Whether you like it or not, your clothing communicates — and it can have a serious effect on your ability to achieve success.
“Let’s be clear: In the big picture of ultimate reality, what you wear neither defines who you are as a person nor determines your value as a human being,” says Darlene Price, president of Well Said, Inc., and author of “Well Said! Presentations and Conversations That Get Results.” “However, in the temporal realm of mere mortals, fair or not, people judge us by the way we look and that includes the way we dress.” Especially in the workplace, clothing significantly influences how others perceive you and how they respond toward you, she says.
Research shows that your appearance strongly influences other people’s perception of your financial success, authority, trustworthiness, intelligence, and suitability for hire or promotion.
And, because perception is often reality, what you wear not only communicates who you are in the minds of others but also influences your level of career advancement.
Research has also found that when you combine your appearance with communication skills, not only is others’ perception of you affected, but their behavior toward you is also influenced. “Clothing plus communication skills determine whether or not others will comply with your request, trust you with information, give you access to decision makers, pay you a certain salary or fee for contracted business, hire you, or purchase your products and services,” she says.
Here are seven tips to ensure your clothing has a positive impact on your success:
Don’t show too much skin. That means no short skirts, strapless tops, or shoes that barely cover your feet.
Never wear dirty clothes. This seems obvious — but plenty of people think they can get away with wearing that dirty shirt just one more time before bringing it to the dry cleaners. News flash: You can’t.
Don’t wear wrinkled clothing. Heard of an iron? Use it. You’ll look neat and way more put together.
Wear clothes that fit you well. “Tailoring is a simple way to make clothes way more flattering,” writes BI’s retail editor Ashley Lutz.
dress, employee, woman, smiling
Don’t overdo it on the makeup or jewelry.Strelka Institute for Media, Architecture and Design/Flickr
She says it’ll give you a polished look, and those around you will perceive you differently. So, stay away from clothing that is too tight or too baggy.
Always follow the dress code (or dress one step above). Don’t understand dress codes? Read about them here and here.
Wear appropriate shoes and accessories. Don’t wear jewelry that is too flashy or obnoxious — and always wear comfortable shoes that are appropriate for work. Also, if you wear makeup, don’t overdo it!
Don’t wear shorts. In some workplaces, it’s perfectly acceptable for women and men to wear shorts. But, if you really want to portray yourself as a professional, steer clear.
“To achieve career advancement, avoid an unprofessional image that may enslave your career to others’ misperceptions,” Price says. “Instead, choose clothing that accurately reflects your credibility and ensures you ‘sell for what you’re worth.’ Make sure your ‘exterior’ earns you a ‘silent recommendation,'” she concludes.