Dressing for Success

“Dress for success” is one of those phrases that’s so widespread and understood to be true that hardly anyone thinks about what it actually means or how to put it into action. How do you ‘dress for success’? Do you need to go shopping (perhaps in a musical montage in which your best friend makes you over)? Can you make it work with what you have already in your wardrobe?

Today we’re taking a look at dressing for success and helping you put a well worn phrase into action in your real life.

What is Success?

The first thing you need to remember is that success is specific. It’s not a generic state of contentment: to be successful you need to achieve specific tasks. Whether it’s getting a job or a date, completing a DIY project or hosting a dinner party, success means achieving that specific task.

Dressing for success has three main pillars you need to consider: the practical side (what are the physical demands of the task in front of you? DIY or garden work calls for durable clothes that would be out of place in a job interview, for example), fitting in and standing out.


This is perhaps the easiest problem to solve. You need to think about the conditions you’re going to be in, so if you want to succeed at an outdoorsy activity, be it clearing the garden or a long walk in the country, look at the weather. If it’s a hot day, then you’re going to undermine your success by over dressing and sweltering in the heat.

Similarly, if you want to make a splash at a sophisticated party, but don’t think about the purely physical demands on you – how will you travel there? Will it be raining? – you could arrive crumped and over-sweaty, soaked through or already exhausted and in pain, having had to walk in heels all day.

Fitting In

Dressing for success requires you to look at least little like you belong. This has a double advantage: if you look like you belong there, you’re more likely to be taken seriously, whether it’s at a party where you want to do a bit of networking or by the interview panel of the job you want.

If there’s an explicit dress code, study it, and make sure you’re complying with it as best you’re able – one of the most important things to look out for are shoes. The wrong shoes can undermine a whole outfit, as anyone knows who’s tried to get into certain clubs while wearing trainers.

If there’s not an explicit dress code, simply use your best judgement. If you’re interviewing at a finance company, a Blood Brother sweatshirt might not make the best impression, whereas if you’re spending social time with the same people after you’ve got the job, it could be perfect to show off a more relaxed, stylish side to your character!

Standing Out

Rigid compliance with a dress code could see blur into the background – adding some personal flair can help you stand out and be more memorable. A interview panel is unlikely to give you a job because you were a brightly coloured tie, or a patterned blouse, but touches like these help you stick in their minds and ensure you are kept a little higher in the mix, and that your answers to their questions get the attention they deserve!

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