“Clothes make the man. Naked people have little or no influence on society.
Earlier this month actress Lindsay Lohan was finally given a compliment by someone from the judicial system. Superior Court Judge Stephanie Sautner told Lindsay, “Just keep doing what you’re doing, you appear to be doing it well.”
After three years in and out of court appearance in which Lindsay was penalized again and again by one exasperated judge after another, Lindsay finally seems to be making progress. She was actually respecting her mandated community service assignment as well as therapy sessions, but there was also something else very important that she did. Lindsay was wearing long pants and a lovely blue but conservative cardigan sweater set. This doesn’t seem like that extraordinary a thing but considering what Lindsay had worn for her court appearances in this past (jean shorts, flannel, hooker heels, cleavage tops, crazy makeup) this was significant. The Daily Mail even dared to ask if she had won over the judge by simply dressing more conservatively?
Could simply dressing better change how people perceived her? And can this same logic be applied to normal people in their careers? Let’s say you were good at your job but didn’t dress well, could suddenly dressing better one day make people like you better in your workplace? Or if you were not great at your job but looked stunning, could that help you make up for your losses? We talked to experts about whether changing the way you dress can change your career.
Roy Cohen, career coach and author of The Wall Street Professional’s Survival’s Guide told The Grindstone:
“How you dress should reflect the role you are in, the role you aspire to, and the prevailing dress norm for your company and industry. If there is a disconnect, in any way, you have the potential to alter other people’s impressions…generally, in a not so positive direction. If you are too casual – or too formal – you convey that you may not “get it”; that you really don’t know how to fit in. And your colleagues and management may extrapolate, unfairly, that you may not be qualified to assume other responsibilities, too.
For example, I was working with a client who dressed far too provocatively for her job on the trading floor of a large global investment bank. She was viewed with suspicion, scorn and humor by her female colleagues and objectified by the men she worked with. In truth, despite the fact that she was extremely competent and educated at top schools, she just didn’t know how to dress. Not everyone has the gift. I referred her to a personal stylist who helped her to build an appropriate wardrobe and image. The turnaround among her colleagues – based solely on a change in clothing choices and make-up – was dramatic and almost immediate.”
Leanne Hoagland-Smith, Chief Results Officer of Advanced Systems and author, told The Grindstone:
“If Lindsay had established consistent credibility, then yes dressing professional would help. However, her behaviors outside of the courtroom demonstrate inconsistency creating doubt leading to mistrust. Overall, dressing professionally is a must to establish the beginnings of trust. People buy from people they know and trust.
The best example is you as a patient must decide between two surgeons who both share the same expertise, educational background, etc. One is dressed in clean and pressed hospital greens, well manicured and looking put together. The other is also wearing hospital greens, but they are unclean and not pressed as well as he or she is not well manicured (hair dirty, etc.) and does not look put together. Which one would you instinctively choose upon first impression? Remember this person is holding your life in his or her hands. What I recommend is to dress just one level up from everyone.”