"Dress to impress" is popular advice for a reason: the better we dress, and the better we feel about how we’re dressed, the more confident we appear and the better the impression that other people form of us. If you have the confidence to want to make a statement with the way you dress, then great, the world needs people like you: but you need to be prepared for the people who might unfairly judge you based on it.
See also: Job Interview Dress Code
Your hair is as much a part of your outfit as the rest of it, especially if you’re a woman: before you make any changes - or make no changes - you might want to consult this Elle article that discusses everything from length, to style to colour. Ultimately, however, you should do whatever makes you comfortable and confident, and be "be respectful of your work environment but … show your true personality traits through your hairstyle." Their suggestions include:
- One colour isn’t necessarily better than another, but if you’ve dyed it you might want to do a touch up before a job interview, as "If you attend an interview and your roots are blatantly showing, you will not be called back for a second interview."
- Johanna Cox found that many of her male coworkers were "chilly" toward her close-cut pixie cut. At the other extreme, too long and high maintenance can give the impression that you’ll spend more time thinking about your hair than you job.
- Straight can be slimming and look more serious... but flat ironed straight can look "too hard." Curly haired women tend to be seen as "carefree and approachable risk-takers", but only if they have it under control.
All the world’s a stage
And all the men and women merely players - Shakespeare
If all the world’s a stage, then makeup is the mask that all the world wears. Some people are lucky enough to have the skin and the confidence to wear none - when this blogger experimented, her friend told her she looked more friendly!
Of course, there is also such a thing as too much that can give people the wrong idea about, let’s say, the line of work you’re in or what you’re trying to hide. Work probably isn’t the place for ridiculously obvious false eyelashes, crazy-coloured lipstick or thick mascara, but try to find your sweet spot between none and just enough.
You have big breasts and you want to show them off? Feel free, as long as you’re outside work and don’t mind the attention you’ll get from the men and the eye-rolling you might get from the women. You’re not stick thin? Things that are too tight will look like you’re in denial (and are uncomfortable!) and this that are too baggy will hide you completely. Use this guide to figure out your shape and how you should be dressing it.
Slogans, rude words, and pictures are fine in public but not so fine at work where they might be seen as rude, distracting, or that you’re more interested in making a point than getting your work done. Anything too controversial may lead to an argument you don’t want to have, and anything that you wear and realize too late is unsuitable for where you’re heading will leave you uncomfortable for the rest of the day.
Gone are the days where your choices were a skirt or a pair of trousers; now there’s skorts, midi-skirts, culottes, jeggings, leggings, and probably even more.
Too short and you’re giving the wrong impression, too long and you’re giving a different wrong impression – making a ‘midi-skirt’ the best choice. Schools typically call for a skirt to be two inches above the knee; while that might be too long for any adult, beware of going too short. If people can see that you can’t sit comfortably, or are seeing more than they’d like when you cross your legs or precede them up the stairs, they aren’t going to be looking at you too favourably.
If your workplace is casual enough that you can wear jeans, that still doesn’t mean your favourite pair with "artistically" torn knees will be suitable. Ideally, stick to dark colours with no or a subtle pattern, but definitely keep away from pairs the wrong length, torn, frayed or stained to avoid misconception that you don’t care about how you look or how you make the company look.
Suits and dresses
Generally, you can’t go wrong with a business suit. It doesn’t even have to be perfectly tailored, but it does need to fit well: the sleeves should be the right length, the jacket shouldn’t be too tight, and the blouse or shirt underneath should be plain and with the appropriate number of buttons buttoned.
Similar to skirts, a dress shouldn’t be flashy, too short or too long, and should be high enough to not reveal too much cleavage. Just like anything else, it shouldn’t be too tight or too loose, and straps should be of a standard width, not invisible, non-existent or spaghetti strap.
Heels, boots, shoes and more! Super high heels that you can barely walk in are for nights out with your friends: the office is the time for more sensible shoes with a modest heel and light on the bling factor. Other shoes should ideally be neutral colours, clean and not scuffed, especially if your job is not one where your work has made them that way. If you can wear trainers to work, keep them clean. Shoes should not be overlooked when it comes to giving the right impression.
They used to make you unique; wearing them meant you fit into two stereotypes: smart nerd or sexy librarian who would look attractive if she could just get rid of the glasses. These days nearly everyone wears glasses, and those who don’t need them still wear frames without lenses - or non-prescription lenses in an effort to look smarter or more fashionable. A study shows that wearing glasses to an interview may actually make you more likely to get the job, but consider the difference between regular glasses that can make you look smarter and brightly coloured or oddly shaped ones that make you look eccentric.
If you’re unfortunate enough to be an adult who needs braces, then at least be sensible about them. A touch of colour can’t hurt, but no cartoon brands or gold or diamonds that make you look like you’d rather be a rapper than at this job where they might think they’re paying you too much if you can afford them in the first place.
Dress how you want to feel, not how you do feel
If you can stay at home, then go ahead and throw on your most comfortable clothes and drown your sorrows in a tub of ice cream. If you absolutely have to go out, then improve your mood through your clothes: don’t just throw on the first thing that you find, but find your go-to outfit that makes you feel better and you know you look good in, and people will notice how good you feel and respond to it. A study found that those who dressed in lab coats performed better than those without, just by thinking that they were dressed smarter because they had a lab coat over their ordinary clothes.
We hear a lot about how what you wear to an interview can make the difference between you getting the job or not. That doesn’t stop once you have the job: the more casually or scruffily you dress, the more people will form negative thoughts about you or think you don’t care, and chances are, they’re actually right; there’s a difference between making a statement and just being scruffy.
The clothes maketh the man (or woman.) It’s up to you what kind of person you want people to assume you are. Do you sell yourself through your clothes? Do you judge people based on their clothes? Let us know if there’s anything I missed!