When you dress for success – why ‘brand new’ is not best

The most important factors in dressing for success are feeling comfortable and confident.

Whether meeting new people at a formal or important event or when you’re presenting to a group, you’ll want the attention on you and what you are there to say or represent, rather than having your outfit detract from you and distract an audience’s attention from your key message.

If you have an important meeting or presentation, never wear a completely new outfit – always ensure you’ve road-tested it first. What looks and feels right in the shop can let you down in ways you may not imagine. For example:

  • It might become itchy over time
  • It may twist around on you when you move
  • It could result in sweat stains under the arms if the fabric doesn’t breathe well
  • It may crease more than you realise
  • The zip could fail or the buttons may not be sewn on as securely as they should be
  • When seated, your skirt or dress may ride up or not allow you to comfortably cross your legs – especially awkward if you’re sitting on a platform higher than your audience
  • Not all blacks are created equal! You may think you have a black top that matches your black skirt / trousers / dress but in different lights the undertones in the dye can look warmer or cooler

Ensure you can fully move in your outfit – sit, twist, stretch. You need to be able to do everything in it without risk of tearing or revealing more than you plan to. Always be aware of how much cleavage you reveal – particularly important if you’ll be on your feet leaning towards people who are seated!

When you’re already familiar with your outfit and know it works for you instead of against you, you can then forget about it and just get on with the job.

* excerpt from notes I provided for a presentation to the Women Stepping Up to Leadership Program