Top 10 Tips For Dressing For Success

Posted October 13, 2011, by Andrea Riddell

While working in an office environment, it’s crucial to adhere to the dress code. After all, the way colleagues and clients view you can help make or break your professional reputation.

Dressing for work – if you don’t have a uniform, or work in a business casual environment – can often seem like a tedious and difficult chore, especially when performed five days a week, forty-odd weeks in a year. However, such an irksome routine of getting dressed in the morning can easily be mastered by following these ten tips.

1. Be prepared

Planning your outfits the night before can help you avoid looking like you got dressed in the dark. This can also help to eliminate any stress that can arise in the likely event that your go-to pants are in the wash and you have to put together an award-winning outfit in five minutes or you’ll miss your bus. Planning ahead can also reduce the chances of you committing the number one fashion crime of wearing the same outfit twice. Plus, you can use the extra minutes in the morning to catch up on some z’s.

2. Invest in an iron

If you plan on being taken seriously by your colleagues then the first step is to take your own appearance very seriously. The way you dress yourself each morning portrays your attitude to work and life. If your creased and crumpled shirt is telling your boss that you couldn’t care less if you got that promotion or not, then why on earth would they give it to you? Ironing your clothes is not something you should just pull out for job interviews – it should be mandatory for all occasions.

3. Dress like your boss

As the saying goes, ‘dress for the job you want, not the job you have’. The best way to gauge the dress code of the office is to emulate the people who run the place. If your boss has a penchant for the jeans and collared shirt combo then you too should happily indulge – however, caution must be taken when venturing into the territory of golf-themed ties and socks emblazoned with Bart Simpson.

4. Don’t forget to polish

Leave scruffy shoes in the past with your school uniform. As an adult you have no excuse for not being able to see your reflection staring up at you when you peer down at your feet. Polish will take years off your leather and instantly signal you as a serious player in the company. That said, don’t forget to team your black shoes with a nice clean pair of black socks – unless, of course, you’re one of the Blues Brothers.

5. Overdressed is better than underdressed

This does not mean that you should dress as if you are heading out for a night in Kings Cross. Instead, plan your daily outfits as if you have an extremely important meeting with an extremely important client. This way you’ll be prepared for anything, including if that important client just so happens to be in town. And have no qualms about looking ridiculously overdressed. In the words of stylist to the stars Rachel Zoe, ‘What’s the worse that can happen? You’re the best dressed at the party?’

6. Quality over quantity

Investing in quality basic office apparel will not only save you money in the long run but also help you look like the star employee that you are. The last thing you want is to enter a meeting with a client only to find the button on your bargain bin shirt has popped off right at chest level. Suits in classic colours – black and navy – that are tailored to your body will help you avoid looking like a 5-year-old playing grown-ups.

7. Less does not equal more

Unless you make money from wearing less clothing than the average human, it is advised to take a conservative approach when dressing for the corporate world. Immediately eliminate anything your mother would deem too tight, too short, too see-through – in fact, anything that is described with a ‘too’ in front of it needs to be thrown into the weekend pile. Leaving things to the imagination can be the difference between respect and ridicule. This also goes for fashion faux pas such as Visible Panty Line, plumber’s crack and black bras under white shirts.

8. Comfort = confidence

If you spend most of your workday literally running in and out of the office, scaling large flights of stairs or visiting building sites then make sure your outfit accommodates your daily activities. Leave the towering high heels for days when you’re comfortably sitting at your desk instead of chasing taxis. Wear your favourite shirt on a day that you know will be particularly stressful. If you feel comfortable then this will help you to relax and focus without being distracted about whether your new tie matches your shirt.

9. Dare to be different

It is so easy to fall into a rut when it comes to your office wardrobe, but dressing for today’s workplaces is no longer black and white. A whole new playing field has opened up in office dressing, so don’t be afraid to inject a little bit of fun into your outfit with colour, prints, detailing and accessories. A brooch attached to your blazer lapel can be all it takes. And as frivolous as it sounds, sometimes an exciting outfit can be all the incentive you need to get up and slog through a hard day’s work.

10. Be yourself

Don’t lose yourself in the rules of office dressing. The fashion world is the fiercest advocate of the rule that rules are meant to be broken (especially top 10 lists). While dressing appropriately is key, this doesn’t equate to forgoing your personality or sense of style. Whatever the dress code is, personalise your outfit with your own brand of magic. Life is too short to look boring.

If you're baffled by what a 'smart casual' dress code looks like, check out our tips on dressing for success in a business casual environment.

Andrea Riddell

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