Does Guilt Or Fear Ever Dictate Your Style On The Job?

January 16, 2013

Recently, I was working with a new client and that thing happened! It happens less and less, but still all too often in my line of work. I call it style guilt!

I want to share this story with you, so your Freudian Slip (sorry couldn’t help it!) doesn’t show.

My wonderful client is a hard working, independent financial advisor and she wanted help revamping her wardrobe. While I was recommending various style ideas for the office, she quickly nixed several options. She said ‘she loves fashion, but she prefers to dress down for clients…her thought was that it made them feel more comfortable and less intimidated talking to her about their personal finances.’

Aha! Great opportunity to swiftly share one of my style philosophies and possibly accomplish a life-changing intervention. I asked her, “Wouldn’t you want your own financial advisor to appear successful? Don’t you want her to look like she’s up-to-date, modern, enthused about her field and at the top of her game? Wouldn’t these attributes make you feel even more comfortable with her handling your finances?”

My client was skeptical at first, but she decided to trust me and go all in for a month and experiment wearing outfits I suggested and dressing up more for her own clients.

Guess what? It worked.

She noticed her new professional appearance uplifted clients…the energy in the room actually shifted and helped them to more quickly trust her. Her confident appearance, in turn, gave them confidence in her abilities and their own abilities to wisely choose such a sharp minded advisor.

Added bonus: She felt more confident too. And, as we all know, confidence makes us feel like we can conquer the world!

Not dressing down on the job may seem logical, but I’ve seen and heard versions of style guilt from all professions, with multiple excuses…”I did dress up in the beginning of my career (or this job), but I’m no longer enthused to do so and besides nobody cares what I wear” or “My work should be enough” or…”I feel silly.” Or, “My peers will think I am showing them up!”

Yes. Your competent work speaks volumes about your ability to make a difference.

Yes. You must go after what you want in your career and make sure those in power notice.

But, guess what?

What you wear communicates your value too!

I’m not talking about dressing fancy schmancy everyday or wearing loud, bold, attention-grabbing, super trendy outfits that just aren’t you, or even wearing clothing and accessories with hefty price tags for that matter. I’m talking about dressing appropriately for your profession at your particular company, but taking it up a notch.

It’s more about proper fit, contemporary figure-flattering pieces and becoming colors. You want to support your aesthetic strengths. Focus on your assets and your so-called deficits will diminish.

You know the saying, “Don’t dumb down”, well, I’m adding, “Don’t dress down” on the job – literally and figuratively.

It’s about valuing yourself and visually conveying your value!

No matter what your work environment, this style philosophy works. I mean you already have to get dressed everyday, why not make the most of it!

Do you ever let guilt or fear dictate your style on the job? What holds you back? Please share!

Image credit: Photography, Jamie Beck via Ann Street Studio (and dress, Donna Karan Resort 2013).

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  • Kudos for saying it out loud. I completely agree that a successful corporate woman should never be afraid to show her confident, competent style not just in the boardroom but also in the way she dresses everyday.

  • I’m thrilled you agree too, Rache!

  • Michelle

    I completely agree. I work in DC, and even business casual offices seem to be very conservative in terms of fashion… like you don’t want too stand out in any way, even just by looking too “sharp.” But lately I’ve been trying to dress a little nicer (more tailored, blazers and dresses instead of cardigans and jeans), and it’s been great both in terms of my self-confidence and the reaction from my coworkers.

  • Love it, Michelle! It sounds like you’re ahead-of-the-curve and paving the way for your colleagues to look and feel their very best too. Keep it up!