Dressing for success is an idea encouraged throughout our lives. The concept is first introduced in our formative years, during the transition from carefree student to responsible employee. The idea later gains traction as employees look to build work history and earn promotions and increased responsibility in the workforce.
Dressing for What and Whom?
From this vantage point, the concept of looking a particular way often relates to someone else’s perception of appearance. In other words, do you look the part? Depending on your personal perceptions and influences, this can translate in different ways. If you’re someone who is planning on achieving career growth, what’s necessary to achieve this goal? Does it necessitate cultivating a particular look?
Assessing your Environment
All of us are the product of our environment. From this we create perceptions and judgments. For instance, if your boss wears button-down shirts and you believe the person is a good boss; you might not have a problem wearing a button-down shirt to the office. On the flip side, if you don’t trust the person, the mistrust can translate to the clothing you associate with them. In the dress-for-success model, you might link dressing “corporate” with a way to succeed. If so, then you must consider what “corporate” means to you. Is it button-down shirts and khakis, slacks and classic cardigans or something else entirely?
Influencing More than People
Understanding why we dress the way we do can help us pinpoint what we communicate with our clothes and how those choices appear to those around us. Not understanding these outward actions can translate into feeling uncomfortable about showing our true self. A new study from a team of psychological scientists demonstrated clothing choices also have the power to influence personal decision-making and the way we focus on tasks.
The scientists found wearing formal clothing caused the subjects to think more broadly about things and have the power to determine how one makes decisions. It also influenced how comfortable people felt talking with others and their desire to be around them.
Considering how many decisions we make in a day, the choice of what we wear may be even more important than initially thought, particularly when thinking about personal style, goals and the unconscious human desire to fit in with those around us. The question then becomes how to balance a desire to receive positive attention for our skills without creating a look that appears too different or polarizing.
When applying for jobs or looking for ways to move up the career ladder, remember clothing plays a significant role in how others see us and in how we perceive ourselves. Each choice should communicate a clear message about who we think we are and who we want to be.