A person’s clothing is often a medium of communication, expressing style and personality type. Should you be judged by what you wear? Perhaps not, but the reality is, of course, that you’re judged.

Among the first things people notice about you is the way you dress and the way you groom yourself. It’s an intact reality that prior to the winking of one’s eye even your dress promptly reflects your entire personality. It no more remains a means of enveloping your corporeal frame, but indeed becomes an index of your entire being. It mirrors your personality. It reveals your clandestine and gets your inside out. It’s more like the lustrous, captivating and enticing cover of the perfume that speaks for the quality packed inside. It’s the shortest key to your ultimate success.

Many highly creative people affect a casual indifference toward their personal appearance, but in reality, they’re making a purposeful statement.  They’re saying, in effect, “I’m so good at what I do that I don’t have to dress for success.”

Henry David Thoreau was such a person. “Beware of all enterprises that require new clothes,” he wrote. If you plan to spend your life in the seclusion, follow Thoreau’s advice.  If you want to make it to merciless corporate world, pay careful attention to the clothes you wear and the visual impact you’ve on others.

When dressing for the corporate world, follow the standard advice: Dress for inclusion.  Look at what the people one or two steps up the corporate ladder from you’re wearing and be guided by their tastes. That’s about the closest thing to universal advice that can be given in the realm of dress.  Fads and fashions come and go, and what’s in today may be passé tomorrow.   Wherever you’re — in Lahore, Karachi, Mumbai, London or Sydney, or Singapore or Luxembourg — follow the fashion lead of the successful people in your business.

The perennial choice for the corporate executives is the gray or blue suit, with lighter shades in warm weather, darker ones in cool weather. Brown suits are generally regarded as less authoritative than blue or gray ones.

Women have greater latitude for individuality in fashions, but the general rule still applies.  In most businesses, it’s best to avoid extremes.  Seductive or coquettish outfits may draw admiring stares, but they won’t enhance your reputation as a corporate woman. The same standard advice for ladies as well: Dress for inclusion.  Look at what the ladies one or two steps up the corporate ladder from you’re wearing and be guided by their tastes but in all cases your taste should be steered towards a modest dress that compliments and supplements your personality.

Solid colors in women’s clothing convey a message of seriousness and character.  Plaids and prints are more whimsical.  Different colors flatter different women.  Find your best colors and stick with them.

Shoes should always be shined and in good repair. Adlai Stevenson, the American statesman, may be remembered for the famous photograph showing the hole in the sole of his shoe.  But he’s also remembered as the loser of two presidential elections.

“Mama always said you can tell a lot about a person by their shoes.”

TOM HANKS, AS FORREST GUMP IN THE MOVIE, FORREST GUMP

If your job calls for a briefcase, invest in top-quality.  It’ll contribute strongly to your image of success.  If you need to have a pen in your breast pocket, make it a high quality and attractive one. Avoid cheap plastic pens, and never wear pocket liners for pens.

For men, beards are a matter of taste and religious conviction.  Make up your mind whether you want one.  Don’t go around looking as if you’ve forgotten to shave for the past couple of days and avoid having stubble that awards a haggard look. It may work for a Hollywood or Bollybood actor or the leader of a stateless people, but not for corporate community.  If you choose to wear a beard, keep it neatly trimmed.

Both men and women should avoid extremes of hairstyle.  Again, use the look cultivated by the most successful people in your field as a guide, and adapt it to your own physical features.

Whole idea is that with your dressing you should look very special and distinguished person. If you’re waiting at reception and there’re 4-5 other people waiting there, you should look different, you should look special, you should look that you’re the person who came for the sales call.

Long time ago, I read somewhere that it never hurts to be formal unless you’re strolling on a beach. Formal dressing is the safest dressing.

Dress for job seekers

As an interviewee, you must be exceptionally sensitive to the dress codes. As a serious and success-conscious potential corporate executive, you must broadly know the dress codes of different companies and industries. You must know that if you’re going to Levi’s for an interview, you better dress yourself in Levi’s.

Let me encapsulate the broad guidelines.

  • Suiting                                  Dark colors like black, grey, dark blue
  • Shirts                                    Dress shirts, white or blue, preferably plain
  • Cufflinks                               Black, Blue, Golden
  • Ties                                       Red, or any black color that matches
  • Shoes                                    Black, shiny, polished.
  • Socks                                    Must match with suit
  • Handbag                              Sleek, black or brown
  • Deodorant                           Light
  • Beard/moustaches            Neatly trimmed

I’ll recommend a book The Professional Image by Susan Bixler for further reading on image enhancement dressing.

 

 
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