We’ve all asked ourselves the same question the morning before a big interview or before a first day at a new job: “How formal is too formal?”, “is this outfit too casual?” or “how do I dress for success?”
Defining dressing for success in this day and age can be quite the challenge, especially since the lines between business formal and business casual are so often blurred. The traditional meaning of the saying conjures up the image of a man or woman dressed in a crisp button-down dress shirt, a snazzy suit and shiny shoes, heading to an important meeting they are taking part it in.
But what does this saying mean for organizations that have become less formal in terms of their office and dress codes to match the more casual times we live in? It simply means that dressing for success can mean different things in different workplaces. It also means that the saying would need to invoke something that speaks to a more updated vision of today’s modern organization.
And perhaps, dressing the part is more du jour, because if there’s one thing everyone should know is the industry they are in and how to dress accordingly. More traditional organizations remain formal in their dress codes (think conservative three-piece suits for men and pant suits for women), whilst some have become more open to self-expression and dressing for comfort (think hoodies, t-shirts and jeans- we’re looking at you Silicon Valley). Ultimately, dressing the part should be a reflection of the role you fulfill at work and how you perceive yourself and how you would like others to perceive you; a fine balance between all of the above.
In a more open-minded work environment, it’s also about knowing the limits and playing within them, while respecting your fellow coworkers. In the spirit of the animal appropriation trend we at APEX enjoy referencing on occasion (Morning Lark vs. Night Owl), it’s probably best not to attract the wrong type of attention in your organization by being a work wear penguin or peacock; Avoiding extremes should be obvious, like sporting a black and white tuxedo, a ball gown or overly flashy, bedazzled, and branded clothing. Instead, one should opt for business casual options, such as a tasteful Canadian tuxedo (light wash denim on dark wash denim) or any variation of a nice top and clean bottoms. And even if the work wear you’ve chosen errs on the too casual, one way to never go wrong is to always have a blazer on hand for those unexpected client pop-ins! Casual AND smart. Now, you are equipped with tips on how to dress smart for success.
NEXT: 2015 Work in Review