Wearing it well: Business attire in the workplace


by Glory Enyinnaya

Aisha is an outstanding administrator. She is competent and has a strong work ethic. However, she has been passed over for promotion two years in a row because her supervisor feels she is not yet ready to play a managerial role. How has he formed this negative impression? From her dressing. She wears slippers to work and often appears sloppy and casual. This is unacceptable and detracts from her professionalism.

In determining the appropriate business attire, three questions must be considered.

First, what is the dominant style of dress at my organization? Research has identified at least four styles in corporate organizations. The first is the Traditional style. This is common in law firms and features clothes such as dark wool suits for men and suits and dresses for women. The second is the Professional style. This is common in advertising firms and features clothes such as blazers for men and skirts and dressy slacks for women. The third is the Collegiate style. This is common among fresh graduates and features clothes such as casual shirts. The fourth is the Casual style. This is common among engineers and features clothes such as denim jeans and T-Shirts.

Second, what will my clothing choices say to my co-workers? Do you wish to be seen as one of the team? If so, your dressing should not be outlandish. Do you want to be seen as upwardly mobile? If so, you should invest in some cutting-edge pieces. Do you want to be seen as unique? If this is your goal, you can cultivate your uniqueness through distinctive but appropriate clothes.

Third, how much of a risk am I willing to take? Do you want to fit in? If you want to stay in your current position for a while, you should stick within the approved dress code. Or do you want to stand out? Supervisors tend to dress a little better than the rank and file. You may have to stand out from the crowd if you want to get ahead.

In conclusion, a few eccentric geniuses and artistic visionaries can get away with ignoring the rules of proper business attire. Everyone else, though, should carefully consider the impact of their clothing choices on their long-term career success.

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