Career Advice Professional Development

Five Ways to Dress for Success

By: Josie Steffey
Aug 13, 2020 • 10 min read

Five Ways to Dress for Success

I can hear it now – the advice my mother would give me as I prepared for my first job interview. Employers, professors, and mentors all offered the same tip, even years later. Dress for success. This phrase is more than just an age-old adage, though. Dressing for success, whether for an interview or after hire, is a crucial thing to practice. Though clothing is one of the critical factors that form first impressions, the way that you present yourself does not just influence the people around you. According to Business Insider, studies have shown that wearing nice clothes in the office can affect the way people perceive you, how confident you’re feeling, and even how you’re able to think abstractly. Clearly, this phrase has a lot more to it than popularity.

dress for success

What does it mean?

What does it mean, though, to dress for success? First, you must define what success is to you. For most, the idea of success entails gaining the respect of coworkers and peers, getting tasks done correctly and efficiently, and feeling confident in one’s abilities while doing it. Dressing for the goal (and a feasible one, at that) of accomplishing this is the next step. Here are five helpful tips for dressing for success in your workplace.

Dress According to Dress Code

This should go without saying, but dressing according to the rules and guidelines at your place of work is a priority above any other points to be made. The apparel that you wear reflects the workplace’s expectations; it indicates respect for the company, people in charge, and even yourself. Dressing for success begins with regard to and consideration of policy. By adhering to the guidelines concerning clothing options/limitations, others will note that you are someone who takes their job seriously, which will heighten your reputation in the workplace. 


Think about it: If a policy requires all personnel to wear khaki pants and a solid shirt, for example, and an employee shows up in a t-shirt and jeans, chances are they will probably not be seen as a dedicated worker. If they can’t stick to simple guidelines such as dress code, then how will they fare when it comes to other orders related to their job? How you react to dress code guidelines directly correlates with how others view your ability to efficiently carry out more pressing responsibilities.

Clear Headspace

Not only does this facilitate in others, gaining a better opinion of you, but knowing that you are following the rules will bring you better peace-of-mind. Your mind won’t be focused on whether or not you will get away with wearing an outfit against code; instead, wearing appropriate clothing will allow a clearer headspace to complete tasks well. It is much better to be wearing a shirt tucked in, for example, than to leave it hanging out with an underlying fear that you may get caught and reprimanded. To ensure that you perform your best each day, make sure you are aware of the dress code policies for your individual workplace and make it a priority to follow them.

Wear Versatile Clothing

If your workplace is cold one day and warm the next, don’t get angry at the person controlling the thermostat (at least, not right away!). There are ways for you to be comfortable despite the temperature whiplashes. Dress in layers and in versatile articles of clothing. For women, consider a nice tank top or short-sleeved shirt with a cardigan/blazer. Men should consider breathable or lightweight pants. For both men and women, simply keep an extra change of clothes in your space. In addition to the extra outfit on hand, a jacket is always a good thing to have handy, in case the air conditioning gets the best of you. Whether it’s an arctic freezer, Sahara Desert, or anything in-between that day, knowing that you will always have the option to be comfortable will boost your confidence and promote a peace-of-mind that comes with dressing prepared. 

dress for success

Wash and Iron Before Wearing

Wrinkled or dirty clothes can be a huge source of insecurity. This is especially true in an environment that deems it appropriate to dress appropriately. Something as small as creases or folds in a shirt can easily cause a downward spiral in self-esteem. Thus, hindering you from reaching your highest potential at work. Wearing wrinkle-free clothes may require some prep time before clocking-in. So, make sure that there is time set aside before work commences to break out the iron and steam. Another great way to get rid of the wrinkles is simply by sticking your attire in the dryer for a bit. On some dryers, there are wrinkle-shield settings that are designed to quickly smooth out your clothes in a short amount of time. Also note, deodorant or sweat stains are no fun, either. Putting clothes in a quick wash cycle before work may be beneficial to ensure your confidence later on in the day. 

Shop Within Your Means

If you are looking to dress for success, you don’t have to break the bank! Adding a new article of clothing to your wardrobe does not mean that it must be brand-name or even brand new. Used clothing can be an excellent way to get more bang for your buck when shopping for work clothes. Thrift-shops are a helpful alternative if retail prices are out of budget. A lot of thrift stores carry good-quality items for half the cost. It is also a stylish way to find a unique piece! If thrifting is not for you, consider looking for coupons to your favorite retail stores or buying clothes that can be used for more than one occasion. Versatile clothing is vital in shopping for professional clothes within a budget. Neutral colors and minimal patterns are excellent buys if you little to work with but need a fresh look. These tones allow for more mixing and matching with clothes you may already have and make it easier to coordinate more professional-looking ensembles. 

dress for success

Make it Your Own!

Your clothes say a lot about your character, personality, and aspirations, so have fun with it! Even if you have limits on what you can wear, there are many options to make your style your own. A pop of color or a signature piece is an excellent way to add personality to an otherwise mundane look. Accessories such as watches, jewelry, ties, belts, and shoes are little embellishments that can transform your whole look. When you feel better, you do better. Clothing that broadcasts, “This is me!”, boosts confidence and self-esteem, which directly affects work ethic and attitude towards work-related obligations. Writing up a report or presenting a proposal will come a lot more naturally when you love the nonverbal message you are sending through your individual fashion choices.

Follow these five tips, and you will be able to dress for success each and every day! Your confidence will increase, creativity will flow, and your reputation will be positively built. Paraphrasing a Hasidic proverb, “A person who is confident in themselves gains the confidence of others.”

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