You Are What You Wear ....
The axiom “Don’t judge a book by its cover” may be good advice, but it doesn’t really apply to first impressions. When dressing for any type of business event, from a meeting to a job interview, how you look is just as important as what you say. You may feel that the nose ring is a personal fashion statement, or the bright red streaks in your hair are just an expression of who you are, but in this day of corporate downsizing, when finding a job is as difficult as ever, the people looking at you won’t necessarily care.
Trying to decide what to wear is not always easy. How you dress will obviously depend on the type of event you are attending. As a general rule, dress a tad more conservatively then the event warrants. You want to show respect, but at the same time, don’t want to distance other people. (You can always loosen a tie or take off a jacket).
At the same time, be comfortable. Your clothes, hair, jewelry, etc., are not something you should be thinking about at all once you step out the door. A presentation for a new client is not the best time to wear a new pair of shoes, just out of the box. Don’t try out a different style of haircut for a job interview. If there is the possibility that you will be thinking about how you look during an event, you will not be able to focus on the task at hand 100%.
For men, there are some standard guidelines in a business setting. If you have to wear a suit, solid, dark colors such as navy blue or gray are usually safe. Black is often too serious for non-formal occasions. Red tones are an excellent “power tie” color. White shirts can wash you out and gets dirty easily. Avoid three-piece suits. They can look too stuffy. Button the jacket if standing; unbutton if sitting.
In less formal business settings, avoid jeans. Khakis or other pressed slacks are best. Shirts should be wrinkle-free and devoid of holes or stains.
Hair should be neat and clean and kept out of your face. A beard or mustache should be well groomed and not cover your upper lip. Earrings and other visible piercing are best kept hidden unless you are confident they will not be a distraction. Wear knee high socks. Avoid either tight fitting or too baggy clothing. Empty your pockets to avoid bulges.
For women in a business setting, avoid busy prints and designs, shiny fabrics and outfits with lots of sequins. If wearing silk, make sure the light won’t make the outfit see-through. Wear strong, elegant colors that reflect how you want the audience to see you. Dark colors project elegance; softer pastels project approachability. Solid whites are to be avoided as they can wash you out and gets dirty easily.
If it is a conservative crowd, wear a suit with a skirt rather than pants. Clothes should be well fitted, not too tight or baggy. If you may be seated, avoid skirts that are so revealing as to be distracting. You may have a great cleavage, but beware some people may be put off by necklines that show too much.
Don’t wear sandals, open-toed shoes or patterned hosiery. If you wear panty hose, bring an extra pair. Hair should be neat and clean and kept off your face. Avoid excessive, flashy, or noisy jewelry.