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Dress to Impress - Women PDF Print E-mail
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Here's a style chart and reference guide so your body language, at least from a clothing perspective, really does project the right image for you.

A person's style includes many distinct elements. Decisions concerning style should be determined by environment, the need to meet certain expectations to gain your desired result. It is a commonly held belief that people will get ahead if they standout in terms of style, but research does not support this. In fact, we sometimes become suspicious of those who are too unusual or different from our expectations. Bearing this in mind, the following should be taken into account when trying to create the right impression....

CLOTHING AND ACCESSORIES

Believe it or not, studies have found that most hiring decisions are largely based upon a job applicant's appearance, despite interviewers denying that someone's appearance is important. Entry-level salaries are higher for those who make a better physical impression, and those who dress better at work are more likely to get promoted. The importance of being appropriately dressed is obvious. Both men and women when going for interviews should dress in clothes slightly smarter than what they would normally wear to work. WORKPLACE TIPS FOR WOMEN

WOMEN'S SUITS, TROUSERS, AND DRESSES

Women who wear ladylike feminine-cut suits, or skirts, and matching jackets with simple white, off-white or pale-coloured blouses are not only seen as strong and confident, but also as trustworthy, likable, and humble, but keep in mind that this might not work for all careers.

In more high-fashion professions, the suit should be more stylish, with more expressive accessories with your goal being a "ladylike" but professional look. Suits should be soft and feminine and strike a balance between understated and conservative, feminine and fashionable. Colours can range from navy, grey, and blue to cream and mahogany. The look should be rich but businesslike.

A masculine-cut suit reflects more power and authority, but will be interpreted as more aggressive and domineering and less creative. A feminine-cut suit will show more expressiveness, and a heightened level of approachability, professionalism and confidence. Slacks and a jacket, or a dress, and a jacket is even more approachable, but less professional. A pant-suit is less professional and will not enhance your image of approachability. A dress without a jacket is the least professional alternative.

WOMEN'S SHIRTS AND BLOUSES

Silk blouses in white, off-white, light blue, beige, or other pale colours are more professional. Blouses with lapels project more authority and competence, while those without are more feminine and project a friendlier image. Blouses should not be sleeveless if they are intended to be a part of a professional outfit. You should also take into account a slip or camisole if a bra or strap is showing. For professional occasions, the neckline should never be low enough to be the slightest bit revealing.

WOMEN'S SHOES

Trendy styles have the same negative associations and stereotypes as other parts of your wardrobe. More functional shoes enhance image as long as they are not too flashy. Less functional but more stylish shoes send a message that you are more concerned with appearance than performance. If women wear heels taller than two inches they accentuate their sexuality. Boots should not be worn with dress attire unless they are very frequently worn by others in your professional environment. Shoes that are simple and elegant are best. Closed toe pumps with one and a half inch heels top the list. Shorter women can wear two inch heels but they should not be spiked heels. Stay with basic colours and don't try to match your shoes to bright coloured clothing. Always keep your shoes clean and polished for a professional look. If the soles or heels are worn or damaged, then replace or repair them.

WOMEN'S ACCESSORIES

For women, belts come in many colours and styles. They should not be gaudy, dangle or make noise. If a woman is wearing dress trousers then she should wear a simple, thin belt with an unobtrusive buckle. Accessories, like belts and shoes, should be plain, no frill leather.

For purses, leather is perceived as more professional than fabric, especially in black or brown. A colourful purse that matches the colour of an outfit is more for casual occasions. A woman's tights should be flesh tone, black or navy. White or other colours distract from professional image.

For eyewear, a woman should not get too trendy, unless an image of expressiveness is more important than an image of intelligence and professionalism. Women are rated more professional when they wear less jewellery. Keep it simple and stay away from the large or gaudy.

WOMEN'S FIT

Women's dress trousers should cover their ankles completely, and for the most professional and conservative look should touch the top of their shoes. Unlike men's trousers, women's should have little or no "break," and the hem should be horizontal to the floor.

Skirt length is always an issue for women. For a professional look, stay mainstream. Whether you wear your dress skirts a few inches above or a few inches below your knee is largely a matter of personal preference, and a decision that should be based on what looks best on you, and what you feel most comfortable with.

