‘Dressing For Success’
By Gerald Sherman
This is not a column on fashion in the workplace but rather appropriateness of your attire in the workplace.
Several years ago the book entitled “Dress for Success,” [i] by John T. Molloy, a premier American image consultant and clothing researcher, was published. Its focus was how men should dress to be successful in the business arena. It served as a guideline for many people entering the business world. It had only one chapter on appropriate dress for women in the business environment. It is interesting to note that he followed this with, “The Woman’s Dress For Success Book”[ii]. So much for equal rights.
It is interesting to note that Molloy points out that “a woman’s success does not depend entirely or even primarily on how she dresses, but dress is an important factor in most women’s careers. Research shows that when a woman dresses for success, it does not guarantee success, but if she dresses poorly or inappropriately, it almost ensures failure.”
Molloy goes on to say, “Most women know men who dress horribly and are very successful. Dressing poorly sometimes does not destroy a man’s career the way it does a woman’s. If a man is really good at what he does, he is often referred to as ‘a diamond in the rough’ and can move up in spite of the poor image. This is obviously a double standard and certainly not fair.
Molloy’s books concentrated on being aware of proper coordination of attire, how to make an impression and what colors to wear. There is mention of dressing for the interview and on the job. He indicates the importance of power clothes and proper attire for lawyers, doctors and other professionals. Molloy points out that clothes can make you look more influential, knowledgeable and pleasant. Molloy’s books are great guidelines for many people entering the world of business.
However, dressing for success is more than just coordination of attire, powerful clothes, colors, and silhouettes. The approach should be to understand the ground rules of the dress code of your company and your clients. Knowing the dress code and dressing accordingly are the first steps in dressing for success.
While we can agree that when we dress properly, it can eliminate a negative response from our clients, it is also important to be aware of the dress code of the client’s company. Several questions should be addressed and answered before you, “dress for success.” For example, do they have a casual clothing day? How formal is the dress code during the week and how informal is the casual dress code? An effort should be made by business people not only to understand this dress code but to dress accordingly. This is not to say that you have to lose your identity– but rather to eliminate those aspects in the way you dress which your client might view as negative and distracting. Fit into the business environment that you are engaged in – try not to be too different!
Dressing for success is a common sense exercise. However, as the saying goes, common sense is not so common.
Excerpts from the book, The Real World Guide to Fashion Selling & Management, Gerald J. Sherman & Sar S. Perlman, Fairchild Publications, Division of Conde Nast, (N.Y.).
Gerald J. Sherman, of Sherman & Perlman LLC., is a marketing and public relations consultant, sales coach and author who has written several books and articles on these subjects. email@example.com http://www.shermanperlman.com