How to work your wardrobe

Think clothes don't matter in the workplace? Think again, says workwear specialist Nick Acaster. Your sartorial choices can directly affect your success. Here's how to dress to impress.

by Nick Acaster
Last Updated: 09 Oct 2013

Although bankers and lawyers are still committed to dressing in traditional suits and ties for an entire eight-hour shift each day, employees in other sectors have become more adaptable. These days, a more relaxed mode of dress applies, ranging from jeans to fashionable shirts without ties. ‘Business casual’ is the new norm, which - oddly - makes the job of dressing for wortk harder, rather than the opposite. Here's why.

A working wardrobe has to suit the demands of the job. Employees must dress comfortably but, at the same time, be prepared for unexpected client visits or meetings where a jacket and tie still remains the status quo. What you wear can even have an impact on an your career prospects, the identity of the organisation you represent, and can strengthen your presence in the office.
Here's how to create your own functional working wardrobe:
Dress for the job you want, not the job you have

The clothes you wear affect your attitude and confidence levels, and people who dress for success feel good about themselves.  In other words, dress as you want to be seen.  Whether it is to look serious, professional, upward-bound and ready to meet clients, how you dress will make a statement about your self-identification, and the level of occupational aspiration you want to achieve. 

Don't wear a uniform

Every role is different and there is no universal 'career uniform'. Your selection of clothing will vary based on your occupation, location, and taste - it is also important to dress for your corporate culture and work environment. A business suit for a construction job or overalls for an office job is obviously not going to work. A conservative suit would be the recommended style for professional and managerial positions whilst eclectic or individualised dressing might be more acceptable in creative and advertising professions.


Forward plan your wardrobe

If you spend too much time every day working out how to dress, you'll have less time for making your job a success.  Plan in advance, whether that means laying out your outfit the night before or buying that season's workwear beforehand.

Remember grooming and those all important accessories

A great work wardrobe will be let down by poor grooming. Brush your hair, shave, and always have one final look in the mirror before leaving the house. Common sense and good taste are the best guides in selecting corporate clothing.  Always wear well-fitted clothes with neat and crisp lines, smart and stylish polished shoes, simple accessories to compliment your overall look and steer clear of loud colours. You want the employer to focus on your skills, and not your flamboyance.

Dress as fashionably as your wardrobe budget and clothing options allow

There are no extra points for looking out-of-date or dull, no matter how formal or unfashionable your company or role may be.  Of course you won't be taken seriously if you look like a fashion victim, and there are always certain rules that should be adhered to in the workplace (such as not looking like you should be on the catwalk or in a club), but you don't have to sacrifice style to dress for success.

Devoting extra time to your professional appearance will make employers take notice of your attributes, while colleagues will be more respectful towards your position. Always remember to dress to succeed!   

Nick Acaster is director at Alexandra

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