips?
Check out Business Insider's visual guide to dressing for work here. Don't forget to ask Recruiters, Hiring Managers, or co-workers if you're not sure what to wear as well. The key is finding a fit between fashionable and functional, personality and profession.
Found some great interview outfits or go-to work wear? Share them with us on Pinterest!
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