Wardrobe Wisdom for Men and Women
Most business professionals recognize that the expression,"You
don't get a second chance to make a first impression" is true. The simple
fact is that in and out of the business world, people are judged on their
wardrobe. The clothing you wear can have an adverse affect on your career.
There used to be a time when
the basic business suit was the norm for men and women in workplace situations
across America. But more businesses have adopted "business casual"
policies, so knowing the proper articles of clothing to buy is critical.
It's increasingly important
to understand what this term means. What is "business casual" to
some may not be acceptable with others. The clothes you wear can vary depending
on your situation as well. Even at trade shows, conventions and other meetings,
there is a fine line between "business casual" and "business no-no."
Image Is Everything
The image a professional
presents should make prospects and clients feel comfortable with who he
or she is. Often you will be working in their offices, interfacing with
their company personnel. There are three areas of professional presence;
the "three V's": Visual, Vocal, Verbal. They are the communication
signals we send to other people. The visual is what we look at: dress,
body language, facial expression. The vocal is your voice. The verbal is
the words you choose.
What is most interesting
is that these three signals are far from equally weighted. The visual component
has the most initial impact. Think of it as the packaging. Would you buy
a bar of soap that has the wrapper torn? Remember that the next time you
are dressing for an interview or meeting.
How you look can color what
people hear you saying. Many companies today have "dress-down" and business
casual days. If you are an outside professional visiting a firm, this does
not necessarily apply to you. Unless you are requested to wear business
casual attire, come dressed professionally. You are representing yourself
as well as your company.
Basic Business Wardrobe
Do your clothes help you
project the image you want? Each person should develop a style that reflects
his or her own personality and individual taste.
Women can wear the
following as traditional business attire:
Basic business wardrobe options
for men are:
Black or gray suit
Dark burgundy or navy suit
Contrasting jacket and skirt
Several white, off-white blouses
Solid color blouse; may be pastel
One pair gold, one pair silver
Scarves that pick up colors
from the suits
Black pumps; navy or taupe pumps
Neutral or taupe hosiery
Black leather handbag
All weather coat
Black, brown, or burgundy briefcase
Wardrobe Options For Business Casual
Solid-color navy and gray suits
(one each color)
Five pairs black socks, two
pairs navy socks
Pinstriped navy suit, same in
Four burgundy/red print or striped
silk ties, two patterned silk ties
Two navy/mauve ties
Navy sport coat with gray trousers
One black leather belt
Six white cotton shirts
A blue or pinstriped shirt
One pair black slip-on shoes,
one pair black lace-up shoes
Today's employees appreciate
having casual dress policies because they more closely match their own
personal values states a July 2000 study by Bright Horizons Family Solutions
and William M. Mercer Inc. Responses from more than 450 employees nationwide
found that 90 percent of companies surveyed allowed some form of casual
dress. While some firms had casual Fridays, others allowed workers to dress
more informally during summer months. Still other businesses had adopted
year-round casual dress policies.
Some offices may have a business
casual dress standard from one to five days a week. More companies are
having "casual Fridays" or are relaxing the office dress code. But dressed
down doesn't mean sloppy or shabby clothing.
Instituting dress policies
that are business casual without defining what this term means is the main
problem. A neat, clean, conservative and well-groomed businesslike appearance
applies when a business casual standard is in place.
When you have a client meeting
scheduled, clients come first. When meeting with clients out of the office,
regular business attire is appropriate (e.g. suits, ties, tailored dresses),
unless the client has a business casual policy and invites you to participate
in their policy. For meetings in the office with clients, dress should
be appropriate to the client's expectations (i.e. if a client dresses in
business attire, so should you.)
Women have the following
options for "business casual"
Men can wear the following
as acceptable "business casual"
Casual skirts, slacks or "skorts"
Neatly pressed chinos or corduroys
Cotton shirts in solids, prints,
or muted plaids
Sweaters (not too tight)
Blazers look good over slacks
or casual skirt
Low-heeled shoes or boots -
wear stockings or socks
A survey of 3,500 executives
nationwide, released February 2001 by Management Recruiters International,
found that more than one third said business casual has become too casual.
Chinos or "Dockers"-type trousers
Sport shirts with collars or
Polo shirts (with collars)
Sweater or sport jacket
Casual loafers or lace-up shoes
Appropriate business casual
attire never includes the following:
The image presented to clients,
whether in their office or yours, is of utmost importance. If you are in
doubt about whether a garment is appropriate, it's probably not.
Jeans (of any color)
Athletic wear (e.g. sweat suits)
Bare midriffs (low-cut garments,
front or back)
Any kind of workout clothes,
running or gym shoes, sneakers or sandals
Ripped or tattered clothing
Extremely tight-fitting blouses,
short skirts or other suggestive clothing
You Buy It?
Before making a purchase,
men and women need to answer "yes" to these seven questions. If you are
in doubt, don't buy the item. Clothes should look and feel good.
1. Did you try
the garment on?
2. Did you check
the fit in the front and the back?
3. Is the suit
jacket long enough to cover the buttocks?
4. Are the button
holes sewn tightly?
5. Can you move
around in the garment?
6. Does the
item feel comfortable? Check for pulls, bulges or bunching of the material.
7. Do you like
the item? Buy a garment because you like it, not just to add to your wardrobe.
here to find a career you can be passionate about
MA, CSP, CMC
MA, CSP, CMC, is author of 15 books, including her new book, Help! Was
That a Career Limiting Move?, Speaking is an Audience- Centered Sport,
and Professional Impressions . Etiquette for Everyone, Every Day.
She has appeared on CNBC several times, Fox-TV, Oxygen Network, and been
quoted in The Wall Street Journal, Washington Post, USA Today, People,
Glamour, BusinessWeek, Fortune and many other national publications.
Her Jenkintown, PA-based training corporation, Brody Communications Ltd.,
connects people to potential by offering customized seminars, coaching
and keynotes focusing on communication, presentation skills and leadership.
Visit www.BrodyCommunications.com or call 800-726-7936.
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