Never Underestimate the Power of Professional Dress: Guest Post

Special treat alert!  Today’s post is written by the smart, beautiful and talented Ginger Burr, President of  Total Image Consultants.  As a Brilliance-Based Businesswoman, Ginger has inspired me over the nearly seven years we’ve known each other.  I’m proud she is a partner for  Be Brilliant! 

Spring is a time of transition and transformation.  Maybe that’s why I’ve been talking to so many women who are in the process of changing their jobs.  It seems that almost everyone is interviewing! 

So, I thought this would be a good time to review the basics of professional dress.  These tips are applicable whether you are job hunting or firmly ensconced in a job you love (at least we hope you love it!).

Whether we like to admit it or not, how we look makes a difference.  Nowhere is this more true or have greater repercussions than at the office. 

Unfortunately, however, over the years, the importance of professional dress has taken a backseat to comfort and with far greater consequences than one might think.

As dress codes have relaxed, so have people’s attention to how they look…or, at least this is how it appears.  Business casual has lured us into a false sense of security.  As my mother would say, “We’ve been given just enough rope to hang ourselves.”

Over the past few years, I have seen increased focus on improving the standard of dress at work.  While I doubt we’ll ever go back completely to formal business dress, the trend is moving in that direction, and not just in the more conservative professions.  Why? 

Because companies are unhappy with what they see.  It appears that people are not taking pride in how they look, and this reflects directly on the company.

While it might be true that a few people are spoiling it for the majority, the fact remains that there is a movement underway.

Here are just a few reminders:

  • Knowledge is power.  Know the rules.  Become familiar with the dress code.  If your company does not have a dress code or it is so vague that it is useless, ask.   If you have a question about whether something is acceptable or not, ask.  Most supervisors will welcome questions and be impressed you asked.  (Believe me, they hate having to be the one to open this discussion!).  Open-toed shoes, for instance, are a constant source of contention at work.  They range from flip flops to peep toe heels, from Birkenstocks to slides.  Few dress codes are specific which leaves employees to interpret this rule for themselves.  This can have disastrous results.  When you know what is expected of you, you can make the decision to comply or not.  At least you’ll be prepared for whatever the consequences may be.
  • Dress for the job you want not the job you have.  Dressing well (this does not have to mean flamboyant or over-dressed in any way) shows initiative and helps you stand out from the crowd.  If you are looking to advance within the company this sets you apart and gives you the competitive edge.  Look at what your supervisor or those in the job you want are wearing.  Hopefully, they are good role models.
  • Pay attention to detail.  What are some companies’ pet peeves?  Poorly maintained shoes, clothes that do not fit well, messy hair, badly groomed fingernails.  Look at your wardrobe objectively.  While you might think that stain that is mostly gone isn’t noticeable, I guarantee it is.
  • Never underestimate the power of a jacket.  The jacket is the most versatile article of clothing you can have in your wardrobe.  The nice thing is that there is a jacket style to suit your personal preference and the degree of casual or professional atire you need.  As John T. Malloy, author of “The New Women’s Dress for Success” says, “When men dress casually they lose some of their authority.  When women do the same, they lost most of theirs.  The key to that authority, especially for women in male-dominated fields, is the jacket.”

We’re not talking the early 1980’s here.  There is still plenty of room for personal expression in the wardrobe choices you make.  We’re talking empowerment.  Too many women are walking around in the dark when it comes to the impact professional dress has on their career.

While in a perfect world it wouldn’t matter, the truth is it does.  I’m not saying you have to conform.  I’m saying, know the rules.  Know what is expected and be aware of the potential consequences if you choose not to comply.

Like most things, awareness is the first step.  Understanding the expectations and the unspoken rules gives you the advantage.  If career advancement is important to you then this is no time to be complacent.  Take the lead.  Know the rules.  If you know what is expected then you can make your own educated decision about whether you choose to comply or disregard the rules.  Either way, you are in control.

Over the past 24 years, Ginger Burr, President of Total Image Consultants has found that many women are ignoring, hiding, or are just plain unaware of their innate beauty.  Being in her 50’s herself, Ginger has a deep connection with her clients and believes that everyone deserves to (and can) feel radiant and pulled-together. A notable speaker and leader in the field of fashion and style, Ginger’s adroit understanding of beauty trends and fashion has been celebrated by Fox TV News, The Boston Globe, MORE,, Bloomberg Business Week, and Women’s Health Magazine.

Receive a FREE Gift from Ginger, Jumpstart Your Personal Style (a $79 Value!) when you register for Be Brilliant! Flourish with Joy & Ease.

Are you profiting fully from your brilliance?  Are you living with joy and ease?  Are you working in accordance with your values?

If you answered “no” to one or more of these questions, you’ll want to come to this brand new, collaborative event hosted by Debra Woog.  At the end of the free tele-class, you’ll know each step of the Brilliance-Based Businesswoman’s Success System® and have high-value, proprietary tools you can implement immediately to effect positive change in your business and your life.  Register now!