Think for a moment about the handful of well-dressed women you know. Do you consider them well dressed because they show up looking great sometimes? Every other Thursday? On good hair days?
It’s probably because they ALWAYS look good. Whether you see them at work, at the grocery store, at church, at their son’s soccer game, or wherever, they’re always dressed appropriately and looked pulled together for the occasion. In fact, you may wonder if they ever look bad.
Now think about everyone else. They can pull themselves together when it counts, like a job interview or a wedding, for example, but they’re borderline during working hours and unrecognizable come the weekend.
Do you consider them well dressed?
Probably not. Hit or miss dressing does not a well-dressed woman make.
So where do YOU fall in this spectrum?
Are you always pulled together, or do you have your moments of looking good? Do you usually look okay, but drop the ball when you think no one’s looking?
Here are the typical behaviors that most women seem to fall into:
1. Usually Casual, Occasionally Dressy for The SAME Activity
I once worked in a very business casual organization where everyone usually wore khakis, corduroys, and jeans. Every now and again someone would show up wearing a suit. It was a clear sign that they had something else going on that day, usually a job interview elsewhere. Since the group as a whole was very nervous about any change, the prospect that someone might leave always sent them into a tizzy.
2. Hit or Miss Dressing For the SAME Activity
One of the easiest ways to get everyone you work with to take you seriously is to consistently wear the same level of dress everyday. If you wear suits at work, wear suits or coatdresses. If you wear slacks and a jacket, don’t stray too far from that uniform. How you dress is a key component in being perceived as an authority figure.
Conversely, the easiest way to throw people off balance is to dress all sorts of different ways: business person one day, soccer mom the next, rock star the day after that, fashion plate the day after that, and so forth. No one knows where they stand with you. Are you their friend? Their boss? Just stopping by on your way to someplace else? What? The inconsistency is very confusing to people, particularly to any subordinates who may be trying to model themselves after you.
3. All or Nothing Dressing
Many of my clients are notorious for pouring most of their clothing budget into their work clothes. They look like a million because of it, but ONLY at work. After hours, they look like ragbags. Which is fine in the comfort of their own homes, but again, very disconcerting to anyone they known whom they run into when they’re out and about after hours.
Similarly, if a woman usually dresses sloppily 95% of the time but pulls out “all the stops” only on occasion, what sort of message does THAT send? That she wants something enough to get dressed for it? So what’s going on the rest of the time? That she doesn’t care enough to be bothered?
People notice how you’re dressed, whether you realize it or not or even whether THEY realize it. If you’ve properly engineered your wardrobe and have filled it with functional, good-looking pieces that enable you to always be occasion- appropriate yet consistent in your style – whether you’re at work, socializing, running errands, or cheering your child on the sports field – you’ll not only garner respect wherever you go, you’ll also instill a sense of confidence in others who will both know where they stand with you at all times and admire you for being so pulled together.
Conversely, if you’re hit-or-miss with your appearance or spend your entire clothing budget in only one area, you’ll throw others off kilter. They’ll wonder why you look so good at work and so bad after hours (or so bad at playgroup and so good a the school board election) and question which one is the REAL you. Why such wildly different looks? Are you only “on” when you think someone is looking?
If you’re a success at work, aren’t you also a success when you’re NOT there? After all, that’s why you work so hard, isn’t it, to achieve a certain level of lifestyle? Then show it. Don’t look like the Cat’s Meow at work and something the cat dragged in come quitting time.
Be consistent in your image. Not only will you always look pulled together, you’ll be delighted by how many doors it suddenly opens. And I’m not just talking about the kind with accommodating men involved, although that’s always nice. I’m referring to opportunities. You never know what may come up when you always look like you can handle anything. Try it and you’ll see what I mean.
Diana Pemberton-Sikes is a wardrobe and image Consultant, and author of “Wardrobe Magic,” a fun ebook that shows women how to transform their unruly closets into workable, wearable wardrobes. Visit her online here.