Although your choice of clothing might seem like a small factor in the larger scheme of your professional life, making a winning impression with your wardrobe is more important than you think. When we dress up it makes us feel good, and when we feel good, we are more confident and perform better.
Or, as Betty Harragan, the author of “Games Mother Never Taught You” tells us “If your clothes don’t convey the message that you are competent, able, ambitious, self-confident, reliable and authoritative, nothing you say or do will overcome the negative signals emanating from your apparel.”
If you are even the slightest bit ambitious, you’ll want your wardrobe to work positively in your favour and make you look impeccable. You’ve probably heard this piece of advice before, but how does someone follow it? Here are the 7 key elements that can help you dress for success and always look sharp.
1. Only Buy and Wear What Fits
Of all the style sins out there, wearing badly fitting clothes is probably the worst. Nothing can make or break your outfits like the fit. When it comes to looking good, it’s not your size or shape that matters, it’s the fit of your clothes.
It doesn’t matter how expensive an item is or how well it is made, if it doesn’t fit, it will never look good. And sadly, you won’t feel good in it, either.
It is easy to tell when something doesn’t fit properly. The buttons on your shirt are pulling, the sleeves are either too long or too short, the pants keep riding up. There is constriction or perhaps a sense of shapelessness. But above all, there is a feeling of all around discomfort.
Properly fitting clothes feel comfortable and drape over your body without stretching or billowing. They complement your silhouette and proportions and give your outfit a stylish edge.
Additionally, well-fitting clothes celebrate who you are, help lift your mood, set the emotional scene for success, and project confidence to others around you.
2. Learn the Marks of Quality
Wearing quality clothing is paramount to dressing for success.
Fortunately, there are several ways you can spot better quality clothing. The material clothing is made of, the workmanship, and the trims usually give a pretty good idea of the garment’s quality.
Quality clothes are often made with natural fibres like cotton, wool, and silk. Synthetic fabrics, such as nylon and polyester actually contain plastic. They look cheaper and feel rougher against the skin, too.
However, the quality of natural fabrics like cotton also varies. In order to figure out what grade of cotton something is made of is to see how it fares when held against the light. Fabric with a higher thread count will let less light through suggesting it is of better quality.
Additionally, quality fabrics feel smooth and soft to the touch and become even softer after being washed.
As for workmanship, look for loose threads and uneven seams that are tell-tale signs of low quality. On the other hand, closely stitched and reinforced buttonholes are signs of good workmanship. If there is a pattern, look at the seams of the garment to make sure that the pattern lines up.
Trims include all the little things that go into your garment such as buttons, zippers, or decorative embellishments. Inspect how well the buttons and zippers match with the main fabric. The addition of extra thread and a button is a sign of quality.
3. Invest in High-Quality, Well-Made Basics
A capsule wardrobe containing high-quality, well-made basics is a must for an elegant and classy look. These items stand the test of time because they never lose their appeal. If you have great basics like for instance a classic blazer, a few dress shirts and well-fitting pants to build on, you will always have something to wear when dressing for success.
When it comes to wardrobe basics, it is always worth to invest in quality because quality clothes actually look better and, by the laws of cost per wear theory, also last longer. Quality shows. Superior craftsmanship tends to exude sophistication and elevates every outfit every time.
Which basics to invest in depends on taste and personal preferences. For me, personally, having a nice collection of dress shirts is the key to creating signature looks that not only fit perfectly with each occasion, but are also fresh, polished and instantly recognizable.
Recommended article: Styleguide – 5 Stunning Women’s Business Shirts for Each Day of the Week
4. Wear Clothes You Find Comfortable
Looking elegant and feeling comfortable in your business outfits are not mutually exclusive. In fact, if you feel confined and restricted in your clothes it will negatively affect your day whereas feeling comfortable goes a long way toward feeling confident and put together.
Comfort is all about fit, sizing and fabric.
We all know that clothes that are too small or too tight aren’t comfortable. Neither are the baggy ones which swamp your silhouette and make you look bigger and older. Consequently, you should never compromise on fit and sizing.
When it comes to dressing immaculately and feeling comfortable, quality fabrics make all of the difference. If something feels rough to the touch it is not going to feel comfortable on your body. Or, if something wrinkles when you squeeze it, you cannot expect any better from it when you wear it.
Finding the perfect fits and fabrics is, of course, a process but it is one worth undertaking for the ultimate goal of feeling comfortable, happy with how you look and confident.
5. Keep Your Professional Wardrobe Classic
When dressing for success, follow the 70/30 rule. Or as Catherine Brock of Budget Fashionista put it:
“70 percent of your wardrobe should never go out of style. We’re talking classics like a dark pencil skirt, a black pair of pumps or a basic white button up that can be tucked into anything. The last 30 percent of your professional wardrobe can encompass some fun-try statement, but work appropriate jewlry, red pumps, or a trendy ruffled blouse.”
Trends come and go, but classic attire is everlasting. Wardrobe basics like the white shirt or navy blazer are a perfect contrast to exciting accessories and don’t make the outfit overloaded. They are ideal for creating everyday business outfits, which are elegant, refined and tasteful.
Accessories can help change up your looks and complete your outfits. It is recommendable to wear at least one accessory which can be anything from a beautiful watch, a necklace, a scarf or even a pair of earrings.
Accessories make the difference between a bland outfit and one that turns heads. They help set you apart and are the essence of true personal style. Additionally, they spark joy in your clothing and make your style more interesting.
7. Aim for Elegance
There’s a beautiful quote by Giorgio Armani: “Elegance is not about being noticed, it’s about being remembered.”
Looking elegant in your clothes takes a fine eye, understanding what works for you and knowledge of the best places to shop.
Also, aiming for elegance entails avoiding anything that can be described as “too”. Too short, too tight, too old, and too flashy are all styles to avoid.