You can’t not communicate. Everything you do makes some kind of statement. The old saying, “You can’t judge a book by its cover” may be true, but book jacket and product packaging designers around the world have created an industry betting that people do judge and purchase products based on how they look. And career counsellors still advise their clients to dress for the job they want – not the job they currently have because it is a fact that people are evaluated by their appearance (this is a key element in first impressions).
Office-appropriate attire has certainly changed over the years. Formal business suits aren’t a requirement in many workplaces, but the options available often lead to some questionable choices. Lissa and I have been asked many times to discuss appropriate office attire or to help clarify “business casual” to young staff members who seem unaware of the impact their fashion statements are making to both their career and the business as a whole.
Clothes make a strong visual statement about how you see yourself. Comfort may aid productivity but, in this era of “Me, Inc.” and “the Brand Called You,” are thongs, t-shirts, jeans, and flashy or revealing clothing part of how you want to be judged? You might think you are expressing your individuality, but you could also be sending the message that you’re not a serious professional.
Appropriate dress is also a way of expressing respect for the situation and the people in it. So, your look may change depending on the business circumstances. During the First Impressions Workshops we run for schools, Lissa and I are always preaching to the kids about the importance of “dressing for your audience”, to do some research and make sure you are wearing something appropriate for your interview/client/meeting.
Clothing has an effect on both the wearer and the observer. It has been proven that people are more likely to give money (charitable donations, tips) or information to someone if that person is well dressed. Experiment with your appearance. Notice how people react to you when you wear certain colors or styles. Then, based on those reactions and your career goals, you can make an informed decision about how you want to “package” yourself.
Of course if you need some professional advice, feel free to contact The Sistas!