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How to Dress Professionally When Casual Dress Is Your Norm

What to Wear When You Have to Dress Professionally

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How to Dress Professionally When Casual Dress Is Your Norm

What You See is What You Get... Or Is It?

You would think someone being interviewed on television would dress professionally, but unfortunately not everyone knows to do this. The host of a television show about my local job market was interviewing two women — one the chief economist of a regional business association and the other a newspaper journalist who reports on international business. The chief economist was dressed in a business suit and her hair was neatly combed. She sat up straight and looked at either the host or camera when answering questions. The journalist, by stark contrast, was dressed casually in slacks and shirt. Her hair looked wet, as if she had just gotten out of the shower or pool. She slouched in her chair and looked at her lap a lot of the time. Both women were very knowledgeable and had a lot of useful information to convey to the audience. However, I had more faith in what the economist had to say than I did in what the reporter said. Why? The way they carried themselves.

Maybe the current trend toward casual dress at work has made people more lax about what they wear. In addition, many people work from home where there are no rules regarding dress. As a remote worker, I can tell you that I don't give much thought to what I wear while working at home. While I don't work in a bathrobe and fuzzy slippers, unless of course I'm working at 1 a.m., if it's good enough for the supermarket or picking up my daughter at school, I can wear it to sit in front of my computer. When I give a presentation, though, it's a whole different story. I try to look my professional best, in a skirt, blouse, jacket, and dress shoes. I make sure my hair and makeup are neatly done. In other words, I dress for success.

Why You Must Dress Professionally for Certain Situations

Maybe it's unjust to judge a book by it's cover, but we all do it. It's human nature. While the person in jeans may be as competent and as intelligent as the one wearing the formal suit, or more so, we do assess these attributes based on appearance. That's not to say you can forget about preparing for a presentation, put on a nice suit, and you'll wow 'em. All the ingredients -- knowledge, preparation, and appearance — are necessary to make a good impression.

When you work at home or in an office where casual attire is the norm, it's difficult to get out of that role and into the role of the professional in front of the audience or in front of a television camera. But, if you want to make a good impression, it's worth the effort. Here's what you need to do.

How to Dress Professionally

Should you go out and purchase a suit for the one or two times a year you'll have to make a presentation? It's probably a good idea. You should buy something classic. After all, if you're only going to wear the suit a couple of times a year, you don't want it to go out of style too quickly. Women can probably get away with a nice skirt and jacket, while men can wear dress trousers and a jacket. There's also nothing wrong with a pant suit for women. If you're going to be in front of the camera, some special rules apply. Wear neutral colors — dark blue or grey are good, don't wear large or glitzy jewelry, and wear a button down shirt or a jacket so they have somewhere to clip a microphone.

Now about your hair. Your hair should be neat and clean. Try to keep it out of your face. As for makeup (for you women out there), keep it simple. If you're going to be on camera, you should stay away from anything iridescent, frosted, or glittery -- matte is best.

As your mother may have told you, sit up straight. When you slouch you look bored. If you're bored, how do you expect your audience to feel? You'll also look more confident if you're sitting or standing up straight. Look like you're happy to be there. Put a smile on your face. Don't fidget, bite your nails, or play with any jewelry you are wearing. Oh yeah — don't forget to breathe.

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