It’s no secret that how you dress can leave a lasting impression on your peers. Showing up to work wearing wrinkled or stained clothing certainly won’t help you make a good impression on your employer or co-workers. However, there are many ways that dressing for success can positively impact your career.
Research shows that what you wear to work can not only impact how others perceive you, it can also affect how well you perform at your job, how you perceive yourself and your abilities, and even how quickly you move up the professional ladder. If you don’t currently put much effort into picking out your office attire, here are a few things you should know about how your wardrobe choices can positively impact your career.
Your attire can affect your self-image
What you wear can not only influence your co-workers perceptions of you but can also affect how you see yourself. In fact, different types of clothing may have different advantages, depending on the symbolic meaning you associate with them.
For example, wearing casual clothing may help you feel more relaxed and calm, while formal clothing may help you feel more intelligent and confident. This idea could be seen in a study done by a professor from the University of Hertfordshire. The study found that when students wore superman t-shirts they rated themselves as stronger, more likeable, and superior to other students. This shows that we not only are what we wear but also become what we wear, making what we wear to work an even more important decision each morning.
Despite the stigma that you have to spend a lot of money on clothing to look good, you can actually build an office appropriate wardrobe for less just by knowing where to shop. Discount stores like TJ Maxx and Marshalls are great options for finding work appropriate pieces like blouses, blazers, and even designer handbags. Their prices are typically 20-60% cheaper than department stores and other retailers. Another great option for finding quality pieces at low prices is to shop at thrift stores. Online secondhand clothing stores like thredUP, make it easy for you to shop your favorite brands from the comfort of your own home. You can even find clothing from popular brands like Madewell for a fraction of their estimated retail price!
Proper attire increases your chances of being promoted
If you’re working towards a promotion, dressing the part is a good place to start. A survey by OfficeTeam revealed that 80% of managers feel that an employee’s clothing choices can affect his or her chances of earning a promotion. Not only does dressing professionally establish credibility, it also helps your peers and leaders envision you in a role with greater responsibility.
Keep in mind that dressing well doesn’t necessarily mean you have to wear a suit. Instead, opt for business casual attire in neutral colors like black, gray, and navy blue. However, don’t assume that casual attire or the latest fashion trends are appropriate for the office just because many organizations are shifting to more relaxed dress codes.It’s always best to follow your company’s policies and observe what colleagues in more senior positions typically wear. Don’t forget the little details like your shoes, purse or briefcase, and other accessories.
Straying from the dress code can help you appear more competent
As mentioned above, most of us quickly learn to conform to the accepted standards of dress, particularly in the workplace. But what if we told you that straying from the dress code can sometimes positively impact your career? A study by Harvard Business School researches revealed that in some cases, straying from the standard dress code can actually help you appear more confident and competent as it signifies a higher level of autonomy and control.
While the concept of using clothes to send a particular message is certainly not new, this only works if it’s obviously intentional. For example, if you started wearing yoga pants to the office every day, it most likely would not help you appear more competent. In fact, you might even get into trouble for breaking the company dress code. However, if you made a conscious decision to stand out in some way, for instance, by pairing casual shoes with formal attire, it could send the message that you’re a confident and capable person.
Your performance can be enhanced by dressing well
Not only can what we wear impact how others perceive us, it can also impact our performance. A study done by researchers from the Kellogg School of Management at North Western University found that our work performance can be enhanced by dressing well. For one experiment, researches dressed 50% of the participants in lab coats and the other half in their regular clothing. The researchers then asked the participants to perform a series of tests. Those who wore doctor’s coats made significantly fewer mistakes than participants who work their normal clothing. In another experiment, researchers gave all participants lab coats to wear during the test. They told half of the participants that the lab coats were painter’s coats and told the others they were doctor’s coats. Oddly enough, those who believed they were wearing painter’s coats made more errors than those believed to be wearing lab coats.
From these tests, researchers gathered that dressing a certain way can help us feel smarter. In other words, it’s not just the clothes that matter, it’s their symbolic meaning. For example, if you associate business suits with positions of power, wearing one might help you feel smarter and more confident. As a result of this, your performance could improve as well.