Are you completely fed up with the same old “dress for success” advice out there?
And it goes a little something like this (cue Run DMC track).
It only takes 7 seconds for someone to judge you based solely on your appearance.
You never get a second chance to make a good first impression.
Dress for the job you want, not the job you have.
Really? We’re still hearing this old news?
For decades this philosophy has had an enormous impact on how people dress for work. For too long the status quo of workwear has been driven by a fear of what others might think and the risk of getting it wrong. As a personal stylist and former corporate lawyer, I have quite simply had enough (FRIEND: ok don’t be mad…ME: already mad).
This limiting concept has particularly affected women. Women were advised to dress to fit in and to mirror their male counterparts. This led to boring, defensive, uniform-like outfits (I’m looking at you black suit, white shirt ensemble). For the most part, these didn’t reflect the competent and highly skilled women wearing them (or the men in those suits for that matter).
Times are changing and so are workplace dress codes. While not all industries have embraced Silicone Valley chic (clutching my pearls), most modern workplaces are doing more than just flirting with casual Friday. The ‘dress for your day’ approach is being adopted as a dress code in even the most traditional of businesses.
But why the shift? What makes us so sure that relaxing the dress code is the way to go?
My initial musings involve the growing body of scientific evidence concerning ‘enclothed cognition’ (yep, it’s a thing) which states that what we wear affects our psychology.
If our clothes have the ability to impact our behaviour and performance, of course, it’s natural to explore ways to leverage this opportunity. Companies with relaxed dress codes tap into this. By embracing the potential benefits to productivity, engagement and innovation, employees are trusted and empowered to dress in a way that brings more of themselves to the table, while remaining business appropriate. A happy balance is struck.
Adding to this is the fact that there are more women than ever in the workplace, and increasingly in senior positions. This brings inevitable change in culture, and while NASA might be a little slow on the up-take, women no longer feel restricted by traditionally masculine silhouettes and style. As noted by Tina Brown, founder of the Women in the World summit,
“It’s past time for women to stop trying to cram themselves into out-dated NASA spacesuits designed for an alien masculine physique.”
But is it simply a matter of out with the old, in with the new? Is casualization really the answer to the sartorial snooze fest of dressing for success?
If you live long enough, you see the fashion cycle complete itself. While it’s almost impossible to locate a traditional power suit on the department store racks these days, a more modern take on the 80s boss lady suit is emerging. Designers are re-discovering the pantsuit in a way that reflects women using their femininity powerfully, the sounding of female voices (#metoo) and the return to a slower form of fashion and reinvigorated appreciation of tailored clothing.
Although we have experienced a definitive shift towards flexible dress codes, the momentary relaxation of formality is arguably a trend like any other. And like all trends, it might be beginning to lose its appeal.
Perhaps a better way to look at it is this:
We now have the opportunity to use our dress and personal style as a powerful business tool, without the fear of once negative connotations around appearance. How each individual chooses to do this will be different.
Our workwear options have expanded; they haven’t simply been made more casual. One size fits all doesn’t really fit anyone. Not everyone will perform better dressing less formally. Some will hold tight to the structure and simplicity of formal attire. Others might embrace the new casual formality and never look back or enjoy a mix of both. What matters is that we now have a choice and that is definitely not the same old.
If you would like to explore your personal style options in your own working wardrobe let’s talk and I’ll fill you in on how the NV Style System can help you to experience effortless style and unforgettable presence.