Never Underestimate the Business Advantages of Dressing Well That crucial first impression is deeply influenced by appearance. Your wardrobe can be a competitive advantage.

By Jacqueline Whitmore

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Successful entrepreneurs know that packaging is extremely important. Each product should be appealing and grab your customer or client's attention. But did you know that your own personal packaging is just as important?

Professional relationships begin with a first impression. Your clients, colleagues and customers unconsciously grade you on your image and appearance. The way you dress and how you carry yourself communicates a message to all those around you.

That's why it's wise to consider what kind of image you want to present to the world. After all, it's one of the few things in business you have complete control over.

Related: What Does Your Style Say About You as an Entrepreneur?

At times, human beings can be superficial. It's sad, but true. Many prefer to work with people who are good-looking and well dressed. How you present yourself is a compelling factor in someone's decision to hire you and your business.

Your clothing and outward appearance shapes assumptions others make about your education level, career prospects and personal competence. When you pay attention to the details, your clients and customers will feel that you are as meticulous with their time and money as you are with yourself.

Here are some guidelines to help you dress to impress.


Style is developed from within. To appear casual and effortless, even in a suit, ensure the fit and fabric of your clothing makes you feel almost as comfortable as when you wear jeans and a T-shirt. You don't have to spend a fortune to look nice. Just make sure your clothes are good quality and fit well.

Choose the right suit. There are three major styles of suits: British, Italian (also referred to as Continental) and American. Choose a suit that best flatters your body type and makes you feel great each time you wear it. Hire an expert tailor to make sure it fits you to perfection.

Your dress shirt is a way to express your personality. The color and style of your shirt provides a mode of self-expression, especially if you decide not to wear a tie. Choose a collar shape that complements the contours of your face. If you want your shirts to last longer and require less dry cleaning, wear an undershirt.

Invest in four pairs of high-quality shoes: one pair in dark brown, another in a rich shade of burgundy, also known as cordovan, and two pairs in black leather. Pair black suits with black shoes; gray suits with black or brown shoes; and navy suits with black or cordovan-colored shoes. Always coordinate your belt color with your shoes.

Related: The First Step to a Great Personal Brand? A Distinct Look.


Truly stylish professional women have a presence that makes them attractive, memorable and distinct. Consult with a professional who can help you choose clothes and colors that make you look and feel your best so your personality can shine through.

Trendy clothes tend to change from season to season, therefore it's more cost effective in the long run to focus on articles of clothing that are both timeless and classic. Your wardrobe doesn't have to be boring, bland or unimaginative. Colorful or distinctive "statement" pieces, including your handbag, shoes and jewelry, convey taste, personality and style.

A classic blazer will help you project confidence and authority whenever you have to give a presentation or attend an important meeting. Ensure your jacket fits well and complements your body shape.

There are certain "closet classics," or investment pieces, that every career woman should own. Invest in your overall appearance with some or all of these items: a black or camel coat, a classic watch, black-patent pumps, a little black dress, a good pair of jeans, a lightweight black wool suit, a cashmere wrap, and a timeless handbag. These staples can be mixed and matched with other items in your wardrobe to create multiple outfits and establish your signature look.

Related: The Stars of Shark Tank on How to Dress for Success

Wavy Line
Jacqueline Whitmore

Author, Business Etiquette Expert and Founder of The Protocol School of Palm Beach

Jacqueline Whitmore is an etiquette expert and founder of the Protocol School of Palm Beach in Palm Beach, Fla. She is the author of Poised for Success: Mastering the Four Qualities That Distinguish Outstanding Professionals (St. Martin's Press, 2011) and Business Class: Etiquette Essentials for Success at Work (St. Martin's Press, 2005).

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