Dress Up

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Series: The ABC’s of Professionalism

This topic is challenging because there are so many opinions on what constitutes professional attire and a lot of acceptable variations depending on the industry, company, day of the week, business function and more. Fortunately for you, I have acquired extensive expertise in this area through my circle of friends, who represent some of the most fashion-aware people in America, including: barbershop singers, professors, scientists, computer geeks, senior citizens and golfers. 😉

“Although golf was originally restricted to wealthy, overweight Protestants, today it’s open to anybody who owns hideous clothing.” — Dave Barry

Professional Dress is a Matter of Respect

As with all areas of professionalism, attitude is at the core. In the case of dressing professionally, the specific attitude is respect. Respect yourself with the way you dress and your overall attitude of professionalism will rise to a new level.

“Put even the plainest woman into a beautiful dress and unconsciously she will try to live up to it.” — Lady Duff-Gordon (1863-1935)

The way you dress broadcasts to others how you see yourself. Thus, the adage, “Dress for Success.”

“Keeping your clothes well pressed will keep you from looking hard pressed.” — Coleman Cox

Dressing with respect includes good hygiene. At the risk of stating the obvious, here is my list of keywords: soap, razor, deodorant, toothpaste, toothbrush, cologne, comb and nail clippers. Mom was right when she told you to wash behind the ears, comb your hair, brush your teeth and trim your nails. In case mom’s not around to check up on you, here’s a tip. If you draw blood when shaking hands, it’s time to trim your nails.

“Cleanliness and order are not matters of instinct; they are matters of education, and like most great things, you must cultivate a taste for them.” — Benjamin Disraeli (1804-1881)

Your GPS

Style and Professionalism

Like medicine, more is not always better. Overdressing can have a negative effect on your image, although I believe that erring slightly on the side of overdressing will create fewer problems than the reverse.

“Looks are part of business. A businessman should never stand out more than his customers. His mannerisms, his clothes, everything about him… Moderation is the key.” — Takayuki Ikkaku, Arisa Hosaka and Toshihiro Kawabata, Animal Crossing: Wild World, 2005

A stylish wardrobe can be important when it comes to color combinations, width of neckties, ensembles, buttons, stitching, fabric, creases and pleats and accessories. On the other hand, dressing professionally often requires rejection of other aspects of fashion.

“In your clothes avoid too much gaudiness; do not value yourself upon an embroidered gown; and remember that a reasonable word, or an obliging look, will gain you more respect than all your fine trappings.” — Sir George Savile, ‘Advice to a Daughter,’ 1688

“Fashion is the science of appearances, and it inspires one with the desire to seem rather than to be.” — Michel de Montaigne (1533 – 1592)

For women, there is a difference between attractive and sexy. Displaying cleavage, thighs, and/or a bare midriff is unprofessional for most careers (if you get my point.)

“If you’re not selling, you shouldn’t be advertising.” -– Donald P. Nock (1928-2000), teacher and coach

A career woman who wants to be respected for her mind, capabilties and personality should not direct unnecessary attention to her looks by wearing clothing that looks like its been painted on her. Going easy on make-up and perfume is also good advice.

Accessorize with Care

For simplicity, I’ll define accessories as everything except clothing that people see and use to judge another person including: handbag, briefcase, car, jewelry and hair. Let’s be honest, body piercings, excessive and gaudy tattoos and outrageous hairstyles are not an advantage in most fields. These things may cause people to look at you and they may make a fashion statement. But, you have to be twice as good to overcome the first impression you make with these nontraditional accessories.

Your car is an accessory, too. More important than make and model are operability and cleanliness. A BMW that rattles, spews black smoke and is filled with food wrappers can’t compete with a shiny new and clean economy car.

Professional Appearance is a Choice

You might be thinking, “Well, this really isn’t who I am. I’m not a ‘suit and tie kinda person.’” I would counter that there isn’t a gene that defines how you dress, take care of yourself or conduct your business affairs. These are choices available to everyone.

Next, you might be thinking this is going to be hard. What’s the alternative?

“Doing nothing is very hard to do … you never know when you’re finished.” — Leslie Nielsen

Think about which path to success is hardest. The first way is to make the necessary changes in yourself to project professional image. The second way is to make no personal changes and devote your energies to convince everyone that you are a professional in spite of your unprofessional appearance. In other words, change thousands of opinions. The third option is to choose a profession which demands less in the way of appearance.

“My main reason for adopting literature as a profession was that, as the author is never seen by his clients, he need not dress respectably.” — George Bernard Shaw (1856-1950)

God bless,

— CC

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© Copyright August 2008, Clancy Cross. All rights reserved.
Read more “Clancy’s Quotes” at: ClancyCross.WordPress.com

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