It’s nice to think that women and men are treated equally in the workforce, particularly in the corporate space, but that’s not always true. Too often, women are passed over for promotions by men. Men are often taken more seriously in leadership roles as well. There’s often nothing you can do about the biases that permeate the workplace, but you can take steps to minimize the damage.
Start with your appearance. Women have a tougher time deciding what to wear because of the many options available. “A man has a uniform, he knows what to wear, when,” states Lynne Marks, president of London Image Institute, in a New York Times interview. “A woman has a disarray of clothing choices, so there is more of a chance that they won’t be able to project credibility through their image. Too little makeup, overdone makeup, long hair, an untidy looking bag, jangling jewelry, too much perfume — all of these things will take their credibility down a notch.”
The importance of dressing for success cannot be ignored. It has a greater impact on your career path than you might realize.
The Psychological of Successful Dress
Hundreds of psychological studies have revealed the way that clothing can impact perceptions of you. One UK study analyzed the snap judgments of more than 300 people when looking at photographs. They were given images of a man and woman, some with the subjects wearing fitted suits and others with the subjects in ill-fitting suits. The results overwhelmingly revealed that the images of the man and woman wearing the made-to-order suits were seen as more confident, higher-earning, more respectable, and more likely to be in a leadership role.
Another study performed by psychological scientists from California University, Northridge, and Columbia University revealed the importance of clothing on raising a person’s confidence and helping them make better decisions. They studied the impact of more formal dress on an audience’s first impressions and their ability to think clearly.
“The formality of clothing might not only influence the way others perceive a person, and how people perceive themselves, but could influence decision making in important ways through its influence on processing style,” the researchers wrote. “…we propose that wearing formal clothing will enhance abstract cognitive processing.”
In other words, the way you dress has a profound psychological effect on both your way of thinking and the perceptions of others. It’s important to pay attention to your clothing and appearance and make the proper changes to welcome a more successful lifestyle.
How to Dress for Success
If you’re still wearing an outdated wardrobe, styling your hair the same way you did 10 years ago, and wearing as little makeup as possible, it’s time to make some updates for your personal appearance. Here are some suggestions:
Visit a Tailor
Set aside a good portion of your shopping budget for the tailor. It’s pretty rare that you can find an ensemble that fits you just right, and a fitted outfit can make a huge impression on your co-workers and bosses.
Tailoring your entire wardrobe can cost be costly, so save ahead of time. Think of it as an investment in your career if you’re having a hard time letting that money go.
Wear Feminine Statement Pieces
“A woman must use her image for the right reasons,” said Frances Jones, personal stylist, in the same New York Times interview mentioned above. “She doesn’t have to be seen as fluffy or light by showing her feminine side. This can be done through a ruffle or frill, wearing softer fabric or having some detail on her shoes like a bow or floral design. These are some subtle details which women shouldn’t be afraid of as long as it’s appropriate and not over the top.”
The best way to maintain your feminine look without sacrificing your professionalism is to get a statement item, like a Louis Vuitton shoulder bag, to carry your documents and files or a piece of statement jewelry. It doesn’t have to be big, but it will create a more put-together appearance.
Focus on Good Hygiene
This goes beyond showering and brushing your teeth everyday, although those are the basics of good hygiene. It also means smelling good, but not wearing too much perfume. You should also bring a portable toothbrush or floss pick to take care of your oral hygiene after lunch. Investing in teeth whitening may not be a bad idea either.
Make Hair and Makeup Neat
Hair does not need to follow the hottest trends, but the cut and color should flatter your face shape and skin tone. It should be combed and styled in a way that looks professional. Unfortunately, that might mean you can’t wear your hair down. It’s better to straighten, curl, or put your hair up in a professional style if your hair doesn’t look professional on its own.
Makeup is also important for women. You shouldn’t cake on the makeup, but draw attention to your eyes and wear lipstick. People are more likely to take you seriously if you show that you care about your physical appearance.
Show Minimal Skin
“The more skin you show, the more power you give away,” said Ms. Jones in the New York Times interview mentioned above. She recommends wearing skirts to the knee and limiting the number of outfits worn without sleeves. Cleavage is generally a no-no in the professional world as well.
Dressing professionally in this manner doesn’t mean you have to give up
your feminine look. There are dozens of ways you can bring femininity into your
professional attire without showing excessive skin or wearing unprofessional