, ,

Success Rule #13 – Dress For Success

I’m not suggesting you run out and purchase a $1,000 suit; however don’t forget Rule #7 – you’re being judged. With that said there are considerations, the industry you are in, the culture of the organization, and some careers were there are uniform requirements.

Attention to detail is as important here as it is with your work. Yes, first impressions are lasting impressions. You might be surprised the opinions formed of individuals with scuffed, worn shoes, frayed cuffs and collars, bad breath or plaque, weekend work under the finger nails and of course inappropriate attire for the environment. Don’t let your appearance distract from your good work. If they are talking about what you wear versus what you do, you might consider making some wardrobe changes. Where appropriate, consider dressing for the position you want, versus the position you’re in.

At the same time create a style that gets you noticed – in a positive way. With that said, think Barack Obama versus Tupac, Lauren Bacall versus Lady Gaga. Buy the best you can afford. Nothing tight; loose, yet well fitting cloths portray quality. Keep it simple; don’t go over the top with jewelry, or makeup for the women.

Be attractive. Being attractive is more than simply physical attributes, nose, eyes, shape, figure etc. it’s about style, what you wear and the way you carry yourself, your appearance. Beauty is of course in the eye of the beholder, but you can take time with yourself and influence what others see. Develop charisma, charm, a’ life is great’ attitude, have presence and personality. Sit up straight, walk tall, proud and assured. These things are easier to acquire than looks anyway.

Leave a Comment


Leave a Reply

Lucy Lester

Good rule! I’ve always heard that you should dress for the position you want to advance to, not where you are now. I also beleive that you are “judged” by appearance. The skill and knowledge set gets the second glance after people have formed an opinion..

Bridget Shea

Great post Anthony! Lucy, I agree-Dress for the job you want, not the job you have. My father is the managing partner at a law firm and gives all his new associates the book, Dress for Success. When I stress the importance of dressing professional to colleagues, especially those right out of high school, college or graduate school, they often comment that the clothes needed are too costly. I highly recommend discount stores, consignment shops and searching the web for coupon codes and deals. Many department stores have great sales on suits seasonally. And get good shoes. Your feet and wallet will thank you! If you buy more expensive shoes, often the company will resole and refurbish for free or a low cost or you can take them to a local shoe repair and get new heels or souls. I cannot stress enough buying good quality clothes that you can mix and match versus “outfits”. But one or two suits and they get shirts, sweaters, ties for men or shells and scarves or necklaces for women and rotate. Make sure your shoes are in good shape and well polished and your clothes are free of stains, rips, tears and ironed well. Invest in a good watch, briefcase or bag. Keep hair neatly groomed and for ladies, make up to a minimum. And ladies, invest in good undergarments.

Teresa Hughes

I like the advice “consider dressing for the position you want, versus the position you’re in.” People who respect themselves in the way they present themselves each day, garner respect from others as well.

Wendi Pomerance Brick

This is very good advice. It’s also applicable to everyday work attire for service providers – if people perceive you a certain way, they will treat you accordingly. You are also always representing your organization. The impression people have of you is the impression they will have of your entire agency.

A few nuances – there are definitely cultural differences in dress. Various groups feel different dress styles are appropriate. How do we come to some common ground, and how much should we adjust to other’s sensibilities? Also, this depends on the job you have. A department director and a graphic designer do not necessarily have the same standards of dress.

How do you recommend we address things like cultural differences, age differences, and creativity of expression?

Allen Sheaprd


Great advice – any web sites to Google? The adive to “dress nice” is kinda like saying “code well” Its good advice but someone may not dress well out of ignorance.

There are many cultural differences in dress. Greek, Italian, South African, Austrailian, Irish (think tweed) etc. However the business world seems to have agreed on “English standard” Dress shirt, tie, jacket for men.

Anthony Tormey

@Allen, you are so correct. had a participant in one of our 5 day Leadership For Ltife events and although very smart and talented she, as you say, dressed inappropriatly more out of ignorance than anything else. A segment of the event addresses these things, and although of course not pointed out directly, a few weeks later during a follow up visit, the CEO mentioned the change. Like it or not, agree with it or not, accept it or not is irrelevent, but how she was addressing was affecting peoples perceptions of her and subsequently her performance and ability to promote. Less than a year later she was, and not only continues to be promoted but is much more influential.

Anthony Tormey

Wendi, Great points and followup questions. How do you recommend we address things like cultural differences, age differences, and creativity of expression? As you indicate in your comment, I think it would be difficult to adress kit as a black or white issue, but there are many nuances. Just as there are individual cultural differences, there are organizational differences as you point out. My rule of thumb has been as long as it does not infringe on good order and discipline (sorry that’s my military background) personal expression is fine.

How do you recommend we address things like cultural differences, age differences, and creativity of expression?

Anthony Tormey

Teresa, I’m convinced that is why the woman in my story to Allen was finally promoted. Again, we can play the, “Well how I dress shouldn’t matter if I can do the job.” Ok, keep that attitude as those around you are moving up the career ladder. Maybe it shouldn’t matter, but as we have all expressed, it does. BTW, if you’re not to far from Baltimore consider joining us for, Leadership Skills for the Admiistrative Profession Sponsored by the Baltimore Federal Executinve Board http://www.baltimore.eventbrite.com

Anthony Tormey

Bridget, again more great advice. In my early twenties I looked specificly for and went to a thrift store that was near a well to do community/neighborhood. Purchased a sports jacket that actualy fit perfect. The suit needed to be tailored (really no different than one off the rack) but it was in good condition and looked great once it fit.