I work with clients from a variety of backgrounds, and I’m having a hard time figuring out how to dress for them. My older clients seem to feel more comfortable when I’m wearing a suit because I look professional and competent. Younger representatives, however, find such clothing stuffy and impersonal, and prefer a trendier and more casual look. I often have meetings with multiple clients in a day. It sounds like a silly question, but… what should I wear? – Justine in Waterbury, VT
When you dress for success you should be projecting your authentic self to your clients, colleagues, and managers. If you start out focused on dressing for others, you will never be comfortable in your own skin. Don’t succumb to superficial people pleasing. Developing your personal style is about finding clothing that gives you a sense of confidence, makes you feel happy, and reflects your personality.
However, it is also true that your appearance presents an image which leaves an impression on those with whom you meet. Clothing that looks like a wrinkled mess can project an image that you are slovenly and don’t care about your work. So, unless you just crawled out from a train derailment, how you dress does matter. And as a general rule of thumb, it’s better to be over-dressed than under-dressed. Oscar Wilde summed this up perfectly: “You can never be overdressed or overeducated.”
There are a litany of golden rules to follow to exude assurance and professionalism. Your personal grooming and attire ALWAYS impacts how you are perceived. It instantly conveys a visual message about you. Regardless of your profession, industry, or job role – neat and tidy rules.
Follow these guidelines on what to wear:
- Your person should be clean, groomed, and mostly scent-free.
- Your attire should be in good repair, pressed, and of course clean.
- Avoid low-cut tops, revealing sheer fabrics, or body-hugging clothing.
- Keep your work sphere professional; you can easily change your style in your off time.
- Make sure all of your clothing fits will. (The most expensive suit will make you look terrible if it hangs on your frame.)
- No matter what your role or industry, there are ways you can inject some personal style into your dress. (Maybe some funky socks or a quirky scarf.)
When you are in sales, you will often flex your style to fit your client’s environment. This does not mean that you subvert or hide your authentic self. However, there are simple wardrobe adjustments you can easily make between appointments, such as replacing a jacket with a shrug or sweater, or adding a colorful silk scarf for flair. These simple changes help you better fit the culture of each client you meet in any given day. Just remember to keep it real and be the boss of your own style.
Dressing appropriately for your career presents a powerful association to your clients and co-workers. Your work wardrobe should reinforce your strength while focusing attention on your talent and abilities. You exude confidence and success when what you wear is in harmony with your proportions and body type. When you present a polished image, you feel better, more empowered, and ready to take on the world.
- “Dress Codes in the Workplace”
- “5 Rules on How to Dress for Sales Success”
- “Fashion Tips for a Sales Rep”
Lynn Whitbeck is the co-founder and President of Petite2Queen. She is focused on identifying and evaluating opportunities for women at work, helping them define their personal roadmap. She dedicates herself to delivering tools and insights, embracing visualization of the big picture, and identifying and implementing the minutiae of detail. Lynn aims to share lessons learned along her journey and enable positive uplift for women.