Does what you wear matter in business?

I have a friend who’s just succeeded in raising serious investment for their business. For the pitch meeting, they wore jeans. Their hair is a bit too long and unkempt. Basically they are a scruff. But it didn’t matter a jot to investors; it just reinforced their crazy, disruptive brand.

But you know… I don’t think I could have written the above paragraph if that friend was a woman. The sad truth is that even the women at the wildly disruptive vanguard of technological innovation still have to tow many more sartorial lines than their male counterparts. As we have written in more depth elsewhere, women who transcend stereotypes are judged more harshly.

Regardless of what line of business you’re in, how you present yourself remains an important part of the sales and relationship-building package, especially for women. With a long and controversial history behind women’s dress in the workplace, offices worldwide now look very different than they did in the 70s. Gone are the days of mandatory heels and unnecessarily short skirts – well, almost. Nowadays, women have far more flexibility in terms of professional attire than ever before. And with that freedom, comes decisions.

If you’re like me and already over-loaded with decisions – about what to make for dinner, where to plan the next holiday, before I even get to business decisions – then a few tips to cut down on the mass of wardrobe decisions is very definitely welcome.  So I talked to a few women who always seem to get it right and here are their top tips:

Accentuate what you have

Getting that balance between chic and professional is a tough task, even at the best of times. But don’t compromise. Do you have anything in your professional wardrobe that you don’t look fabulous in? Chuck it out. Then make more of what is left and invest is a few solid classics. Look after your clothes. Good grooming makes everything look so much better.

Mirroring style

Like attracts like. So dress like the customers you want to attract. Pay attention to the brands that your ideal customers wear and start shopping there.  If you work closely with clients, you may find that mirroring a client’s style, all the while adding your own personal flair to it, can have a tremendous impact on how they feel about you and your business. If your customers are more high-end, then they may notice accessories such as the type of watch you wear – for this, keep it low-key, yet classic by choosing the likes of a Patek Philippe.

Once you decide the look you want to aim for, set up a style vision board and start pinning magazine images up to inspire and focus you.

Feeling comfortable

If the look you’ve identified makes you feel uncomfortable and fake you may need to rethink. If you feel like a fish out of water are you even in the right business? We all do better in business when it aligns with our own aspirations and values.  Alternatively if this new look feels affirming and positive, then keep going, you’re definitely on the right track.

What you wear in business does matter. Get it right and not only will your business be boosted, you’ll also start every day feeling so much better too.

Liz Wiley

Liz Wiley is a freelance writer who is passionate about flexible working and advancing women in business. Liz is a regular contributor to Prowess and other business blogs.

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