Dress for the Part You Want to Play

“What you wear is how you present yourself to the world, especially today, when human contacts are so quick. Fashion is instant language.” —Miuccia Prada

“Dress for Success” may sound ever so 1950s and even more distant from the current reality of Zoom meetings. Though in the case of Jeffrey Toobin, just wearing pants might have been dressing for success.

Regardless, despite the dominance of so-called casual clothing and athleisure wear, the need to develop and display a sense of fashion is more important than ever in the professional world. Post-pandemic, when people return to offices and in-person business meetings resume, your associates will see you in person for the first time in over a year.

The fact that it is now almost universally acceptable to “dress down” does not make it right. How you present yourself is a critical element of your personal brand and should be mindfully incorporated into your personal marketing plan.

When I started out in the advertising business ages ago my agency encouraged account management people to wear suits when their clients came to visit but on otherwise, people could dress as they pleased.  Creative people seldom dressed up. Lots of t-shirts and jeans around the office.

I loved the idea that I didn’t need to put on a suit and tie to go to work when I was 23 years old! It provided a great sense of freedom and made me feel more “creative.”

When I was eager for a promotion after toiling at my entry level job for over a year, my mentor at the agency, one of the partners, suggested that I should start dressing for the role I wanted to play. So, I went out and bought some nice clothes. Not just suits and ties, but stylish shirts, sweaters and slacks as well. One of my best friends continues to call me a fop all these years later for new wardrobe.

People started looking at me differently and I was promoted just a few months later. It’s hard to say whether it was my reputation for working hard and delivering or the clothes, but I’ve never discounted the effect of the latter.

The moral of this story is to develop your own style and look sharp. With a sea of competition out there ready to steal your new job or promotion from you, any way you can reinforce your unique, personal brand is an advantage. Chances are, you’ll feel a lot better about yourself as well.

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