The Dress For Success Perception

Posted on February 28, 2012

I have two very good colleagues who have completely different thoughts on appropriate attire for business-brandishing. One staunchly defends a very professional, suit-inspired look. She wears matching pant/ sweater /skirt/blazer sets to everything – the fancier the event, the fancier the sweater/blazer. The other dresses casually unless paid to do otherwise. He’s a jeans man through and through, and it will cost you double to get him in a suit.

Both have mega-corporate clients and both rake in large six-figure incomes. And, while I much prefer the latter’s frame of reference (black jeans are my preferred dress-up gig), in this post-recession era, does dressing for success matter? For job-seekers, it probably does. For consultants, it’s a bit messier. On the one hand, you want to look successful enough to land the business. And, even when wearing jeans you still must maintain a professional ambiance. But even Wall Street has toned down the power suit. Casual Friday is now Ready-to-Wear Weekday.

Once again, it comes down to perception. You want to be perceived as successful, knowledgeable and able to tackle the task at hand. Look around you. Are there fewer clothing distinctions between the mail room and the Board room? Is tech-support tailoring more the norm than Brooks Brothers broadcloth? Or does the power suit still reign supreme? Who’s getting the recognition and the contracts? Is your reputation more credible than your rumpled shirt? That’s what you need to understand. It doesn’t matter how you look, it’s how you’re perceived by the people with whom you want to work. Take your cues from them.

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