“Light travels faster than sound, so your appearance speaks volumes about you before you even say a word. So if you’re looking to succeed in a professional setting, it’s important to conciously dress for how you want to be perceived.”
That’s according to Malulu Angula, Marketing Executive at My Republik clothing. We spoke to Angula about the importance of dressing well for work and why it’s so important.
Read more to find out how you can conquer the boardroom one outfit at a time.
The science behind dressing well for work
As early as 1985, researchers found that how women dressed for a job interview had an affect on whether or not she would get hired. In fact, the research showed that the more masculine an interviewee dressed, the better they did overall.
Another study published in 1991 found that the clothes a student wore had a massive affect on how intelligent their teachers and other students thought them: the more formal and dressy, the more intelligent and academically strong.
Depending on how creative your industry is, you might be able to get away with a few rule-breakers and with experimenting with your wardrobe. But even in a very casual industry, if you show up to a meeting in your PJ’s, you are most likely not going to get the most out of it. The right clothes can make you seem more competent – that’s why it’s called a “Power” suit.
Creating a positive impression through your clothes is possible, Angula recommends wearing strong neutral colours suited for business. “This, by defualt, says that you are confident in yourself and your abilities and that you are trustworthy.”
The My Republik Style guides recommend:
Keeping the psychology of colour theory in mind – wear dark blues and greys for a look that says you’re confident, trustworthy and credible.
If you want your presence noticed, add some red to your outfit. This colour also gives the impression that you are assertive (though keep in mind how much red you wear, as too much might give the impression that you’re authorative and threatening).
If you want to give off the vibe that you’re approachable then we’d recommend an outfit with mid-tone blues, tan or stone colours. These colours are easy to match so incorporate them into the base of your outfit.
What it all comes down to really is just that your clothes should never distract anyone at work. And above that, if you can help it, try to look as professional as possible, as this will make you seem more professional. In the end, you want to get the most out of what you wear, to positively influence what people think of you, to give yourself a head-start in your career.
Dress for the Situation
Angula notes that “wearing an outfit that matches the occasion raises your perceived level of intelligence and says that you are capable.” He goes on to explain that if you are leading a meeting, it lends credibility to your opinions and what you’re saying when you are dressed the part.
It’s true, there’s nothing worse than being under- or over-dressed for a situation, but sometimes it’s not that easy to know which way to go when it comes to self-styling. Here are some tips from the My Republik Style Guides:
If you’re meeting at the office, then it’s button down shirts for both ladies and gentleman, paired with dress pants. This type of look works both with or without a blazer, so choose whichever makes you comfortable. Tip for the men: if you want to go the extra mile, a tie adds mountains to your perceived level of professionalism – keep it simple though.
Getting what you wear right can make the difference between a successful interview/a good meeting and a total flop. Don’t fall into the trap of terrible dressing.
Let’s take a look at some of the simple fashion faux pas in your work-wear wardrobe:
The wrong shoes
Never, ever, ever wear flip-flops to work, unless you work at the beach, in which case you might as well go completely shoe-less. Think of it this way, would you ever go to work barefoot? Flip Flops are basically naked feet. You are giving everyone you meet a good look at your toes. Do you have very pretty toes? If you do, you may distract your boss from your impeccable work. And if your toes look like dragon claws you run the risk of scaring people. Flip flops are just too much of an invitation for others to judge you based on your feet. That’s a lot of pressure for your tootsies, so leave the flops at home.
The same goes for any shoe that was meant for Beyoncé, Lady Gaga, or your baby brother. Your shoes should give no one any reason to think anything other than what a competent, hard-working and smart employee you are. That means the green alligators stay home. If your gladiator stiletto’s make it difficult not to stumble around the office, you should have saved them for your next night out.
A bit too revealing
Anything that could be considered underwear is not appropriate for work. Don’t listen to the fashion mags that tell you underwear is the new outerwear, it’s not. Underwear is meant for under your clothes. It’s not meant to distract your colleagues from the awesome presentation by giving them a peek at your neon bra straps (“Is the rest of the bra neon, too? So many questions!”). Keep those bra straps hidden at all times.
The other so-called trend that should stay as far away from your work place as possible is showing off your stomach. Yes, you may have worked really hard at achieving a toned tummy, but your employer does not have to see it. If you’re so keen on showing off your midriff, go to the beach, and while you’re at it, take your flip-flops with you.
Basically, anything that shows too much skin is out. That means strappy tops, low cuts, tight dresses, shorts, or sleeveless tops. Ladies, if you like wearing a skirt, make sure it doesn’t show too much of your thighs when you sit down, that there isn’t a sexy slit up the side, or that it’s leather/leopard print. Keep those for date night.
There’s a reason companies have a “casual Friday’s” – it’s a reminder that the rest of the week you gotta dress up a little. Would you take you banker seriously if he tried giving you financial advice dressed in his pj’s? No. You’d wonder why he didn’t make the effort to put on actual clothes.
If you want the people around you to take you seriously, you have to look serous, and an easy way to do that is to dress seriously. If you dress like you got out of bed two minutes before eight, you run the risk of looking incompetent, and treated as such.
Someone told you that a long skirt is a good idea and you came to work in your matric farewell dress. By wearing the satin suit you got married in, you run the risk of looking a tad bit ridiculous and further more dampening your reputation as being able to read a situation.
If the culture at work is to wear smart-casual, you’d best stick to that.
Unless you work in a creative industry, you’d best leave your interesting patterns and colours for another time. Yes, it’s a sad state of affairs, but again, by dressing too outlandish, you’ll give the people around you the idea that you don’t take your job seriously. Don’t distract with crazy patterns or bright colours. You want to look your best, but not like you’re trying to be a fashion designer – unless you are one.
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