It is no great surprise - but what you wear says a lot about you. That's the theme in a new book by psychologist Dr Jennifer Baumgartner called 'You Are What You Wear: What Your Clothes Reveal about You'. What people choose to wear, argues Baumgartner, reveals our innermost selves. Elle Woods in the film Legally Blonde certainly revealed her unique personality with the clothes and the accessories she wore to work. However, was her display of individuality a Hollywood fairytale or is it possible to wear clothes to work that express your distinctiveness?
Your clothes can and will reflect your personality but what is important is that you dress appropriately. Most of us will be familiar with what's appropriate to work - but what clothes and accessories are out-of-place?
Certain items really should be 'handled with care' and not worn in a professional business environment: flip-flops, shorts, anything see-through or clothes that reveal bare shoulders, exposed midriff or any hint of underwear will distract from your professional image. Whilst in some industries tattoos or unusual body piercings are acceptable, it is always best to play it safe and conceal them.
Then there are the horror stories many of us have heard of: people who have worn beach shorts to the office and some whose attire is more appropriate for a nightclub than a work environment. The question that begs to be asked is: what were they thinking? And that is the crux of the problem - they were not thinking.
What you wear to work not only reveals your taste in fashion, but demonstrates the quality of both your judgement and decision making. Your appearance conveys how professional you are, while the effort and time you put into your 'look' ultimately demonstrates respect. This is the respect you have for your job, your colleagues, your boss and the company you work for, and something we feature in Women 1st's professional development training.
Shabby, dishevelled and scruffy are not qualities that you would normally associate with a successful executive. Walk into a meeting looking like you have just got out of bed and thrown the clothes on that you left on the floor from the previous day, and you can expect people to take longer to appreciate your input!
Of course this does not mean you have to dress and appear as in the standard corporate 'uniform' of a suit. You need to strike a fine balance. This can be achieved by simply staying consistent to your own wardrobe personality. In terms of the clothes: ensure they fit you correctly, suit your own colouring and body shape and are appropriate for the job that you are doing, the industry you work in and the business you represent. Accessories should incorporate and strengthen your personality so jewellery, scarves, cufflinks and pens can work very well.
In today's challenging job market, getting your dress code right has never been more important. Needless to say, getting it right won't necessarily secure you a new job or promotion but getting it wrong could really side-line you in a number of industries. By presenting yourself professionally, you ensure that people focus on your skills, not your appearance. At the end of a presentation or meeting, the topic of conversation should be about your contribution - not your shirt, skirt or shoes.
What are your experiences of inappropriate office wear?
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