Dressing Up in a Down Economy
By Mary Lou Andre
President and Founder
Organization By Design, Inc.
Professional image is a powerful yet often overlooked tool for getting results for yourself and your company. While it may seem counterintuitive, spending money on the way you look and present yourself in tough economic times is actually a sound investment. The confidence you gain helps you become more secure, calm, confident and prepared for things outside of your control. It also inspires trust and confidence.
Hiring someone to coach you through the process of developing an authentic executive presence that supports your leadership style is not frivolous. As in most things, a seasoned professional cuts through the clutter, uses years of experience to make the process go quickly and has an intuitive sense of what will be right for you. A coach specifically trained in professional image consulting can make necessary edits to your closet and then help you select the correct colors, styles, brands and cuts of clothes and accessories to help you effectively communicate, connect and build relationships with colleagues, customers and business partners.
Here are some of the principals that an experienced professional image coach brings to the table when guiding executives at all levels to package themselves for success:
Appropriateness, Boundaries and Respect. Whether shopping in the store or shopping in your closet, adopt these three words as your personal litmus test. Ask yourself, is this outfit appropriate for my business environment, position in the company and the industries I serve? Do my clothing and accessory choices create good business boundaries or am I overexposed and therefore going to come across as vulnerable, insecure or, worse, lacking judgment? Does my attention to detail show respect for myself, which instantly shows respect for others?
View your professional image as communications tool. An appropriate and effective professional image enhances communication and allows you to present ideas and information in a highly effective way. Eliminating distractions commonly caused by ill fitting clothes, poor grooming and a lack of attention to how clothing and accessories are coordinated together is one sure way to come across as credible and confident, even if you are nervous on the inside. Best part — the more effectively you communicate the more confident you become.
Ground your look for business. Think like a professional contractor and start with a solid foundation. While not the only choice for business today, dark base neutrals are a cost-effective way to build a functional and versatile wardrobe. Black, brown, and gray suits, pants, skirts, and shoes are price neutral, hide wear and tear and can slim pounds off your frame. If you crave color, add it strategically with a tie, shirt, blouse, tote, coat or scarf. Worn this way, color is more apt to add interest to your overall look instead of being overwhelming or distracting.
Business first, fashion second. Fashion is fun, exciting, and seductive. After all, the fashion industry is big business and the thought of wearing your favorite trends to the office in new and innovative ways can be intriguing. However, think about your environment before you go outside the boundaries of what's acceptable. Remember business is about dollars and sense and people may have reactions to inappropriate attire that can undermine your credibility. You don't have to be a corporate drone by any means — just be smart with your wardrobe choices and how they will impact your goals and objectives on the job.
The economy may be down but don't underestimate the power of dressing up. When you feel good about yourself, it's contagious and everyone around you benefits from your good choices and confidence. It's really that simple.
Mary Lou Andre, founder and president of dressingwell.com and Organization By Design, Inc. is a nationally recognized wardrobe consultant, speaker and author. In addition to television appearances, Mary Lou has been featured in such national publications as The Wall Street Journal, The New York Times, USA Today, The Chicago Tribune, Real Simple and Esquire. She is also the author of "Ready to Wear: An Expert's Guide to Choosing and Using Your Wardrobe." Her firm provides services to both individuals and corporations, including American Express, the Estee Lauder Companies, Fidelity, Frito Lay and Harvard Pilgrim Healthcare. To learn more about her firm and philosophy, visit dressingwell.com.