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What You Wear to Work Matters

What You Wear to Work Matters

By Jacqueline Whitmore

Call it “dress for success” or “dress for the job you want” — it’s more than an adage for women.

Style and image have played and continue to play a crucial role in the career strategies and trajectories of many high-powered execs. Let’s face it, how you look says a lot about you — whether you’re organized, lazy, fashion-forward, creative or serious.

You may think that focusing on appearance as part of your career strategy sounds superficial — that we should be judged for our intelligence and experience, not our style.

But will someone really want to listen to you if you look dull, boring, meek, and frumpy? Sure, it’s what’s on the inside that counts, but sadly, that’s not how the workforce works.

Invest in a few good suits. When you put on a suit, you assume the role that comes with it. You will find that you walk a little taller and have more confidence. Whenever you wear a suit you give the impression that you’re serious about the business at hand.

Buy quality, not quantity. Purchase good quality “global” clothing, especially for business travel. Select lightweight, breathable fabrics that don’t wrinkle easily and can be worn in multiple climates. It will be more cost efficient in the long run if you purchase suits made from fabrics such as wool or a wool-blend that can be successfully worn anywhere.  Colors such as black, navy, and taupe are professional, travel well, and don’t look seasonal. Showcase your personality while adding a pop of color with your accessories.

Carry a quality pen. You don’t have to spend a lot of money on a pen but it should look attractive and write well. One of my favorites is my Waterman fountain pen because of the size, weight, and way it glides smoothly across the paper.

Beware of bulky baggage. Sometimes it doesn’t matter how well dressed you are if your accessories look shabby and well worn. A bag overstuffed with papers can give people the impression that you are disorganized and sloppy. Your briefcase does more than just hold important papers, a wallet, and cell phone. It holds clues about your success, professionalism and personality.

Put your best foot forward. Shoes are your most important accessory because they do more than simply complete your ensemble; good-looking, polished shoes help convey your professional image and attention to detail. Your feet need to last the rest of your life, so take good care of them by wearing the best shoes you can possibly afford.

Jacqueline Whitmore, CSP, is an international etiquette expert, certified speaking professional, and founder of The Protocol School of Palm Beach, a leading business etiquette and hospitality consulting firm. She is the author of “Business Class: Etiquette Essentials for Success at Work” and “Poised for Success: Mastering the Four Qualities That Distinguish Outstanding Professionals.” As one of the most widely quoted etiquette experts globally, her advice has been featured in publications such as The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, and O: The Oprah Magazine. Jacqueline has also made appearances on various national radio and television shows, including ABC’s 20/20, CNN, FOX News, and CNBC.

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