Yes, first impressions matter, and what you are wearing may or may not determine whether you are taken seriously. But I would argue that there is another important aspect of dressing to impress that cannot be overlooked, and that aspect is much more internal.
As COVID forced employees to work remotely, online advice and informational articles were plentiful to assist a smooth transition from cubicle to kitchen table. A perhaps surprising bit of advice was to dress as if you were still going into the office. “Research has found that people feel more competent when wearing business clothes,” said psychologist Cathleen Swody. Other psychologists concur that dressing up for work can affect things like your own mood, motivation, and confidence as much as others’ views of you.
Everyone knows the relief of changing out of your business clothes into comfy sweatpants and T’s. It signals to your brain that your work is done and you can relax. Well, getting into those business clothes in the morning does the same thing. It signals to your mind that it’s time to get in work-mode and be productive. If you stay in your pajamas all day, it is more likely that your brain will tell you to curl up in front of the TV rather than write that financial report that is waiting for you.
Little clothing decisions can go a long way. A friend of mine likes to wear heels when she gives presentations. It makes her feel confident and in control when speaking in front of her audience.
Some university and grad students dress up on the day they have exams. It makes them feel competent and self-assured – both important mindsets when taking a test. If I want to get things done when I get home, I keep my shoes on instead of relaxing. It makes me feel like I am still on the go and keeps me moving.
Whether you work best when you are in sweats or dressed up, it is a good idea to remind yourself that what you wear may very well affect your mood, motivation, confidence, and other important internal factors that contribute to success at work. So when you dress, dress to impress not only those around you but also yourself.