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The State of Undress at the Office

When you’re watching a movie or TV show that features an office scene with men and women in suits, do you snort and think, “Nobody in my office dresses that way”? If so, you’re not alone. People are dressing down more these days—and not just on Casual Fridays. I’m married to a guy who still wears a suit and tie to work every day. And while he often complains about it, he wouldn’t have it any other way. He’s the boss, and he knows his snazzy appearance projects an important image to his employees.

I, on the other end of the spectrum, got into some really bad habits years ago at a job. After being there (“there” being a publishing firm) for six years, I was so secure in my position that I convinced myself that an outfit most people would wear to exercise in was office-appropriate. I was in a creative field, I told myself, so I was simply expressing my individualism. Yeah, right. I had gotten lazy. Not surprisingly, about a year after I had adopted this comfy yet completely unprofessional wardrobe, I convinced myself that I wasn’t going anywhere in that job, and I quit.

What you wear to work has a direct impact not only on how other people perceive you, but on how you perceive yourself. It’s the power of suggestion. If you dress professionally, you’ll act like a professional. Guess how people tend to act if they dress  like a slob?

If you don’t believe me, try a little experiment. Start dressing for work again—really going all out in your professional appearance. You’ll probably get comments the first few days such as “What’s the occasion?” or “My, aren’t we dressed up today?” Just smile and ignore it. See if you work a little harder at your desk, network a little more, press for more face time with your boss or in-person meetings with clients. I guarantee that you’ll feel better about yourself and your performance—and your boss is certainly going to notice.

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