How much thought do you give to your wardrobe choices?
What you wear has a huge impact on the impression you give to people.
Within seconds of meeting someone, they have already made a snap judgement about your level of success, your intelligence and whether or not you would be a good connection for them.
What image are you portraying? What does you clothing style say about your professional career?
This was the question posed by image consultant, Karen C. Hughes of Style Youniversity at Wednesday’s Lunch & Learn.
Karen said wearing the right clothing can change your energy level and your relevance. You always want to show up ready for business, ready to network, and ready for an interview. The right wardrobe can be a game changer, and attention to detail can set you apart.
Ready for Business
There are 3 tiers of business attire:
1. Traditional Dress: 2 piece suite, this sole/high shine shoes
2. Business Appropriate: more color texture & patterns
3. Business Casual: choose carefully!
Know your tier. Acceptable dress often depends on the industry. However, even if you’re job is casual, certain rules always apply. The old saying still stands, “Dress for the job you want, not the job you have.” Don’t dress at the level of your piers and coworkers. Dress like your boss. Dress like your bosses boss. Do what it takes to stand out.
Attention to detail is a huge factor in appearance. Most people start off making an effort to dress sharply, but this fades over time. Certain details should never be excused. For example: press your pants. Wrinkled clothing is unacceptable and distracting. Don’t wear your “weekend pants” to work. Have a separate wardrobe, and keep your work wear nice.
Have a power piece. Can you identify the power piece in your wardrobe? Men almost always carry a suit jacket on them. They know that third piece is a symbol of power. Women, don’t forget the third piece. Karen said, “Covering your arms means business.” It doesn’t have to be a jacket, it may be a cardigan. According to Karen, it’s about the “Consistency of showing up ready for whatever happens.”
Don’t wear all of 1 fiber. Don’t wear cotton pants, a cotton shirt, and a cotton jacket. Mix your fibers, textures and colors. If you don’t, you’re too casual.
Use Clothing to Brand You. What’s your signature piece? Is it a watch? A broach, earrings, a color? Especially if you’re an entrepreneur, you are the face of your company. Distinguish yourself with a signature piece that is consistent with your brand image.
Ready to Network
Know where you’re going, why you’re going, what to wear to be remembered, and how to network.
Master your introduction.
I work with _________________.
Identify the problem you solve.
Identify the benefit they gain.
Pay attention to your handshake. No one likes a bone crusher or a limp hand.
Make connections. Karen said the object of business attire is, “Get their eyes to your face!” Business is often about making connections with people. The best way to connect is through the eyes. Don’t show to much skin or wear distracting clothing. Then, make good eye contact.
Wear the right colors. The right colors can completely alter a person’s perception of you. Know which color gets you compliments, which color makes you feel good, and which color gives you power.
Black: While this is often a person’s first choice, it is really a person’s worst choice. Where do you traditionally wear black? Funerals and black-tie events. Black is associated with formal and depressing events. Not only that, but you everyone is probably wearing black. Pick a color to stand out.
Red: Red is exhausting. Red is a color that stimulates the brain. If you wear too much red, people will grow tired of looking at you. However, the right touches of red could be a great signature piece to make you stand out.
Yellow: Bad. Yellow is associated with caution signs and legal pads.
Green: Green is safe. It is associated with money and renewal.
Blue: Blue is the most trusted color. This will typically be your best option.
Ready for an Interview
Prepare. Research the company and ready your resume.
Groom. Get a haircut at least 2 weeks prior. Polish your shoes. Alter, iron, and dry clean your clothes. Trim your nails.
Men- Check your facial hair. A full beard may cover facial expressions. If people can’t read you, they won’t trust you.
Women- Wear heels.
Use a nice pen. This is such a small detail that people tend to overlook. Using a nice pen can set you apart from someone using a small plastic bic pen. Don’t underestimate the details. Use a black portfolio as well.
What to wear:
- Men: Suit jacket or sports coat with slacks and knee high socks
- Women: Dress, skirt or slacks with jacket (or 3rd piece) and pantyhose (if skirt)
- Shoes: Closed toe
- Simple watch (You should own multiple watches, a professional watch and a weekend watch.)
- Briefcase or handbag – not both!
Want to learn more?
Karen C. Hughes is a Certified Image Professional and Style Coach. She is the President of Image Assets and Creator of StyleYOUniversity.com, a collaborative online learning community for women. Her clients include corporations, men and women who are branding themselves for success and strive to communicate their brand through a positive self image.
Connect with Karen: