I read an article recently stating that “consumers see no value in dressing for work vs. dressing for leisure”. What??? In a time when women are still struggling to be valued and included in business AND when women past the age of 50 are reporting feeling invisible, it’s more important than ever to develop and maintain a personal image that is clear and understandable at first glance.
Your image (or your ‘façade’) is what people use to make instant judgments about you – your character, your trustworthiness, your value.
But, you can guide people’s interpretation (yes, judgement) of you and illustrate how to respect and value you by choosing to dress in a manner that commands it.
The mantra “clothes don’t matter – I should be comfortable” is understandable – who doesn’t want to be comfortable? But clothes DO
matter because they are what we human’s use as a shortcut to instantly categorize you in their minds. We all do it – because that’s how the human mind works. Just think how fast you’ve said ‘eww’ when you’ve seen someone dressed poorly – in your judgement. The instant image is why we’re fascinated by Instagram – it’s a story in a picture!
Just think about any TV show or movie – the characters are defined first by the clothes they’re wearing. It’s the quickest way to illustrate and differentiate who’s who in the show.
For example, the clothes illustrate:
what segment of society the character comes from (upper-class affluent wife, middle-class mom, or student or professor in a college)
where and when the show is taking place (Middle-of-nowhere town, futuristic city, desert, winter, summer, far-away-land)
what their role is in the show (power-hungry wealthy lawyer, down-and-out broke lawyer, opportunistic student, king, good witch or evil witch)
And if their role is evolving during the course of the story – their wardrobe will change to illustrate this (cheap, ill-fitting clothes transform into elegant, high-end clothes as the character becomes more affluent)
So if clothes are this critical to telling a believable story on-screen, why would this not be the case IRL? We’re all seeking understanding in our complex world. If you can clearly help people understand who you are and what you bring to the table, why not do it and make your life easier? Please do not allow someone else’s unwillingness to make an effort diminish, derail, or undermine YOUR career aspirations.
If someone is going to remember you, wouldn’t you rather be remembered as the women who was dressed for the job? Who was always ready? Too many of our casual clothes designs don’t clearly define your aspirations – they’re neutral and possibly even shapeless. People simply don’t use their imaginations far enough to place you in that important position you want.
We all fulfill different roles in our lives. On any given day you might be the SME at your office, mom, power athlete when you’re exercising, sexy dinner date, passionate sports fan, and a zillion identities in-between. Each of those roles often calls for different clothes, both for functionality (you need yoga pants to do yoga, etc.) and to express your role and how you feel about it (sports fans go all out on the gear, don’t they?).
So here’s what to do:
Whenever you go out, first determine who your ‘audience’ will be that day, and dress to communicate and relate to them. You will be remembered, respected, and connected because you’ve given them a clearly-defined person whom they can know, like, and trust.
Dress like YOU mean business!