5 Business Wear Faux Pas

I was watching a show on TV the other night where a woman was dressed in a sleeveless top, shorts, and high heels. It was cute, and would have been adorable a summer barbeque.

But this was a news show, and it it’s the middle of winter. Are we supposed to take her seriously?

I know I didn’t.

When you put fashion above all else, no one takes you seriously – even in the fashion industry!

So while I’ve written about this topic before, I think a refresher is in order. Because no matter how much you love clothes – or couldn’t care less about them – you won’t advance in the business world unless you dress for success.

Here are the 5 most common business wear faux pas I see:

Too trendy?1.  Putting Fashion Before Business

When you dress in the latest trends and think that being au currant is more important than your industry uniform, you do yourself a disservice. While there are certainly some industries that appreciate the fashionable approach more than others – like interior design and cosmetics sales versus say, biological sciences or computer programming – the reality is that if your main concern is fashion, then you’ll be seen as superficial. This is particularly true in industries where “brain power” is supposed to come first, like science, math, physics, medicine, and the like. That doesn’t mean you can’t add fashionable elements to your work attire – it means that if your long nails, designer clothes, or high heels keep you from effectively doing parts of your job, your credibility will suffer.

Too casual2.  Putting Comfort Before Business

On the other end of the spectrum are those who couldn’t care less about business or fashion, so long as what they wear is comfortable. Thus, they show up to work in jeans, sweats, shorts, flip-flops – whatever they like to wear, completely oblivious that like the fashionista, their credibility is suffering because of their clothes. I know, I know — sometimes comfort is paramount.  Working weekends, rearranging the office, digging through stacks of files in storage – comfort is necessary sometimes.  But not always, and certainly not when there’s a dress code in place.  Complain all you want, but when you put your own needs above those of your employer’s, you’ll only get so far.

Oblivious to the industry3.  Being Oblivious to the Industry Uniform

Every industry has its own dress code, whether it’s written or not. While some industries wear actual uniforms – policemen, firemen, military, pro football players, bell boys, waiters, etc. – others wear unspoken uniforms like a traditional business suit, or a shirt with a collar. If you don’t know what the people in your industry wear, or if you know but don’t like those kinds of clothes and prefer to “do your own thing,” again, you’re going to limit yourself. Because if you don’t even know what’s appropriate attire for your industry, the next logical assumption is that your skill set is also sub par.

Consistency counts - but not consistently sloppy4. No Consistency

If you dress like an accountant on Monday, a rock star on Tuesday, a stay-at-home mom on Wednesday, a lawyer on Thursday, and a beach bum on Friday, you will not be taken seriously. The assumption is that your skill set is as spotty as your wardrobe. Don’t “shoot yourself in the foot” like that. Strive for consistency in your attire so that your work is viewed with the same regard. If you have a casual Friday dress code, do NOT assume that “anything goes” and show up in shorts and hiking boots (unless you’re a trail guide). Instead, know what the formality level of your industry is, wear it Monday-Thursday, and then go one level down for casual Friday. It will enhance your credibility.

Ignore the rules at your own peril5.  Assuming the Dress Code Doesn’t Apply

I’ve worked with and known plenty of people over the years who think their skills are so exceptional that rules just don’t apply to them. That they can wear, do, say, or think anything because their talent is so unique. The truth is, they’re limiting themselves. Yes, their talent may be unique, but few realize it’s the only thing keeping them in the room. Otherwise, they’d be out on the street. If they packaged themselves correctly, they’d launch their careers into the stratosphere.

Once upon a time, “dressing for success” meant dressing a certain way to advance in a company or industry. Today, with the Internet, YouTube, reality television and 24/7 cable channels looking for 24/7 programming, you’re no longer tethered by location. If you “know your stuff,” and package yourself correctly with an agreeable, camera-ready appearance, the “sky’s the limit” and you’re only limited by your imagination.

Martha Stewart, Rachel Zoe, Gordon Ramsey, Ina Garten – they all excelled at their jobs and became their own industries through the power of television.

You may have no desire for this kind of global attention – a pat on the back every now and again would suffice – but until you understand the importance of dressing for success and packaging yourself for your industry, you may never get there. The shiniest apple gets picked first; so does the best dressed worker with a decent skill set.

So upgrade your business wardrobe and see what it does for your bottom line! Business Wear Magic can help.

Clothes courtesy of StyleBop

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