First impressions are obviously important in the real world. How you choose to dress and carry yourself shows everyone the kind of person you are. The clothes that you choose to wear are like advertisements. With just a glance, they can tell a lot about the kind of person you are. Are you overly stylish, concerned with every detail of your outfit? Do you dress in daring fashions that make you stand out in a crowd? Do you prefer traditional clothing that makes you seem competent and conservative? How do you think the rest of the people in your business dress? These are questions you need to ask yourself before shopping for a work wardrobe.
When I have the freedom to choose my own clothes, I tend to wear clothing that makes me look younger then I am. I have a tendency to choose loud colors and accessories popular with the counterculture such as spiked collars and fishnets. When I need to dress in a professional manner, however, I know much of what I want to wear wouldn’t portray the image my employers want to see. Therefore, I try to define my style within the narrow constructs of the business professional world. I like to dress in black, red or purple, and I’m a big fan of boots and mary janes. Worn properly, these elements of style can conform to most any company dress policy. Yet the same colors and shoes worn incorrectly could make me seem childish and improper. Therein lies the difficulty. How do you decide what does and doesn’t look professional in that context?
A lot really depends on fabrics and the cut of the jacket or suit. Men, for example, can often wear a dark suit with a bright tie, or pin stripes with a longer jacket. Since the proper attire for most men in business is a suit and tie, they can wear almost the same thing everyday, changing only the color and accessories they wear to help define their personal style. Women have a lot more leeway, and therefore a lot more chances to make fashion mistakes.
A good rule of thumb is to dress conservatively at first. Wear suits, pants with matching jackets or skirts no shorter then knee length, and make sure not too wear anything too flashy or dramatic. Plunging necklines, shocking colors and excessive jewelry have no place in a job interview. After you pass the interview, continue to dress conservatively for the first few weeks. Once you get a feel for the office, keep an eye on what other people around you are wearing. They can clue you in to what is acceptable and what isn’t. It’s a good idea to never wear anything you think your boss wouldn’t wear to the office. Once you get a feel for the environment, then you can start introducing more personal elements into your wardrobe. However, first and foremost, be prepared to dress to impress. It is imperative that before a job search, you have enough outfits to carry you through several interviews as well as your first few days at work
It can be difficult to find impressive clothes, especially when you’re just leaving school or you have been unemployed for a while, but there are places you can go. Some of the big discount chains like Target have started carrying impressive selections of business clothes, but if even that is too much for your budget, don’t forget a college kid’s best friends, thrift stores. The clothes may be used, but if you search hard enough you will find really unique items. Make sure that when shopping at thrift stores you wear clothing thin enough to allow you to try things on. A lot of second-hand stores don’t have changing rooms, meaning it is up to you to guess if things fit. Wear a tank top under your shirt or jacket and tight pants or shorts so you can try clothes on without disrobing in public. It’s also important to check all items for stains or discoloration. Despite the extra work, thrift stores can be a real boon to up and coming professionals. I passed two interviews with flying colors, and actually received compliments on my outfit by several people in the office,while wearing a dark plum dress suit I bought for $3.
The important thing is to be comfortable and let your personality shine through while following the rules. It’s a pretty hard trick to get perfect, but like everything else it takes time and devotion. How you dress is your choice, but understand that at first glance people will decide who you are by what you choose to wear. Make sure you think long and hard before you make that choice.