I’m standing in my closet wondering what to wear today. Who will I run into while I’m out and about? What clients will I be seeing? Does my event have a dress code? It is all relevant when it comes to what armour I should put on today.

It’s this armour that I’ve put on for years. As a young girl, I had to wear the ‘fat girl’ armour. When I slimmed down and headed into high school it was the ‘cool girl’ armour and the ‘pretty girl’ armour.  As my parents owned a clothing store, I was taught to always be dressed for success. I had the opportunity to wear the best brands, which made dressing in the latest fashions quite easy. Name brands were a big thing back in the 80’s and I thought that wearing Tommy, Mavi, Guess, Edwin and Levi’s made me look cool. This armour is what I thought made me accepted by my peers.

What Armour is the Right Armour?

No one wants to feel out of place. We all want to be accepted. Whether it be middle school, high school, university or the workplace.

The business world is full of expectations on what we are supposed to look like to be successful. Working in the world of finance for 13 years, I thought a suit was the appropriate dress code. This was my ‘financial professional’ armour when meeting with clients. But this piece of armour, my suit, never felt right. Once I learned my personality type I realized that I wasn’t meant to be in such a boxy piece of clothing.

I’ve spoken with many people that know they must dress professionally in the work place, but they’re just not sure what professional means.

Defining Your Dress Code

Recently, I’ve been speaking to human resource professionals about the corporate culture and how to dress. In many organizations there is a constant need to re-write the workplace dress code policies because some employees are not dressing to code. The problem is no one is teaching people what is and isn’t proper.

A simple dress code policy stipulates employees are expected to dress in business casual or smart casual attire unless the day’s tasks require otherwise. This open-ended policy can be read in many different ways, depending on the generation and culture reading it. There is a big difference between casual, business casual and smart casual. The problem I see is that nobody is educating the employees on the differences. It is no wonder they don’t dress to ‘code’.

Dress for Success

The old saying “you don’t know what you don’t know” rings so true in the world of dressing for success. I have found that we are not taught about what we should wear, only told what not to wear. I have yet to hear someone say, “wear clothing suitable to your personality and environment”. It’s in this way of dressing we will be truer to our self and present the best version of ourselves. People will be more attracted to, and trusting of, this true representation.

We dress the way we think we should, because at sometime, someone told us this was the right way. There is no one ‘right way’. Each of us needs to consider our personality, our job or occasion, as well as who we will be interacting with to develop what is right for us.

Once we learn our identity, and learn how to dress for it, we will no longer feel like we are putting on armour. We can shine.

Stacey Aarssen, Personal Branding Specialist

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