How to dress for business success

In the business context, you really are what you wear. A lack of attention to your attire can give off the feeling that you just don’t care or are ill-suited to a particular role.

Harsh as it may seem, first impressions are vital. You can make a mistake every so often in the office but it’s a deal killer to be dressed inappropriately when meeting a client or customer for the first time.

Of course what you wear will differ according to the type of business you work in. For example, if you’re part of the editorial team in a media company, you’re not expected to dress as formally as, let’s say, at a small law firm. You could lose the suit and tie and just rock up in jeans and a t-shirt. Informality is prized in that industry.

However, the average small business person should play it safe and stick to the following broad fashion guidelines:

Suit/Blazer – wear a solid colour such as black, navy or dark grey. Avoid fussy patterns.

Pants – again it should be a solid colour. Black, navy or grey. Linen may work nicely too.

Blouse – white is safe but you can be a bit more creative here with colours and patterning. Avoid anything too garish.

Tie – no exaggerated patterning. Please save the novelty ties for behind closed doors.

Dress/Skirt – keep it simple. Nothing lacy or see-through. Avoid excessive patterns. Keep the hem at a conservative length – it should reach your knees. Also make sure the neck line isn’t too low.

Shoes – leather shoes are preferable. No sports shoes. These are comfortable but they are inappropriate for most business environments.

Heels – short to medium height heels are recommended. You don’t want to look like a stripper but you can still feel attractive. Plain, solid colours look simple but great.

Jewelry – the less, the better. Watches are nice. Earrings, necklaces or bracelets should not become the focus of what you wear. They complement what you wear, they’re not meant to be distracting.

Bag – don’t bring a sports bag. Leave that in the car. You can carry a nice leather bag or a simple laptop case. For ladies, a handbag is recommended. Just don’t bring anything multi-coloured or glitter-covered.

Just remember that the whole package should be clean and tidy. That means no dirt or stains.

In your own work place you can explore and play with what you wear. Mix and match things to see if they work. Get feedback. Or just look in the mirror. If you’re thinking ‘uh oh’ it’s probably best to change.

Also do some research on the internet. There are thousands of links showing you examples of business wear and, if you’re feeling a bit bold, there are blogs that give terrific advice.

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