While there is no one-size-fits-all approach to appropriate business attire, we live in a visual world where how we present ourselves can make or break a business opportunity. Like it or not, assumptions are made about you, your competence and the quality of work that you do based on your personal appearance, fairly or unfairly- whether it’s true or not. So, don’t let your own appearance stand in your way. Here are a few easy tips to dress for business success:
(1) Dress Up for Success
As I mentioned above, there is a direct correlation in the way that you present yourself and the way that others view you. So, when your business attire is too casual, it can come across like you don’t care, aren’t serious or don’t put in a lot of effort. And that is the way that others in the business world will interpret you, as well as your work.
You will rarely hear a comment like “so and so looks too put together or too dressed up”, but on the contrary, when a person shows up to a business meeting in jeans or a tee shirt, that will definitely be the topic of conversation (and not in a good way)! In the business world, you want your stellar work to be what is talked about- not your less than stellar appearance.
(2) Keep it Clean
To that end (and I wish that this could go without saying), make sure that your business wardrobe is clean. Don’t show up to meet a client with remnants of your BBQ lunch left on your shirt, muddy shoes from your afternoon run or your shirt all crumpled up. If your appearance is sloppy, you will project the image that your work is sloppy, too.
A great tip for the accident-prone is to always bring a spare outfit with you when you have an important business meeting, speaking engagement or need to work with others. Leave it in your car or at your office so that you can change when accidents happen.
(3) Keep it Classy
Again, keeping in mind that your appearance reflects how others perceive your competence, it is important to be taken seriously in the business world. So, unless you’re in some kind of risqué business industry, keep your attire professional. This means that men shouldn’t show up to a client meeting with their shirts unbuttoned too low, showcasing their “pecs” and women shouldn’t either. Keep the attention focused on what you can offer from a business perspective, rather than your, ahem, “assets”.
And this goes for any photos or images used on your business website or social media, too. You want your business to be respected, so while a sexy wardrobe might get you some initial attention, when it comes to actually being hired, you will be passed over for someone more professional looking. Keep it classy and leave the risqué wardrobe for your night out on the town.
(4) Know Your Audience
Appropriate business attire varies depending on who you are meeting with. While it’s generally not appropriate to wear athletic apparel to a business meeting, it might be OK if you are trying to secure a deal with a particular jogging suit manufacturer and wear their clothing brand to your meeting.
Appropriate wardrobe guidelines can also vary by location, so what’s acceptable in one part of the US may not be appropriate in China. If you are unsure of how to dress, it’s a good idea to check with an assistant in their office prior to the meeting if you don’t feel comfortable asking the person that you’re meeting with directly. When in doubt, err on the side of professionalism.
What other tips do you have for dressing for success in business? Please share them below.
Thanks to Ellen Rohr of Bare Bones Biz, Inc, Eula M. Young of Griot’s Roll Film Production, Dr. Barnsley Brown of Spirited Solutions SpeakingCoaching, and Ben Baker of CMYK Solutions Inc for the inspiration behind some of these ideas.