First impressions are, and always will be, important. Especially when it comes to building your personal brand. Your work wardrobe is a direct representation of who you are, whether you want to believe it or not, it reflects how you run your business…..To an extent, anyway. It’s always important to dress appropriately for work or business meetings.
Whether you work from home, work at an office, or attend regular networking gatherings, your work wardrobe plays a role in the success of your encounters. Dress for success is true to its word. If you’re debating on whether or not you should wear your loafers to the next marketing meetup, check these signs of how your work wardrobe affects your personal brand.
Determine Your Audience
It would be hard to address all the individual niches out there. Each niche has its own set of rules that dictate what is and isn’t acceptable when it comes to work wardrobe. While the idea of not having to wear a uniform is encouraging for most entrepreneurs, don’t forget that what you wear is very important for successful personal branding.
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This is why most places of business have either a uniform or wardrobe guidelines; uniforms give a sense of responsibility and authority. And while an Avengers T-Shirt and blazer might be okay for a comic book artist, it may not be right for someone running a software company. There are certain unspoken rules about work wardrobe within each line of work. If you’re unsure where your industry fits, a good place to start is to determine your audience. This includes customers as well as potential clients or allies.
- Professional: Do you attend regular business meetings where people opt to wear suits? The key is to follow along. While you want to stand out, you also don’t want to represent your personal brand in a negative way. T-shirts are cool and all, but if everyone is sporting pencil skirts or suits and ties then you would probably come across as lazy.
- Business Casual: It’s less buttoned-up than professional attire but not too casual. If you don’t know where your audience fits, I would say go with business casual work attire. You will have the greatest chance of fitting in without being too underdressed.
- Casual: An example of a casual environment might be a brick and mortar boutique or hairstylist. In these cases, cool-casual would be appropriate, as you typically won’t see professional attire in these locations. If you own a clothing company, be sure to wear your own designs to business meetings and networking groups. If you’re not wearing your own brand, how are you going to persuade others to wear it?
- Age/Demographics: Know your audience and know what appeals to them. However, make sure that you also feel comfortable in your work wardrobe You don’t want to be the 40-year-old who’s trying to feel at home in Forever 21 crop tops and denim skirts (unless you rock Forever 21, then more power to you)!
Determine your audience and that will help you delegate the appropriate work wardrobe.
Color and Fit Is Important
While a loose-fitting suit may have been trendy back in the ‘90s, today people expect a different approach. Slim fitted, two-button suits are the most contemporary for men. Or even women, as pantsuits never seem to go out of style. The perfect blazer will be lightweight, neutral, and classic. Finding the right fit also means that you show attention to detail. And knowing your way around your accessories is important.
Your choice of color also says something about your personal brand. Don’t be afraid to go for the bright yellow top or the red blazer. If you’re willing to play up your look with tasteful colors and fashion, it shows your confidence. Brightening up your work wardrobe with a simple pink purse to go with a black dress is also a fun way to reflect your personality.
But keep in mind that bold colors are not always seen as confidence. You want to attract attention, but in a positive way. If you do tend to go for the more brazen colors, make sure your accessories are subtle and undershirts are a neutral color to balance the look.
A Few More Tips for Your Work Wardrobe
Overall, you shouldn’t be worrying about your wardrobe once you are in your work environment. If you are second-guessing your choice of a blouse, then you probably shouldn’t have it in your closet. The key is to be comfortable in your work wardrobe. Plus, if you’re not great with style, you can always rent a wardrobe. Here are a few more tips to consider:
Tops: Don’t wear anything wrinkled. I’ve seen too many people at business meetings with wrinkled attire and it instantly puts out a bad impression. If you can’t be bothered to take the time to look presentable, then people might get the impression that this attitude flows into your worth ethic. Ladies, be sure to keep it classy when it comes to cleavage and gentlemen, tucking in your shirts is still fashionable.
Bottoms: I know some ladies are going to hate to hear this, but leave the leggings at home. Yes, they can be stylish when paired with the right top, but ultimately leggings don’t really scream business.
Shoes: Sneakers are usually a no-go in business environments, but I have seen it work in technical and creative industries, so use your best judgment. I would say that Flip-flops are definitely for your off-duty time only. If you do opt to wear sandals, please get a pedicure…again it says something about your brand. Just like with the fit of your clothes, make sure that your shoes are clean and polished. I always believe that you can’t go wrong with a pair of pumps. Again, this small attention to detail plays a major role in the way you present your personal brand.
Also, take your environment into consideration when choosing shoes. High heels can get uncomfortable very quickly. So if you plan on walking a mile or two, consider popping on some flats for the day.
Accessories: Accessories should be subtle and tasteful, no matter the occasion. Crazy necklaces, rings, or earrings draw attention away from you as a person. When it comes to your work wardrobe, people will simply remember that you are well put-together. Your accessories should accentuate your overall wardrobe, not be an eyesore of your entire ensemble.
If all else fails, have a signature look: If you aren’t fashion savvy, then sticking to a flattering uniform of sorts that can easily be mixed and matched could actually be your best bet.
Fashion is an unspoken language and communicates more than we realize. It allows you to stand out without being extroverted and it reflects your personality in just a matter of minutes. If you present yourself well, people will notice— and that’s a good thing. And while your work wardrobe should only give an indication of your personal brand, it sets the stage for what you have to offer.