Dress for Success- What Does that Mean?

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Dress for success is a phrase thrown around quite a lot with no specific explanation provided. Clearly this is a terrific goal- everyone wants to be successful. But what does ‘successful dressing’ look like? It’s not the same for every setting or every individual, so how do you determine what to wear?

Let’s take a specific example: You’ve launched a catering business from your home and you have scheduled a meeting with a potential client. You’re now looking through your closet and wondering: What should I wear? Here are a few tips to help you make an informed choice:

1- Do your homework: What do you know about the client and the event you would be catering? If the client is a high end business professional hosting a cocktail party, you should dress conservatively and professionally- solid color suit (no wild prints), closed toe shoes, light jewelry. This demonstrates that you clearly understand the culture and will fit into the scene when managing the event. If you are meeting with a non profit professional to discuss a charity event at a local school, a suit is not appropriate. Upscale casual dress fits this culture and event: trousers and shirt with collar, skirt and blouse or sweater set. When the culture and event are super casual- pool party, outdoor picnic or trip to the park- maintain the upscale casual dress. It is important to be professional- you will be in charge of the event, not one of the guests. So sneakers, jeans and t-shirts are never appropriate.

2- Always dress UP- Not DOWN: You may not be sure about the culture of the organization and event. In this case, you should err on the side of caution- go conservative and dress up (suit or upscale professional dress). You will look professional, polished and prepared. If the client would like a more casual look for the event, you can make the necessary adjustments. However, if you dress casually and the event is dressy, the client will question whether you can step it up. Right away you are at a disadvantage, because the client is unsure of your presentation. When you dress up, the message is clear: I’m taking this meeting (and event) seriously and have dressed accordingly.

3- Be comfortable and confident- You need to present the best of your personality and you need to be comfortable- both physically and emotionally- to effectively share your work with the client and book the event. So, choose an outfit that you like; one that fits properly, wears well and makes you feel strong and confident. For example: nothing that will wrinkle easily (this is very stressful- trying not to sit or move too much), no high heels for women if you’re not used to them (you’ll be worried about falling and may walk hesitantly), nothing too tight (you need to breathe!). Put on the outfit, look in the mirror and walk around your home, sit down, stand up. Picture yourself at the meeting- how do you feel?

Follow these tips and trust your instincts when preparing for that important client meeting. You will look your best, and more importantly feel your best. Confident and strong, you will clearly be dressed- and ready- for success. Enjoy sharing your work and passion!

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