5 Ways to Dress to Impress at Work
While most bosses won’t check out the labels on your clothes (unless you are have an extremely high-profile job where fashion is everything), the way you dress will likely make an impression on your boss no matter where you work. Looking presentable is important; waking up and throwing on clothes without thinking about what you are wearing won’t score you points. Certain factors — including how your clothes fit, which colors you wear, and how much skin you show — can affect how other people perceive you at work. Neat, presentable work attire can help you move up in your career, or at least keep your job, while consistent inappropriate clothing may negatively affect the way your boss perceives you. Particularly if your company has a dress code (official or not), breaking it can mean bad news for you. Thankfully, you can dress to impress if you follow these five easy steps.
1. Think about your audience
It’s common to hear people say to dress for your day, and this is great advice. Target has been in the news recently for creating a dress for your day atmosphere, which is something that is becoming very popular at many different companies. Dress for your day implies that you should do just that; if you’re sitting at your desk all day and your company allows jeans, then that might be just fine. However, if you have a meeting with an important client or your boss, you might want to dress up in a nice suit, or at least business attire.
Regularly thinking about your audience will show that you care about your job, and that you take it seriously. Many people also say that you should dress for the job you want: this means that even if everyone else in your job class wears jeans and polo shirts, you might want to dress a little nicer.
2. Be neat
Obviously, if you work at a fast-food restaurant with a required shirt, you won’t have a lot of options besides possibly which black pants you wear. However, you can control how neatly you dress in any situation. Tuck your shirt in, and make sure you wash it regularly. It doesn’t matter if every other person you work with is wearing the same shirt as you; if your shirt is clean and tucked in, and some of your coworkers’ shirts are ripped or dirty, you will be the one looking more presentable.
The above analogy is true for more than just a job at a restaurant. Looking neat and presentable is important for any job. Many workplaces are now encouraging a regular casual dress code; although you may be allowed to wear jeans, that doesn’t mean that you should wear jeans with holes in them. You can be neat no matter what you wear. The same is true for a business suit: a business suit isn’t impressive if it doesn’t look neat and well-maintained.
3. Look sharp
In addition to dressing neat, you should dress sharp whenever possible. This comes back to the idea of dressing for your day, but you can look sharp even on your relaxed days. You don’t have to spend tons of money to look sharp, either. While fancy name brand clothes make a nice touch, they aren’t always necessary, and for some jobs, they aren’t even appropriate.
One way to dress sharp is to have your own unique style and to maintain it. This doesn’t mean that you should dress so absurd that everyone in your office knows it’s you even without seeing your face, but having a clear personal style is a good thing as long as you are being respectful of your work culture. Avoid tacky additions that take away from your clothing, or focus your coworkers’ attention on your clothing instead of what you are saying (for example, a huge colorful necklace, or a ridiculous tie.) One last way to dress sharp is to keep in mind what is appropriate for the season in which you are working; if it’s winter and thirty degrees, don’t come into work in a sun dress or shorts.
4. Wear the right size
This seems like it should be the most obvious advice on our list, and yet many workers fail to wear well-fitted, appropriately tailored clothing regularly. Tailoring your clothing is a great way to look sharp at work, but even if you choose not to tailor your clothes, you should still try to find clothing that fits properly. Coming into work with clothing that is too big makes you look lazy, and sometimes gives the impression that you don’t care about your job. On the other hand, wearing clothing that is too tight can distract your coworkers. One study found that risque dressing at work is improper for all jobs; managers who dressed in a sexy manner were seen as less intelligent and competent.
5. Remember the details
Even if you wear clothes that fit and are fashionable, you will undermine all your hard work if you don’t pay attention to details. For women, this often means wearing minimal makeup, and both men and women should brush their hair (if they have longer hair) and wash their face, etc. There are also many items that you should avoid at work, including baseball hats (unless you are having a special team day at work), pajamas, offensive t-shirts, clothes with holes or rips, clothes that show too much skin, and so on.
Also, when possible, think about the colors you are wearing. Many people believe that dark colors make them look more professional, but color can be fun and appropriate if you make careful choices. Red can appear scary or send a bad message, blue can be calming, and other colors send different messages as well.
The most important thing is to make sure that you know the dress code at your work, and to dress appropriately for whatever you have going on during a particular day. If you want to go further than that, be sure to look sharp, and if possible, dress for the job you want instead of the one you have.