Tuesday, 22 September 2009

Dressing for Success

Written by Lisa Maynard-Atem

Image is everything, and to achieve success, you have to dress for success. There are those amongst us that will argue that paying particular attention to your image is merely a case of vanity. However, these fashion philistines should be reminded that we receive information non-verbally first and foremost. One could even argue that in effect, fashion is a science, and not an expression of vanity.

When working with clients, I always go to great lengths to emphasise that they must view their personal image as a branding exercise. To be effective and proficient with ‘non-verbal’ communication skills, we must remember that we are what we look like, as well as what we do and say. Creating that positive and lasting first impression through the medium of clothing is vital to the success of any person, but in particular, to those in the world of business.

In the current climate, where there are currently 10 applications per vacancy in the UK, it is vital that you are not only qualified for the job, but also look the part. Think about it from the employer’s point of view. If you do not take pride in the way you look, then how do they know you will take pride in your job?

I recently worked with a client who had an image make-over in order to further enhance their brand and project the right message to key investors and decision-makers in their field. The client fully appreciated that an image-makeover was pivotal in raising their profile and therefore, taking them to a larger market. As a result of this ‘branding’ exercise, the client has attracted a number of highly lucrative business deals and has been pleasantly surprised by the positive reception that their new image has received. This goes to prove that your image is a powerful tool in the world of business and it is your job to project yourself in the best possible light, if you are to provoke the desired response in others.

Dressing for success is not about drowning yourself in designer labels (however I must add at this point, that I am not adverse to the odd designer bag…or 10). It is about conveying the right message, in order to inspire confidence in others and encourage them to react to you in a positive way. One only has to look at the media interest in Michelle Obama’s image, as this demonstrates perfectly, the power and positive effect that creating the right image can have.

Another example of the power of image, is the tennis star Andy Murray. During Wimbledon this year, there was a significant change in his overall image and brand. His outfits were shaper and highly stylised in comparison to his tennis attire in the past. In fact, some of the shirts that he wore on court were not even available to buy in the shops (which immediately made them highly desirable). This is due to the fact that his team at 19 management, are harnessing his ‘look’ to convey the right messages to their target audiences, and through doing so, increase his earning potential and no doubt, their fee.

So, in order to dress for success, is there a particular style to aim for or a look to aspire to? The simple answer is no. Obviously, there are the classics that should already be in every woman’s wardrobe (the LBD, a white shirt, a tailored jacket, and the rest you should know), but you have to dress for your shape, and for the environment in which you work. An outfit that works in one situation may not necessarily work in another. And it is important to remember, that in dressing for success, it is vital that you retain your individuality. Clothes are a means of self-expression as well as a tool for success. These expressions of individuality can be as subtle or as daring as you would want them to be (and as daring as the environment permits…don’t walk into work dressed as a clown because you want to convey your happy disposition…that would not be big and it most certainly would not be clever).

So go on and dress for success…because you’re worth it!


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