Personal Brands – Dress to Impress Not Dress for Success

Personal BrandingSuccess Strategies
Diversity and Inclusion in the Workplace

Listening to a co-worker, Kristen, she shared, “Growing up, I was a lucky child. I had parents that never forced me into a role. They regularly taught me to be happy and to love myself no matter what others would think. But, more importantly, they instilled in me the fact that books cannot be judged by their covers. It’s because of this I never cared about what I wore since only the people worth getting to know wouldn’t care about your appearance.

However, as I grew older and met more and more people, I found there was something more to the idea of dressing to impress. Where the not caring about appearance made it extremely easy to find those that were actually worth getting to know, caring about my appearance allowed me to impress those that would have otherwise paid me no mind.”

In reality, not paying attention to appearance is a harder feat to accomplish. We, after all, have been hardwired to care very much about how people look. Back before modern society, a look was what helped you determine if the human was healthy or sick, friendly or hostile. What you determined in that one look helped you figure out if avoiding them would actually lead to a better chance of survival for you.

Yet, even with this undeniable truth of our lineage, many of us rage and rail against societal requirements. Either caused by jealousy, fear, misunderstanding or a sordid past, avoiding dressing for occasions is usually caused by some sort of negative emotion. As hard as this can be to overcome, if you want to succeed, you can’t ignore the fashion requirements of your industry any longer. People judge you as soon as they see you. Why would you want to give them a negative perception that you would then have to fight to overcome?

Dress for Your Work

Fashion is one of those things that is very different based on what industry you work in. This is why dressing for success means very different things across every field. For instance, would the medical professional wear a gown worn by a starlet at the Met Gala? No. Should that medical professional wear such a gown to their own industry’s celebration, they would no doubt be met with awkward smiles and confused stares.

Dressing to impress is far more than adhering to societal rules. It’s a way to exhibit your knowledge of your industry’s culture and how you can adapt to it while still maintaining your individuality.

It exemplifies that you can pick up on the subtle social cues in a way that promotes both harmony and success.

Such understanding is a must the higher up the ladder one climbs. Showing that you know how to deal with the best means you have a better chance of leading the industry to greatness than those that refuse to adapt.

Practice Makes Perfect

When I first learned about the expectation of dressing up to events I didn’t find important, it was through a very rude shaming in public. This person tore me down in front of others. However, she couldn’t be avoided because she was a prominent figure in the community. Truth be told, once my ego had healed, I found a kernel of truth in what she had done. The method was uncalled for, sure, but she had her reasons. Dressing correctly for the event in question is a sign of respect for the event itself. It’s a physical manifestation of your understanding of what that event is, its history and why you were invited to attend. By refusing to dress up for it, you insult the institution, and many do this unknowingly. They believe they’re fighting those that have shamed them when, in reality, it’s seen as a fight against the institution itself.

Instead of giving up, I adapted. Slowly but surely I learned. I still made mistakes by overdressing or underdressing, but each event I gleaned something new. I began watching the other people and studying their clothes. I began analyzing colors and fit so I could better see what would work for my own personality. I also kept testing what I could get away with not doing and still be considered fashionable. Now an intermediate of industry fashion, I’m finding more success than before.

You have approximately seven seconds to make a great first impression. Assume five of those seconds revolve around your clothes.