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Dressing appropriately for work – how to navigate the unwritten rules

What you wear could be making a far bigger statement than what you are saying. Perhaps it is time to re-think your wardrobe

Have you ever stopped to consider how you dress at work? Have you thought about what it is saying about you and your personal brand? It may seem obvious to ensure that you have a clean, ironed shirt on but what about long earrings or a goatee?

Experts agree that what is acceptable in one industry may not be for another. For example, it is common to find those who work in performing arts to wear more jewellery than those who work in finance. But what about the office where smart casual is common place? Summer pumps may be acceptable, but not sandals. Three quarter length trousers are fine, but not shorts. Stud earrings are considered the norm, but not big hoops. Where do you draw the line?

The first point of call is your company handbook. Check to see if there is a uniform policy and follow it if one is in place. Secondly, take a look around the office and take your cues from those around you and in positions above you; it may be that an informal dress code is in place.

But it is not just what you wear, but also the way in which you wear it. If you are going for a job interview it is important to wear the right size clothes. Those that are too small or baggy can really act as a distraction and ultimately see you being remembered for all the wrong reasons.

Think too about your hair. If you always arrive to work with wet or un-brushed hair you may come across as disorganised. Hardly the impression associated with a team member on the ascent.

And it doesn’t stop there….

Take a look at the bag you are taking to work. Is it overloaded with papers and sweet wrappers? Does it still have a shine, or is it scuffed and ragged looking? You may not have considered this as part of your wardrobe, more of a functional accessory to hold your belongings. But no.

A rucksack creates the impression that you’ve just stepped out of school; a bag which has your belongings spilling out of it can again signal a lack of organisation; an old bag can suggest that you’re stuck in the past. It is far better to ensure that you have a clean, smart bag. One in which your belongings fit tidily and which is routinely re-organised.

In a world where communication is so important, perhaps it is time to consider not just what you say, but what your clothes and accessories are saying about you.

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