Your professional wardrobe style is like your very own visual business card. It speaks for you even when you are not speaking. But have you ever really thought about what your wardrobe is saying about you and your brand?
This is something I like to call “message management.” It is the art of knowing what image you want to project and then using your style to your professional advantage. The first step is to know what your current wardrobe says about you. Then, you can make strategic changes, taking control of how others perceive you and your business.
Below are the most common four professional styles and what they convey about you and your brand:
1. The uniformed professional
Do you wear similar outfits every day? As a woman you may always choose a skirt suit, a shift dress or slacks and sweater. For men, a strict classic suit and tie look, khaki’s and a blue button down, or even always donning an everyday pocket square could be your "uniform."
As an entrepreneur, your uniform shows commitment, consistency and strong brand awareness. However, even if you are a creature of habit, it is nice to switch things up every once and a while. You’ll want to show a splash personality by adding surprise layers, colors, accessories and shoes. By doing this you still can show strength of brand but also that you can think outside of the box and take risks from time to time.
2. The quirky and colorful professional
My personal favorite: the entrepreneur who loves color and pattern and isn’t afraid to use it! For women, maybe it’s a bright magenta shift dress, a fun purple cardigan, or pops of leopard, floral or graphic prints mixed into blouses, jackets, handbags or shoes. For men, the quirky can show up as colored checked shirts paired with contrast colored ties, a stand out paisley pocket square or even a surprise color in your socks. (There’s nothing more eye catching than a man in a classic suit with a pop of bright patterned socks.)
Your strategic impression here shows that you are vibrant, imaginative, energetic, original and approachable. But wearing too many colors or expressive prints at once can take attention away from YOU, the entrepreneur, and instead give the impression that you don’t take your position seriously. Be sure to limit yourself to one or two hues that pop or a single print as a focal point. Then balance it out with neutral tones and classic slim tailored shapes to keep the look professional yet still aligned with your personal expressive style.
3. The relaxed professional
Offices are getting more casual and relaxed dress codes have become a norm. Casual styling in the workplace can be seen as approachable, laid back and friendly. But you don’t want to drift into looking sloppy! Too many casual items together makes you look thrown together and not styled with purpose for the workplace.
A great rule of thumb for professional casual is to use the 50/50 rule. Your outfit should be 50 percent formal and 50 percent casual. That way you are dressing up your casual items with more professional appropriate pieces. Master this mix and you’ll look confident, together, serious and approachable all the same time. It shows that you took the time to think about your outfit and put it together in a creative way: All positive impressions
4. The status-obsessed professional
Is wearing head to toe designer brands your style? Consistently in Gucci loafers, the newest Hermes belt, the chicest Prada glasses and the biggest Louis Vuitton handbag? Go big or go home, right? This particular style type for entrepreneurs is perfect for working in luxury brands and shows that you understand your market.
The downside? Wearing too many noticeable labels in a single outfit can look like you are trying too hard or trying to garner attention. Be sure to layer your designers. Stick to clean lines, subtle designer items and only one or two labels showing.