Your appearance says a lot about you. My best advice on to how your attire can help you create positive personal impact is simple and common sense. Dress one level up. In other words, dress a little nicer than you have to. For example, if your office is casual, wear a dress or a suit every once in a while.
Make sure your clothes and shoes are clean and in good repair. Keep your hair clean and well styled. Make sure your shoes are shined. Look in the mirror on your way out the door. Ask yourself, “Will I impress other people with the way I look today?” If the answer is “no”, take a few minutes and change before you go to work.
I always get dressed up when I am meeting clients. Many of my clients dress casually. When they tell me, “You didn’t need to wear a suit today,” I say, “Yes I did. I’m meeting with an important person — you.” Show respect for yourself and the people around you by dressing well and looking good.
Accessories are another part of your appearance. In general, you want your accessories to compliment, not over power your clothing. Keep them understated and elegant. Large rings and earring, bracelets that jangle every time you move can distract from your look and your professionalism. Save the bling for evenings out, tone it down at work
Pay attention to your electronic accessories. About a year ago, I saw a Wall Street Journal article about electronic accessories. It made some interesting points about cell phones, PDAs and other electronic helpers – all small enough to tote around with us all the time – and how they can hurt your image as a professional. Look around, you’ll see that most senior executives aren’t overburdened by electronic accessories.
In Wildly Sophisticated, my friend Nicole Williams lays out ten fashion commandments. I think they are invaluable advice for creating a professional look.
- Sweat the small stuff. People don’t necessarily notice if you’re groomed, but they definitely notice when you’re not.
- Restrain yourself. Never let your accessories wear you.
- Know your body. Recognize that every style trend is not designed for you. This isn’t a limitation – its just reality.
- Black is your friend. Black staples – pants, skirts and jackets are clean, classic and they always look good. They’re flattering, will work with everything else in your closet and will stretch your clothing budget.
- Focus on your feet. A great pair of shoes can make all the difference in your look. Make sure your footwear is polished and clean. This is another one of those details that people really do notice.
- Welcome the three-way. Clothes that fit well make you look better and help your confidence.
- Work it. Style is really a synonym for self-expression. You’ll feel and look better when your clothes reflect your personality.
- Buy quality. In the long run, quality clothes will actually save you money.
- Invest in accessories. Your bag or briefcase is a constant companion. Clients, employers and colleagues will all notice what’s draped on your arm. Invest in a quality piece that reflects your style. And in this age of laptops, cell phones and PDAs, a bag that will carry your hardware is a lifesaver.
- Relax. Bottom line? Its just fashion. Give it your best shot; know that style matters and that looking groomed and professional are important for your career.