What’s your work wardrobe saying about you?

| 10 January 2017

By Staff Writer

The way you dress says a lot about you – especially in the workplace. Dress codes differ across sectors (that’s a reality), but the general rule is: at work, keep it professional.

Young handsome man keeping hand on chin and looking away while sitting in the chair against illustration of closet in the background

The way we dress at work not only affects how others perceive us, but affects the way we feel. Research shows the way you dress can significantly increase your confidence which results in increased productivity – what psychologists call ‘enclothed cognition’. Even if you’re not into fashion, it’s something to consider.

Research also suggests it takes just seven seconds to make a first impression. Fashion missteps can create misconceptions about your skills or how seriously you take your job. If your wardrobe is holding you back, it might be time to revamp this year. Here’s why:

What not to wear
Company dress codes are a good guide as to how to dress in the workplace. Informal attire in a corporate can suggest you value comfort over anything else and send the message you’re in cruise-mode. Casual attire might be well-received in certain workspaces, if everyone is on the same page. It’s about knowing what the boundaries are, so you don’t overstep them.

When you join a company, ask management or HR for guidelines on the general dress code and use them as a starting point. If you’ve been with the company for a while, it’s never too late to start over and it’s worth asking what the dress code in the office actually is, to find out if you’re on track.

The new formal
Workplace research shows more offices are moving towards ‘business casual’ in place of suits, but often the rules aren’t clearly defined. Even experienced professionals sometimes have trouble deciding what’s appropriate. If there are grey areas (or the dress code seems to be shifting), chat to colleagues or management to get a more definite idea of what’s appropriate, before going full tracksuit-and-trainers.

No end to the 80s
Vintage styles are having a revival, but it’s wise to mix old-school trends with modern clothes. Dressing like it’s still the 1980s can give the impression you’re out of touch and find it difficult to embrace change. If you’re into vintage, mix it up with classic pieces to keep it professional.

Work wardrobe goals
It may be tempting to don a different look for each day of the week but it’s not always sustainable. In fact, Facebook co-founder, Mark Zuckerberg swears by t-shirts and jeans every day to eliminate unnecessary decisions and implement routine. Although a ‘one-look-every-day’ approach is a bit extreme, there’s value in simplicity.

A minimalistic wardrobe is about quality over quantity. Stick to fewer quality items that last longer and look more professional. A capsule wardrobe will save you infinite time deciding what to wear in the mornings – and you have less chance of committing a serious office-wear faux pas.

The right fit
Believe it or not, psychologists say poorly fitting clothes give the impression the wearer is unrealistic about their abilities. If clothes are too small, it suggests the wearer is unconfident. Oversized clothes allude to the fact that the wearer is trying to hide from the spotlight. Buy clothes that fit. And if your weight fluctuates – adjust accordingly.

Start the New Year with an objective assessment of the message you’re sending to colleagues. You want to be known for the things you say and do, not your outfit malfunction.

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