Did you know that clothing is an element of body language? Our wardrobe choices communicate a lot about our personality and attitude and often are an enormous element of someone’s first impression of you. Think about how you dress for a fancy-dress party – clothes alone can communicate the sort of character you are playing. This translates into everyday life as well. There are expectations about what certain professionals will dress in, whether it’s that a lawyer will be in a suit, a sports coach in a tracksuit or a chef in a chef’s jacket.
Even if your work doesn’t require a specific type of wardrobe, when dressing for your job, it is particularly important to think about the impression your clothes are giving about you. Would you consider someone dressed in wrinkled clothes with holes to be professional and competent? Probably not. Same goes for someone wearing something too tight, too short or completely inappropriate for the context of their work. In contrast, someone who is wearing smart, neat clothing in good repair which fits them well and is formal enough for the situation seems to be more trustworthy and proficient. The state of our clothing makes a statement. If you visited the dentist, and they were dressed in dirty clothes, you’d probably think twice about letting them examine you. In contrast, if a painter was dressed in completely clean clothes in their studio, you may wonder about how much work they get done.
There is a lot of psychology behind colour and the shade you choose can say volumes about you. Bold, bright colours are often indicative of confidence and competence, as are the more business-like shades of black, white, grey and navy. Pastel colours tend to be softer and people dressed in them seem more approachable. Patterns are another element altogether and suggest different things about the wearer depending on how formal they are, how busy, how colourful and how traditional or contemporary. Bright, cheerful prints may not be the best choice for an accountant but communicate exactly the correct message about a primary school teacher.
Fabrics also have a language all their own. Heavy fabrics tend to make a person seem more serious while a floaty fabric seems more casual and relaxed, giving a similar impression of the person in the garment.
Whether you are in a very formal workplace or your dress code is quite relaxed, it is worth taking some time to examine your working wardrobe and consider the non-verbal cues it is giving to your clients. Does the message you are projecting support your identity in the office? If not, it might be time for an overhaul.