Dress for Success

Article by Belinda Fuller

Dress For SuccessWhat you wear to work varies significantly these days and has changed considerably since the days when females could not wear pants (with mandatory stockings and no bare legs even in the height of summer) and males had to wear a tie and jacket. Many companies even enforced the jacket rule just to leave the building for lunch!

While business attire has certainly relaxed, whether you’re searching for employment or not – paying attention to what you wear is essential. Of course, it’s especially important during an interview, but can also help you get ahead in your current role.

So what are the rules…….. ?

If you’re preparing for an interview, find out what the company’s dress code is – then dress slightly smarter than that to show you’re keen and you’ve made an effort. You don’t however want to appear over dressed and uncomfortable. If you’re going for an interview in a very casual environment and you turn up in a suit and tie, you may not feel comfortable and confident and that could jeopardise your chances. Instead, wear something smart – for example, a smart pair of trousers and open neck shirt (for males) or a smart dress or skirt and top (for females). We don’t recommend wearing denim or t-shirts, and certainly no thongs or runners.

Building a wardrobe of smart clothes can be expensive. If you’re new to the office environment, you can start from scratch and build your wardrobe with classic basics that will last for years to come. If you’ve got budget constraints and can’t afford to go out and buy a whole new wardrobe, just start small and begin to build a wardrobe that will make you feel great.

  • Focus on classic basics and stick to colours that will not go out of fashion.
  • Consider price vs quality – in some cases price determines quality however there are many chain stores that offer great quality pieces at lower prices. Do some research on brands you like and subscribe to their emails – that way you’ll be first to hear about sales. Care for your clothes – dry clean or hand wash when required – read labels and follow the instructions.
  • Spruce up your basics with a few fashion items each season – scarves, jewellery, a colourful top for women; or ties and less expensive shirts for men.
  • Make sure your clothes fit well. No matter how expensive clothes are, if they don’t fit they can look cheap. If necessary, invest in alterations to make all the difference.
  • Avoid man-made fibres – again check labels and where possible, opt for natural fabrics such as wool, cotton, linen, and silk – avoid polyester which will wear quicker and may look cheap to start with.
  • Choose clothing that coordinates and can be worn in different seasons. This doesn’t mean sticking to all black or one solid colour, but try to select pieces (especially the more expensive basics) that coordinate. The website ‘Pinterest’ is great for inspirational ideas on wardrobe basics that mix and match to make several outfits.

It’s not just your clothes that need attention, there are other things you can do to ensure you look professional and well put together. Some suggestions for women include:

  • Moderate shoes, not 15cm spike heels
  • Limited jewellery – stick to smaller, more conservative pieces
  • Neat, professional hair
  • A little make-up & light perfume
  • Manicured nails

And for men:

  • Dark socks
  • Professional shoes that are clean and polished
  • Limited jewellery
  • Neat, professional hairstyle
  • Not too much aftershave
  • Neatly trimmed nails

Whether you’re looking for a new role, or just hoping to get ahead, a little bit of effort goes a long way. That may mean dressing a little more conservatively than when you’re heading out for a night on the town. Regardless of whether you are dressing for a job interview or you already have a job, appearances can help you get ahead. Employers may think less of you if you consistently dress inappropriately and first impressions are very important in an interview.

2 thoughts on “Dress for Success

  1. Brooke

    I went to a interview in a new suit (very nice – was quite expensive even on sale) was told that it was a very up market business and to dress accordingly – so I did.

    Only to be told that I was untidy in my dress.
    The interviewer didn’t have a tie on and the other interviewer wasn’t in a suit.
    If you tell someone that they are to dress for a very upmarket & posh business and do it, don’t turn around & say your untidy!!

    1. Belinda Fuller Post author

      Hi Brooke, Thank you for your comment. I’m sorry to hear about your experience at your interview. If people are ever in doubt about the dress code, we would suggest dressing up rather than dressing down as it’s better to be overdressed than underdressed. All the best with your future interviews.

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