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June 4, 2023

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Professional Dress and Appearance

Though it may seem petty, appearance is critical to first impressions in networking and interviewing. Cosmetics, fragrance, accessories, clothing, grooming, and handbag really do matter. Not presenting a polished look costs many people the offer.

Remember the scene in Pretty Woman when none of the sales clerks in the Rodeo Drive boutiques would help Julia Roberts’ character? With her tight, ultra revealing clothes, no one took her seriously, despite having plenty of cash in hand. But when she went back to the same store a few days later, dressed to perfection, sales clerks were falling over themselves to help her. Both times their responses were based purely on attire.

Similarly Tess McGill, the Staten Island assistant played by Melanie Griffith in Working Girl, dons her wealthy boss’s expensive cocktail attire to grab the attention of a corporate titan. It works: Harrison Ford’s character, Jack Trainer, falls for her. For better or worse, how you dress often determines how people react to you. What you wear can send a message about who you are.

Here are some tips on how to always look polished and professional at the office:

  • Follow the dress code of your office. Even with a casual dress code, avoid short skirts, low-cut necklines, too-high heels, too-tight clothes, and anything bordering too sexy.
  • Store an emergency white blouse in your office in case you spill coffee or even lunch down the front of yourself. These accidents typically happen when you have an important meeting later in the day. Keep an extra pair of hose around too, just in case you spot a run.
  • If you plan to socialize after work and want to bring clothes to change into, be discreet. If co-workers see you in something sexy every Friday after work, you will develop the reputation of a partier. Fair or not, this reputation carries negative connotations. You can dress up your work clothes to go from daytime to evening. Remove your suit jacket to reveal a pretty camisole. Add jewelry and swap flats for heels.
  • Buy the right clothes to begin with. If you can’t afford a big dry cleaning bill every week, be aware of this when shopping. If possible, spend a little more money for good quality clothes that will last. These are the clothes you are going to be wearing for most of your day, and in most cases for at least five days per week. Clothes will affect your self-esteem, so it’s important that you like them. Whenever you can, pay a few extra dollars to look good and feel great.
  • Buy comfortable shoes you can wear with many outfits.
  • Do pay attention to details. Scuffed shoes with heels that double as dog chews are a no-no.
  • Manicured nails are a must (no chips please) – even if you don’t opt for polish.
  • Too much makeup – like those bright red over-outlined lips and dark-lined runway eyes – is a definite don’t.

Visit the Job Interview section of our website to find out how to look the part for an interview.

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