How to Dress to Make an Impression for Work
Lalage Beaumont's definitive guide to business wear. Add these workwear pieces to your wardrobe.
Why is what you wear to work so important? Aside from presenting yourself in a professional and polished manner, your style and the clothes you choose reflect and affect your confidence and overall mood. It is probably no surprise to you that when you wear something that makes you feel good, consciously or sub-consciously you feel inspired, boosted, energetic and of course confident, ready to tackle whatever task you have in front of you.
This has actually been scientifically proven! Scientists call the phenomenon "enclothed cognition", Adam Hajo and Adam D. Galinsky, both professors at the Kellogg School of Management at Northwestern University, write in the Journal of Experimental Social Psychology that enclothed cognition "involves the co-occurrence of two independent factors - the symbolic meaning of the clothes and the physical experience of wearing them."
When we put a piece of clothing on, we adopt the characteristics associated with it. When wearing smart or formal workwear we are likely to walk differently and even alter the way we hold ourselves.
The most important thing to think about when it comes to business wear is relevance. If your workwear uniform is generally casual then turning up in a formal dress or suit will make you feel out of place, potentially uncomfortable and affect your confidence. But there are ways of dressing down your workwear wardrobe and still feeling like your polished self. Pairing tailored trousers with block heels, a t-shirt and a casual jacket or a tidy jumper, creates a versatile look that is still smart.
Equally, if your workplace has a more formal feel to what you’re used to, think about wearing co-ordinating tops and trousers rather than a complete suit – ease yourself in gradually! Another way of dressing down a suit is to go for a something less traditionally corporate or look to one of our favourite styles of trousers – the high-waisted, wide leg.
Think about timeless pieces when curating your workwear wardrobe. A well-tailored jacket will never go out of fashion, it is the ultimate office outfit investment. Whether that’s a new jacket or a vintage one that you have tailored to fit, collect them, they’ll complete any look.
Likewise, invest in chic jersey tops to wear under jackets. These will never date, can be worn with anything and are fabulously easy to launder! Stock up on a mix of neutral colours and bolder shades. But as soon as they lose their brightness it’s time to replenish; an off-white or faded top does not have the same effect.
Knee-length skirts – when they fit well – are a wonderfully elegant way to complete a workwear look. But if you’re more comfortable in a dress for work (less shirt tucking to worry about) then maybe look for an A-line knee-length dress (such as the Tina) paired with simple court shoes or boots. While tweed and houndstooth have never really gone out of fashion, they’re particularly big this autumn/winter, injecting a heritage, elegant appeal to any office outfit.
Making something ‘yours’ is key to feeling confident in a workwear outfit. Altering a suit, dress or skirt to your exact proportions ensures that what you’re wearing fits properly – and it will so much more chic.
Whatever you choose for your working wardrobe, clothing affects our confidence and self-esteem and can also be used as a means to drive achieve success.