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     Business Wardrobe Basics

Dressing for success is not a new concept. Most business professionals recognize that the expression, "You don't get a second chance to make a first impression" is true. The simple fact is that in and out of the business world, people are JUDGED on their wardrobe. The clothing you wear can have an adverse affect on your career.

The image you present should make your prospects and clients feel COMFORTABLE with who you are. Often you will be working in their offices, interfacing with their company personnel. There are three areas of professional presence; the "three V's": Visual, Vocal, Verbal. They are the communication signals we send to other people. The visual is what we look at: dress, body language, facial expression. The vocal is your voice. The verbal is the words you choose.

What is most interesting is that these three signals are far from equally weighted. The VISUAL component has the most initial impact. Think of it as the packaging. Would you buy a bar of soap that has the wrapper torn? Remember that the next time you are dressing for a sales call. And how you look can color what people HEAR you saying.

Here are 10 overall guidelines for putting together a professional wardrobe and paying attention to grooming details:
  • dress appropriately for the situation, depending on who you are meeting and where

  • dress LIKE your client to make him or her feel more comfortable

  • dress a bit above your client (but not too far) to show AUTHORITY

  • avoid DESINGER labels that show

  • avoid heavy makeup or perfumes

  • limit JEWELRY -- nothing noisy or dangling or distracting

  • keep your clothing clean and well-pressed

  • make sure that your clothes FIT -- if your body changes, so should the clothes

  • keep your shoes polished and make sure the heels and soles are in good condition

  • wear clean eyeglasses -- never wear sunglasses or tinted glasses indoors

Do your clothes help you project the IMAGE you want? Each person should develop a style that reflects his or her own personality and individual taste. However, some items are considered standard traditional business attire and are appropriate for nearly any occasion:
  • black or gray suit
  • navy suit
  • contrasting jacket and skirt or pants
  • two-piece dress (for women)
  • several white / off-white blouses or shirts
  • solid color blouse or shirt
  • one pair gold, one pair silver earrings (for women)
  • scarves or ties that pick up colors from the suits
  • black shoes; navy or taupe pumps (for women)
  • black socks; neutral or taupe hosiery (for women)
  • black leather handbag (for women)
  • all weather coat -- black, brown, or burgundy briefcase

More companies are having "casual Fridays" or are RELAXING the office dress code. But dressed down doesn't mean sloppy or shabby clothing.
  • casual skirts, slacks or "skorts"
  • neatly pressed chinos or corduroys are acceptable
  • cotton shirts in solids, prints, or muted plaids
  • sweaters -- blazers look good over slacks or casual skirt
  • low-heeled shoes or boots -- wear stocking or socks
Never wear sweatpants, leggings or jogging suits. Other "no-nos" include sneakers and T-shirts.

Before you make a purchase, you need to answer "yes" to these eight questions. If you are in doubt, don't buy the item. You want to buy clothes that look and feel good on you.
  • Did you try the garment on? Does the garment FIT? Check to see if it's too tight or too large. Don't buy "your size." Buy the size that fits.

  • Are the button holes sewn tightly? Can you sit down and not have the buttons pull in front?

  • Did you use a three-way mirror to check front, back and side views? Check for pulls, bulges or bunching of the material.

  • Will you be able to wear the garment often? Is it APPROPRIATE for your needs?

  • Does it complete your wardrobe? Does it "go" with many other items in your closet?

  • Does the garment look good?

  • Can you move around in the garment? Does the item feel COMFORTABLE?

  • Do you LIKE the item? Buy a garment because you like it, not just to add to your wardrobe.


Marjorie Brody, MA, CSP, CMC, is an internationally recognized expert and motivational speaker on career enhancement and corporate etiquette, connects people to potential. She grooms corporate leaders in savvy communication and polished presentation skills She is author of 15 books, including "Speaking is an Audience-Centered Sport", and "Help! Was That a Career Limiting Move?" You may contact her at 800-726-7936, or visit her web site at www.BrodyCommunications.com.

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