Last week on the blog I wrote about how to dress down for work without looking unprofessional, particularly when the company allows for casual Friday. I received feedback that suggested a lot  of companies have stopped casual Friday for one reason or another. It would seem that professional and smart attire is back in fashion. This pleases me because I always like to dress up for work. I absolutely adored Ally McBeal when I was younger and have taken her fashion ethos to heart – I still love this quote from the show Sometimes I’m tempted to become a street person, cut off from society but then I wouldn’t get to wear my outfit.

So how much attention should we put on the outfits we wear to work and what do our choices say about us? I read a brilliant article on the Forbes website a few months back that really looks at this question and comes up with some interesting ideas. In the article Forbes interviewed the physiologist  Dr Jennifer Baumgartner’s about her book “You Are What You Wear: What Your Clothes Reveal About You” in which she examines how psychology determines which clothes we choose to wear and how changing the way we dress can overcome issues that our clothes might express to others.

After reading the article I did start to realise that the way I dress does reflect how I feel that day and the impression I want to give. For example, and this is in fundamental terms, I dress to impress when I have an interview or a big meeting and if I am feeling a bit rubbish or having a fat day I’ll wear black or something inconspicuous. How many of us do this? Although it may seem trivial did we miss out on a really good opportunity because the clothes we were wearing didn’t give the right message?

In the article and the book Dr Baumgartner’s discusses common clothing issues – it is all very Gok Wan but quite insightful.

If you … You might … Consider:
Keep every piece of clothing you’ve ever owned Be clinging to the past through the sentimental value of your pieces Adopting the Golden Wardrobe Ratio: Get rid of 2 out of 3 items you own, including anything too big/small, ripped/torn or out-dated.
Wear only neutrals, largely devoid of accessories Be stuck in a psychological rut, too comfortable to shake it up, or too afraid to draw attention to yourself. Deviating from your routine in small ways (a different route to work, a few new spring accessories to jog your brain into feeling excited
Dress in clothing too large for your body See your body differently than others see it, or as a reflection of the way it once was. Bringing an honest friend shopping to find out what looks great on you, ignoring sizes and getting used to wearing clothes that really fit.
Have been told you’re dressed inappropriately or too sexily Consider the same outfit appropriate for every occasion (i.e. clubbing and family barbecue), or be looking for the wrong kind of attention. Consider the image you want to project in given situations (at work, on the town) and choose outfits based on cues from those around you
Dress too young (or too old) for your age Be trying to express the age you feel you are, but getting caught between your actual and internal age Gearing your outfits toward your goals (like getting a promotion, meeting a significant other, travelling the world), rather than a specific age.
Are always in work clothes Value yourself primarily through your work and work-related accomplishments Recognizing your talents outside of work (e.g great artist, compassionate, fun to bring to parties)
Covered in designer logos Think you need to broadcast wealth in order to be treated well by others Practice wearing “blank canvas” pieces and only accenting with logos to emphasize that people value you for more than your labels
Live in your “mum outfit” of jeans and a hoodie Put the needs of your family before your own Take more “me time.” Remember: When mum isn’t happy, nobody is.

What do you think? Is it all trivial, shallow nonsense? I must admit my inner feminist is questioning this but I do think the same rules apply to men (how many times have you seen a man wearing casual shoes with their suits and overlooked them instantly!) As I said earlier I do like to dress well for work but I definitely have days where I’ll wear my comfy work clothes because I don’t want to make the effort and it is these days that I might miss out on something amazing because I haven’t bothered to look my best.

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