Working Wardrobe-Irish Tatler Business Annual 2013

How we look counts for much more than what we say, so ensure that your wardrobe shouts success with practical advice from Frances Jones



Whether we like it or not, how we dress says so much about us.  Since people make judgements about us within seconds of laying eyes on us, and since our appearance, body language and non-verbal communication will create a lasting first impression and affect our earning potential, it is essential that we project a professional, powerful and positive image. 
Our clothes are like an extension of who we are. An indifferent professional image can cost you valuable clients, adversely affecting your professional goals and ultimately your business or your organisations bottom line.  A consistently professional image can improve the perception of your professional abilities which will increase your potential to attract and hold onto lients. 
So, whether you are meeting the bank manager, pitching to a new client, making a presentation to a group of international investors,  learn how to make a great impression and boost your personal brand with the following tips:
1. Whether you love shopping or hate shopping, before you buy another item, do a wardrobe audit.   Work out where the ‘gaps’ are – it might be a new top to go with or update an existing suit.  It may be a new jacket to wear over existing tops and trousers or skirts – whatever it is, aim to shop smartly and avoid the 80/20 syndrome i.e. wearing 20% of your wardrobe 80% of the time!
2. Spend the most money on the clothes you wear most .  We tend to do the opposite – buying for a special occasion and wearing the outfit/garment only once or twice.  You need to apply the cost per wear rule – divide the cost of the garment by the number of times you expect to wear it – this will give you a good guide on whether this is a good investment for you or not.
3. Go for the best quality you can afford.  Aim to create a core wardrobe with quality rather than quantity.  These quality pieces will have a longer life and will work out cheaper and  more efficient in the long term. 
4. Be clever with colour.  Spend the most money on your neutral colours i.e. your black, navy, greys etc.  Be careful with black – while it is a great colour, it can sometimes be very draining.  Opt instead for a charcoal or navy.  Complement your neutral colour with accent colours i.e. those vibrant colours that can really add life to your look.  If you want to ‘stand-out’ or be memorable, avoid your neutral colours and opt instead for colour.  Red, for instance is considered a very powerful, empowering, positive and memorable colour.
5. Dress for the job you aspire to!  Always aim to be better dressed than your clients.
6. Pay attention to detail.  Always check your clothes for stains, loose hems, pilling and any visible signs of wear and tear.  Never return an item to your wardrobe after wearing without checking it for any of the above.
7. Invest in great quality shoes.  For many women high heels means increased confidence.  Whatever you wear, make sure you are comfortable. If you wear flat ballet pumps around the office don’t wear the cheap, disposable types, they don’t look good and won’t do your feet any favours.
8. Wear great underwear.  Good foundations mean that your clothes will look so much better.
9. Have more good hair days.  You wear your hair every day and it is one of the first things people notice about you.  Cut, colour and condition are key to looking good. Investing in quality salon products really make a difference in ensuring that your hair looks as good as possible.
10. Show less skin! They say the more skin you show, the more power or credibility you give away! Watch out for low necks and short skirts.
11. Wear a little make up.  It is said that women who wear make-up are 6 times more likely to be promoted compared to their bare faced colleagues.  If you are not into make-up, even try a little mascara and lipstick.  Practice if you are not very proficient.  Remember applying a little make-up in the morning can take as little as 5 minutes, but the effects last all day.
12. Check yourself in a full-length mirror before you leave the house – front and back.  Every time.
13. Accessorises are a great way of updating a look.  Depending on the message you are trying to convey ,either opt for classic pieces if you want a more traditional look or something more dramatic if you want to make a statement.  Best always to avoid distracting, cheap jewellery which will not add to your professional image.
14. Hands and nails are a key part of your personal brand so, ensure that your nails are manicured and polished – even a clear polish give you that added finish.
15. Breathe and smile!  It sounds obvious but as busy and as stressed as we are, we sometimes forget to breathe! A few deep breaths in advance of a challenging or difficult meeting or presentation will ground you.  A (sincere) smile too will have a positive effect on how you feel and how you impact on others around you.


A word about smart casual in business.  Theoretically, it sounds great but for so many women it causes untold grief!  What to wear? What is acceptable and what is not? According to American research psychologist, Dr. Jeffrey L. Magee, who surveyed over 500 firms, on the subject of dress down Fridays, ‘continually relaxed dress leads to relaxed manners, relaxed morals and replaced productivity’.  His specific findings reveal that casual dress policies resulted in:
• A decrease in productivity and overall quality of work;
• An increase in litigation;
• A decrease in commitment and company loyalty;
• An increase in tardiness;
• A decrease in ethical behaviour.
So a word of caution.  If you struggle with dress down Fridays or your overall personal brand is leaning to the more casual look, or your personal brand is leaning to the more casual look, what impression are you giving?  Remember that great grooming is still essential.
Don’t worry about implementing all of the above all at once. You don’t have to spend a fortune to look good. Make small changes and enjoy how good and empowered you will feel.  Great eye contact, a firm hand-shake and a smile will go a long way towards clinching that great new client or great new deal.

For more information on our personal image consultations check out



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