Dress For Success

Why it is important to look the part and how it could be a deal breaker in a business deal.

I recently read an article, where a prominent events producer mentioned that her personal deal breaker in business is a handshake. In an exclusive interview with The Edge, Dani Kagan, City MOGULS Runway Show co-founder, mentioned, “if I get a bad handshake from someone, just going into a meeting, I don’t know if I can do business with them.”

This got me thinking about the importance of appearances and whether it could be a potential deal breaker in a business meeting. Why should one put value on business dress, considering that we live in a society where everyone tries not to make judgements based on appearances? As much as we try not to make these judgements, the reality is that the way a person looks plays a crucial role in their business success. In the business world, appearance is often conflated with performance, and those who don’t fit the norm aren’t always accepted. 

Dressing for corporate success is not just about looking nice. The way a person dresses can have a positive or negative impact on how a person is perceived in a professional setting, which is of utmost importance.

Everything you do makes statement.  In a Forbes article “What does it really mean to dress for success” contributor Carol Kinsey Goman says the secret to many successful entrepreneurs is the way they dress. Even for a vacation, a successful entrepreneur is in a business suit and heels.

She adds that the motto for her very successful entrepreneur friend was, “Wear great clothes. You never know whom you’ll meet! The fact that Joyce wears a business suit and not jeans and a tee shirt when she travels sends a message.”

According to another article from the Harvard Law School, entitled, In Business Negotiations, Dress the Part, “Negotiators involved in high-stakes mergers and acquisitions typically come to the table armored in meticulously tailored apparel and designer shoes.”

When trying to win over a prized client, for example—it pays to show your respect by dressing in formal business attire But when the playing field is more level, you may actually gain status in your counterpart’s eyes by letting your personality, and perhaps a bit of whimsy, shine through.

Clothing influences both the wearer and the observer. According to research, it has been proven that that people, especially in a business environment are more likely to give money or information, whether it maybe charitable donations or tips to someone if the recipient is well dressed, preferable in formal wear.

Here are five tips on how to dress for success, according to Lisa Bougie, GM, Stitch Fix Women, taken from the Forbes article, “How to Dress for Success”

1. Experiment with Your Appearance

Take notice on how people react when you wear certain colours or styles. Then, based on those reactions and your career goals, make an informed decision about how you want to “package” yourself.

2. Get Inspired

Seasonal change is the perfect time to hit the pause button and get inspired. Make the time to flip through magazines, head downtown, surf the web—get inspired by the natural style reset that presents itself with the change of seasons.

3. Pick Your Path

Get clear on the season’s style cues that emotionally resonate with you. Not all trends are for all people – and that’s a good thing.

4. Claim Your Colours

Colour is one of the easiest ways to update one’s wardrobe and yet it’s so easy to get stuck in a rut.  Two rules of thumb:  

a) Know your neutrals. Rooting your wardrobe in the neutral that best suits you will help to optimize versatility.  Black not for you? Maybe you’re more of a greybrown or navy person. Whatever it is – claim it!

b) Same goes for seasonal colours. Commit to a tight palette of newness. Just one or two new colours go a long way.

5. Double Down

There are some things worth investing in, if possible.  Shoeshandbags and outerwear are top of the list. Why? Because they complete the look. Combine an awesome pair of shoes with less expensive apparel and the look is instantly elevated. Same goes for handbag or outerwear.

6. Embrace Your Go-To Staples

It’s tempting to feel like you need to dress a certain way when you’re under pressure for a big meeting but comfort breeds confidence. Don’t ditch your go-to (fill in the blank) if you’ve got a big presentation coming up. Wearing what you feel comfortable in will positively impact your ability to show up as your best self.

7. Travel with Purpose

When traveling for work or pleasure, focus on a narrow colour palette and build outfits around that. You’ll be able to do more with less and might even save you from checking a bag.

8. The Toolkit is Key

Invest in a hand-steamer over an iron.  It’s compact, quick and so much easier than the alternative!  Keep it in your bathroom for last minute touch ups. Other tools to keep handy at your desk or in your bag include a lint brush (or masking tape in a pinch) and polishing cloths for shoes and jewelry.

Veruschka Mungroo | Senior Editor

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