Dress for Success

There was a time when a suit and tie for men, and a skirt, jacket and blouse for women was the norm for business. Then came Casual Friday. Soon it spread into the rest of the week as employers started giving “casual days” as rewards for performance. On any given day, most offices are now a crazy quilt of business and casual dress.

But decades of research have shown that “business casual” can quickly become “business casualty.”

Dress for Success author John Malloy puts people in various scenarios to see how they react to others in various types of dress. Time after time, the more casually someone was dressed, the less they are taken seriously, listened to, or even noticed at all.

Will you be respected if a client walks in and you are dressed for Casual Friday? No matter how feverishly you explain, some credibility is definitely lost.

It’s not even just a matter of outside visitors. How you present yourself matters internally as well. Along the promotional path, for example, there are certain unwritten rules. Whether you think that’s fair doesn’t matter—it’s a fact confirmed by research. If the boss is accustomed to seeing you in clothing that’s too casual, your name is much less likely to rise to the top at promotion time.

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