No matter how many articles, chapters or web pages we do about dressing for work, it's something that we still get a lot of questions about. It's an important topic.
We have written about what to wear to work before. But in this article we'd like to concentrate on what to wear when you want a promotion or a raise. It's means taking the advice that we give on dressing for work and kicking it up a notch.
The first thing we want you to do is write the following sentence in big bold letters and put it in your closet. "You will be what you wear." Yes, the syntax is a little garbled but the sentiment is clear. If you want to know whether you'll get a promotion or a raise, don't read your horoscope, tarot cards or the lumps on your head. Just go to the mirror. How you dress for it is the best predictor.
These words of wisdom should apply whether your place of employment is a film studio or McDonald's. Whether you wear suits or sweats, silk or polyester. Whether you're at the reception desk or assembly line. If you want to climb up the ladder, dress as if you're already standing on the top rung.
If you don't know what that means, just look at your immediate boss. Male or female. You don't have to become "Mini Me." Just observant. Are they button down or casual? What brands do they like to wear? Is it Ivy League or Urban Cool?
All good salesmen know that it's easier to make the sale if they mirror the client in subtle ways -- everything from mannerisms to speech patterns. You can use that trick in how you dress. The key word is subtle. If you dress like the big guys/gals in your workplace, they'll unconsciously see you as one of them.
When I say male or female, I mean it. Men are just as susceptible to subtle dressing cues as women are. You don't always have to knock men over with a plunging neckline to get their attention. And it's better if you don't.
It's an unscientific poll but most women I've talked to feel that men are more motivated by a woman's appearance than women. When it comes to image, men will rate the woman who looks together higher than the woman who doesn't. In this instance, "together" doesn't mean stereotypical good looks. Together means just that -- sharp and coordinated.
Believe me, the reverse is true. If you dress like an "underling," that's just how they'll see you and where you'll stay. How does an "underling" dress? That's easy just put the word "too" in just about any description of clothing. Skirts too short. Pants too tight. Heels too high. Shoes too worn. Style too "yesterday" or even worse too non-descript. There's also the matter of your hair. I'm begging you, it should never be too "anything" -- too short, too long, too bright, too dull, too tousled, too teased etc. Oh, yes, and please burn any item of clothing that would fall into the category of "Hoochie Mama."
Even if you have to wear a fast food uniform, there are ways to look more like manager material. Make sure that your accessories are at a minimum and that whatever you wear is sharp, clean, pressed and in good repair.
Another bonus to dressing well so you can "move up" at work is that it not only makes you look like management, you feel like management. For decades athletes have used "visualization" to achieve their goals. The more you see that you look like you're in charge, you'll actually feel it. When you feel it, the closer you'll be to achieving your goal.
As far as what to wear, we can't cover it all in this short article -- in fact we devoted a whole chapter to it in our book, Dress Me Now. But at the risk of repeating ourselves ad nauseum, allow us to mention the one item of clothing that we live and die by -- blazers and their partners in crime, big shirts and duster length jackets. We don't think there's an article that we've written that hasn't sung the praises of these body hiding, managerial looking, and upscale making pieces of clothing.
You can find them in all budgets, in every clothing store, in every shape and size. Throw one of these puppies over just about anything and you immediately look in charge.
Okay, so now that you know the type of clothing you would like to wear. How do you put it all together?
Mae West believed that if you want to know how to be a lady then watch how other ladies do it. Once you let your boss be your guide, look at magazines, catalogues and anything that show women in the kind of outfits that you want to put together. Cut the pictures out and take them with you when you go shopping.
One last thing. No matter the workplace, the best accessory is a smile. A smile can detract from any so-called "body flaws." And it's like a magnet. It draws your boss' eye and everyone else's to who you are and what you have to offer.
When you're dressing for that promotion or raise, the phrase is "Fake it till you make it." You'll walk taller, stand straighter and feel great about yourself. And, after all, if you only get that far, you're still ahead of the game.
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