How to Dress to Make an Impression for Work
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 effect 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, energetic and of course confident; ready to tackle whatever task you have to accomplish.
The phenomenon known as 'enclothed cognition' has actually been scientifically proven by Adam Hajo and Adam D. Galinsky, both professors at the Kellogg School of Management at Northwestern University, who 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." We therefore adopt the characteristics associated with what we are wearing, and this can even alter the way we hold ourselves and how we walk.
All of this is particularly in focus now, after eighteen months of working from home, where the closest most of us got to dressing for work was a smart top to look passable on Zoom. There will now be an inevitable divide between those who remain working remotely for at least part of the week, and are quite comfortable continuing to dress in joggers, and those who have felt limited by the lack of opportunity to maintain two different personas: the professional and the off-duty self.
How smart should you be?
What to wear to create the right impression at work…
The most important thing to think about when it comes to business wear is relevance. If everyone else in the office dresses in a more casual manner, then turning up in a formal dress or suit will make you feel out of place and potentially uncomfortable, which will in turn effect on your confidence. However, if you want to present a more formal air but still fit in, there are ways of dressing down a suit or dress and still feeling polished and professional. Pairing tailored trousers with block heels, a T-shirt and a casual jacket for example, creates a versatile look that is smart but won’t jar in more relaxed environment.
Equally, if your workplace has a more formal feel than you are used to or comfortable with, think about wearing co-ordinating tops and trousers rather than a complete suit and ease yourself in gradually. Perhaps try a suit but not a typically corporate version. Consider maybe a high-waisted, wide-legged pair of trousers with a short jacket for a sharp and on-trend look that is not so traditional.
Prioritise timeless pieces when curating your workwear wardrobe. A well-tailored jacket will never go out of fashion and is the ultimate investment that will serve you well for years, and can look equally good dressed up with matching pieces or dressed down with jeans. Either a new jacket or a vintage one that you have tailored to fit, can be equally appropriate - collect them, they’ll complete any look and become like old friends in your cupboard.
Likewise, chic jersey tops to wear under jackets 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; a discoloured or faded top just won’t have the same effect!
Silk blouses are a luxurious way to accessorise your trouser suits. Always wonderful to wear next to the skin, they are also a way to add colour to your outfit. Have a selection so that you can rotate them whilst some are at the cleaners.
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. Rolanda dress with its floating bodice is another good option and while tweed and houndstooth have never really gone out of fashion, they’re particularly in at the moment and always a good way to inject a little heritage, style, and importantly difference, to a standard office outfit.
Don’t be afraid to make something ‘yours’ by making minor amendments to the style – if it isn’t just as you would like it. And make sure your key pieces fit your perfectly as this is key to feeling confident in your workwear outfits. Altering a suit, dress or skirt to your exact proportions (not too tight!) ensures that what you’re wearing fits properly and will be infinitely more chic.
Whatever you choose for your working wardrobe, clothing affects your confidence and self-esteem. The right clothing is definitely an important contributor in achieving your goals and ultimate success.