September 25, 2018

Professional Development

The Importance of Dressing Well in the Workplace

By: Leah Nalepa

We often choose to partake in careers or professional programs that advance our intellectual curiosity, cultivate skills, and build knowledge around different issues, processes, and systems that people rely on us for. Building our professional toolbox builds credibility and sustainability in career growth. But many of these endeavors do not require a dress code, or at best provide guidelines around “business professional” or “business casual” clothing.

But have we ever considered the image we convey by what we wear to the office? What we wear dictates to the world who we are, and how we want to be perceived and treated. This concept is especially relevant when tasked with projects or coaching others in a professional setting. Let’s ask ourselves, “Is my image portraying my best self so that I can gain respect from others and articulate my ideas or is it showing a lesser version of myself?” There is reason to consider the benefits of dressing well and expressing your unique individualism at the office – no matter where you work.

Incite Confidence

The age-old saying, “look good, feel better” remains true. Perhaps it’s just me, but reminiscing about times where I felt the most confident with coworkers or friends are often when I unknowingly dressed in items that elevated my individual style and unique character. I often encourage others and myself to find pieces in my closet that bring me joy and elevate my mood so that I carry that positivity and attitude to others. I work remotely but frequently dress up when attending office meetings, lunches, or networking events. My clothing enhance my confidence in my abilities and my mood.

There are times when we all feel less confident about ourselves or our abilities, but dressing well, especially within a professional environment, elevates our confidence and often opens opportunities to work with more colleagues and to take on more projects. Our confidence and self-esteem often come from the reflection we see of ourselves in others. Why not show our best selves at work – in what we wear and how we perform our tasks? Sometimes we all must fake it until we make it, but dressing well helps bring true authenticity and unique confidence to the table when working with others.

Command Respect

We have all heard the saying, “Dress for the job we want, not the job we have.” Like it or not, humans are visual creatures. First impressions matter. Perception matters. It matters because the way people perceive us will most likely dictate our next career move, if and how we are hired, and the ways people treat us. When we look polished and professional, people are more likely to trust us and instill confidence in our work. How much more likely are we to receive a project, promotion, or raise at work when we command respect from others in how we present ourselves?

Express Yourself

It’s easy to put on a simple dress or chinos and a button down for work without considering crafting personal items into our appearance. After all, we are going to the office to get the job done, right? Whether we work in a causal setting or must wear a tie to work, let’s not be a copy of our coworkers. Copies don’t go far, authenticity does. Dressing well and utilizing style as a mechanism to express our individualism, character, and personality helps us stand out from the crowd, in a positive and potentially career uplifting way. Keep in mind that understanding work and office culture is important and we should adapt accordingly. Add personality to an outfit with a rustic watch, fun pair of glasses, new lipstick, or colorful heels, but let’s be mindful to keep it within the confines of acceptable office dress.

As style guru and former What Not to Wear co-host, Stacy London, once put it, “Clothes allow you to see yourself in a different light. They can transform you instantly and have a very real, visceral impact. Clothes become symbolic of who we are.” Let us bring the best version of ourselves to work, every day. Dressing well is the first step.