COLOURS - THEIR EFFECT ON OTHERS

Colours have a very powerful way of affecting our impressions both of people. Colours can affect our impression of such traits as status, effectiveness, attitude, credibility, friendliness and intelligence. Most colours can be grouped into one of six general categories, each of which conveys a distinct set of messages.

  1. Black, dark blue and dark charcoal grey are strong authoritarian colours. Those in positions of leadership, or authority will project an image of no-nonsense confidence, strength and power. Black is also seen as serious, secretive, mysterious and depressing. For that reason, those who dress in black are not rated as warm and friendly. People at the top of an organization wear black effectively, but also service oriented occupations such as drivers and waiters are often seen in black. It is often said that black is stylish and sophisticated and makes you look thinner. That's true, but it's popularity doesn't overcome the stereotypes and emotional responses it evokes.
  2. Lighter shades of grey and navy blue are also associated with power, authority, leadership and even loyalty. Unlike dark grey and black, studies show that they are warmer and more approachable. For men, navy blue is definitely preferred; but for women, a medium shade of blue is ideal. Grey pinstripe has been associated with projecting wisdom. Green, particularly olive and can project flexibility and friendliness.
  3. Bright colours like red, turquoise, purple, bright blues, and greens and fuchsia are sexy, energetic, hard-charging, and aggressive. They are generally  not considered as professional as darker colours, or lighter shades of colours.
  4. Lighter shades of blue, green, and yellow, as well as tan and beige, convey a sense of warmth, friendliness, approachability and trustworthiness. They do not communicate the same sense of authority, power, or leadership that dark blues or greys project. Subtle tones, however, can be very effective to combine friendliness and professionalism. Certain shades of tan can remind people of government employees and come across as dated or institutional.
  5. Autumn colours-like rust, brown, muted shades of yellow or gold, olive and burgundy are perceived as trustworthy, caring and humble, but lacks in the strength, competency and leadership categories. These are good choices for caring professionals such as psychologists or counsellors, or anyone whose first priority is to be approachable.
  6. Pastels are the most feminine of all colours. Not surprisingly, stereotypical feminine traits are associated with them, such as caring and nurturing on the positive side, and weakness and vulnerability on the negative. Not a good choice if you want to be viewed as serious, intelligent, competent, and professional.

Expensive clothing tends to be richer, deeper and more vibrant than less expensive clothes. They use higher quality dye and expensive fabrics tend to absorb the dye better. This has a significant impact to the impressions people get. Rich deep colours project class, quality, competence, success and professionalism. Less vibrant clothing is perceived as lower class, less competent and less professional.

There are many ways that colours can be used as an integral part of you making the right impression. For example, if you have a number of traits that can be interpreted as overpowering or threatening, such as large size or height, lighter colours will soften your impression; but won't cause you to lose your image of confidence and control because your other traits will continue to send that message.

BASIC RULE OF THUMB FOR DRESSING

  • Wear dark colours to command authority or stress intelligence.
  • If you want others to relax, feel comfortable, and think of you as likable and approachable, wear lighter colours or autumn hues.
  • To create excitement or draw attention, wear bright colours.
  • Wear rich, dark colours associated with quality clothing. You're better off wearing less pieces of higher quality clothes.
  • Evaluate how your image will be enhanced or diminished by the colour of clothing that you wear. Unless your collective traits are overpowering, darker colours are better for a professional environment.
  • Different circumstances will call for different emphasis. Many people view synthetic fabrics and those who wear them in a negative light. Natural fabrics like wool, cotton, silk and linen convey a more honest, warm and professional image.

PUTTING IT ALL TOGETHER:

  • Be as attractive as you can, unless you're absolutely gorgeous, if so, don't flaunt it.
  • Don't set yourself apart, especially above your peers.
  • Always dress appropriately for the occasion and environment.
  • Opt for traditional styles, fabrics and colours unless creative flair is clearly essential.
  • Buy the most expensive clothes you can afford, even if it means less of them.
  • Don't overemphasize sex appeal.
  • Give as much thought to casual wear as to professional wear.
  • Don't try to be a trendsetter.
  • Always be clean and neat.
  • Dress as trendily and formally as the top 70 to 90% of those in your environment.