Dress The Part

By Chelle Cordero

July 27, 2016 5 min read

Every role in every job should portray an image, a persona, that will permit clients and customers reasonable confidence in your abilities, will allow your bosses to feel you represent the company in a good light and will not make your co-workers feel uncomfortable or put off. Would you feel more assured handing your hard-earned money over to an investment counselor wearing a modest tailored suit or to someone wearing worn jeans with holes and a dirty T-shirt?

What is your image of someone in your line of work? How comfortable would you be doing business with "you" the way you are dressed right now? If you made an appointment with an investment counselor, would you feel more assured handing your hard-earned money over to someone in a modest and clean, tailored suit or to someone wearing worn jeans with holes and a dirty T-shirt? The impressions that you make with your countenance, clothing, accessories and grooming should complement your abilities and not detract from them.

If you are just beginning a new job, ask for an employee handbook or dress code rules as a guide -- written guides are usually very open-ended and leave a lot of room for interpretation, but they may provide some basics. How were people dressed when you came in for an interview? If you didn't have the opportunity to observe your coworkers, ask friends or human resources for hints on how to dress. In a professional business environment, a safe wardrobe would be: (for females) a skirted or pants-suit, pumps or kitten heels, a soft or white colored button down blouse, and pantyhose if your legs are exposed; (for males) a suit and tie with matching trousers, clean and polished shoes, calf-high socks so no skin is exposed and a tailored button down dress shirt. Always wear clean and supportive undergarments that will not show through or peek out as you move, such as bright red under a white shirt. Avoid too-expensive or uncomfortable clothing that says you are not willing -- or able -- to get down to work.

Use your first day or two to notice how everyone else is dressed and modify your wardrobe accordingly. A first-day minor faux pas may be overlooked, but if you continue to stand out like the proverbial sore thumb, that will be noticed and not in a pleasant way. If your office hosts Casual Fridays, that does not mean the weekend has begun early; men can lose the jacket and possibly the tie, wear collared golf shirts and Dockers, and women can wear comfortable slacks, blouses and pumps, but despite the day of the week the outfit should still represent the company and look as if you are prepared to do business. If your office permits jeans, keep them dark, not faded or frayed, and preferably boot-cut.

Even if you have a work uniform, whether as a fast food worker, a hospital nurse or a freight delivery driver, your grooming habits and accessories are still important. Your hair should be combed and not look like you just got out of bed or the shower, fingernails clean and manicured, avoid excessive jewelry, if your workplace permits open-toed shoes invest in a pedicure, and use colognes and hairsprays sparingly. Unless you work in a club, don't dress as if you are going clubbing. Generally you should cover up tattoos and remove facial piercings during work hours. If you want to be taken seriously and not minimize your talent, avoid wearing too-tight or provocative clothing at work. Your job is not the place to show off your bulging arm muscles or any other body parts.

Even if you work at home, avoid the temptation to just roll out of bed and work in your PJs. You will be more disciplined for that unsupervised position if you actually dress for work. By all means dress comfortably -- and slippers are acceptable, but if you find the clothes you are wearing make you more inclined to tackle the dirty kitchen floor than sit at your desk, then dress it up a bit. Imagine if your boss or client showed up at your door in the middle of the day. Would you be too embarrassed to open it?

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