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Science Can Help You Find Appropriate Business Attire to Dress for Success

How to Find Appropriate Business Attire

Suit? Dress? Slacks? Skirt? Neutrals? Colors? Don’t get me started on “business casual Friday”! Choosing the appropriate business attire is so time-consuming in our already busy lives. Not many of us are willing to go to the extreme Einstein did to eliminate selecting an outfit from our daily routine by always wearing the same clothes.Where do we start and how do we know if we’re doing it right? Does what we wear even matter? What happened to “Don’t judge a book by its cover?”

Choosing the appropriate business attire is so time-consuming in our already busy lives.

The level of formality in your workplace dress is generally dictated by your profession and employer. (For example: Lawyers and bankers wear suits while teachers typically wear khakis.) There is more leeway than ever before in career wardrobe options. You would not want to show up for an interview at a tech company in Silicon Valley wearing a power suit! Having even more options in the search for appropriate business attire is not making things any easier.

Everyone understands the importance of being dressed appropriately for the occasion. What if I told you picking a different color or pattern for your tie could command more attention during your big meeting? Or opting for a more tailored look would change the way your co-workers respond to your ideas?

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Science shows that our wardrobe affects how we feel about ourselves, manifesting in different body language, attention span, and work ethic. Wardrobe also affects how others perceive us, especially in areas like trustworthiness, creativity, and leadership abilities. So yes, what we wear matters. Appropriate business attire can indirectly impact our careers and the size of our paychecks.

Yes, Appropriate Business Attire Can be Fun and Colorful

Color is the first thing people notice and many debates exist about its role in the workplace. In fact, an entire women’s clothing company has been built on the premise that people should notice you and not your clothes. Their clothing line is made entirely of neutrals in classic cuts and styles. But is denying the existence of color instead of using it to your advantage really the answer? A few simple guidelines can take the mystery and stress away!

  • Red colors evoke feelings of danger and excitement, but some find them frightening. It’s no surprise that many CEOs in a recent survey prefer shades of red and magenta. That’s excellent for an established CEO who wants to wield his or her power to influence those below them on the corporate ladder; but what if you are new on the job? Or not yet a CEO? When trying to build trust in the workplace, you may want to leave the red power suit, tie or scarf at home and opt for a shade of blue instead.
  • Shades of blue evoke feelings of calmness. The color also positively impacts mood and creativity in co-workers.
  • People dressed in darker colors like charcoal gray, black and chocolate brown are perceived as authoritative and more knowledgeable. If your co-workers are less receptive to your ideas than you would like, then opt for darker tones when getting dressed for work on big meeting days!
  • Lighter earth tones like khakis and pastels make you appear warm, friendly and approachable. They’re excellent options when searching for appropriate business attire to start working on workplace relationships.

Style Affects Mood and Language, Studies Show

Your workplace itself will dictate appropriate proper business attire and the level of formality, but that does not mean you cannot elevate your own personal style to impact your mood and language. I am not saying you should wear a suit, while the rest of the staff is in jeans. You could wear a collared shirt instead of a T-shirt, or dress shoes and stylish jacket.

Many professionals debate how proper business attire impacts performance. Private schools have touted that their uniforms are part of the formula to raise school performance. However, public school counterparts have resisted the shift to uniforms for many reasons, but what if it is true? Should kids learn about appropriate business attire before they even enter the workplace? What if what you wear affects how you accomplish a task?

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Researchers set out to find the answers about this phenomenon called “enclothed cognition”. Enclothed cognition involves two factors: the symbolic meaning of the clothes and the physical experience of wearing them. They dressed test subjects in formal and casual attire. The results are difficult to debate.

Those subjects who were casually dressed made more informal language choices and responded more leisurely to casual language. They also found that attention spans dramatically increased when subjects were wearing lab coats (doctor’s coats) compared to when they were wearing no coat or a painter’s coat.

The subjects dressed in appropriate business attire used more sophisticated language to describe themselves and responded more quickly to more formal speech patterns. 

How Does Your Wardrobe Affect Your Career?

What does this mean to you financially? Personally, if your place of employment falls on the casual end of the workday attire spectrum, try adding a tailored jacket or button-up shirt, and make your “casual” a little more formal. It could increase your job performance as well as boost others’ perception of you. Better job performance may lead to promotions, raises, and more clients!

...Try adding a tailored jacket or button-up shirt, and make your “casual” a little more formal.

As a company leader, if you are debating what level of formality you would like to see at your company, elevating it (without upsetting employees) may increase the rate and quality of work your employees deliver. There isn’t a company president alive who doesn’t want better work rates and higher quality.

Is Finding the Appropriate Business Attire the Simple Solution?

No, wearing the appropriate business attire with the perfect colors isn’t going to get you a corner office if you don’t have the right stuff. However, it could get you that second job interview, get your ideas taken a bit more seriously, or tip the scales in your favor when competing to head up the next big project! So, next time you are staring at your closet trying to decide what the appropriate business attire might be for what you have to do, don’t despair! Take a moment and think about what you are trying to accomplish that day and use your clothing to help deliver the right message.

About Mercedes Holmen

Mercedes is a business owner and Executive Consultant with Rodan and Fields. In addition, she works in the field of behavior analysis for children with autism and their families, specializing in preschool aged children. She also has her Masters in Science from University of California at Davis.

View all articles by Mercedes »

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