How to Dress to Impress

“Dress for the job you want, not the job you have.” “Look good until you feel good.” “Dress with confidence.” “Dress to impress.” “Dress how you want to be addressed.” “Life is a party, dress like it.” “Good clothes open all doors.” “You can have anything you want in life if you dress for it.” “Life isn’t perfect, but your outfit can be.” “Always dress like you’re going to see your worst enemy.” “Dress like you own the bank, not like you need a loan from it…”

You have just read a long list of nonsensical slogans, frivolous quotes, and futile promises. Perhaps you have run into a few of these washed-out witticisms before? Did you find them intriguing? Inspiring? Or the least bit instructive?… No?… Fear not! I am here to make all things plain (all things except your wardrobe, that is). Let me teach you, guide you, coach you, train you to dress for success in this bustling, bantering, bemusing world of business.

Dress Yourself

Keep your fit clean and poised. Please, don’t allow my guiding hand to push you into the deep end on this one! If, after reading this poignant piece, you feel the desire to throw on every accessory you own, go on a financially fallible shopping spree, or show up to work in your black-tie ensemble, please, resist that urge.

By all means, experiment with boldly colored and patterned button-downs and blouses, but add a touch of maturity with a responsible blazer and slacks (use a tailor). Wear a statement necklace or playful pocket square but steer clear of flashy heels, even the most sensible of fedoras, and, for heaven’s sake, no sequined jackets or bedazzled pocketbooks — we aren’t working in a nightclub.

The point is to be memorable but not to distract from your obvious skills and potential.

Here is a tip, men:

  1. Play with combos.
  2. Go jacket no tie, then tie no jacket.
  3. Don’t be monochromatic. If your suit is navy, choose a white or patterned green button-down – no more blues.
  4. If you are wearing a lighter suit, go for a darker shirt.

Ladies, air on the side of formal when in the office setting. Pearls, a simple set of earrings, and comfortable heels are your friends. You can dominate in a pantsuit or a skirt and heels but make sure the skirt is long enough and avoid plunging necklines and lace. You know the drill.

Ladies and gents, invest in good work shoes. A sure-fire way to ruin a smashing outfit is to wear a beat-up or inappropriate pair of shoes. You have been warned.

Groom Yourself

This means nails, hair, makeup, moisturizer. Gentlemen, grooming is not and should not be a practice monopolized by the ladies. Your nails need to be cut, not bitten, your hair must be brushed, yes, brushed regularly, your facial hair, if you absolutely insist on cultivating it, must be just that – cultivated, and a bit of facial moisturizer goes a long way. You will not be taken seriously by others if it is clear you do not take yourself seriously. Ladies, if your nail polish is chipping, kill it. If your hair is annoying you, clip it or put it in a pony tail – no messy buns in the office, please. And yes, a bit of coverup for dark shadows and a swipe of mascara is appropriate.

I am aware that it is a broken system, and we can all work for a more unbiased world, but studies have shown that people who arrive fashionably dressed can out-earn their peers by 20%. Those same studies showed that with basic grooming among business people, that gap narrowed.