Professional Dress: What to Wear to Work

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Dorothy was right in the Wizard of Oz, “There’s no place like home.”

As a loyal reader of my blog, you know that I left in January for three weeks in India. My first trip-and there will be more-was incredible. It is an amazing country filled with kind, courteous and warm people in addition to a wealth of history and tradition. I am eagerly looking forward to my return to Bangalore in just a few weeks. Meanwhile I am enjoying the familiarity of home and close contact with family and friends.

As soon as I returned home, I was off to do a keynote presentation for an organization on the other side of my home state, Georgia. The organization that engaged me for their annual in-service training day had approximately 130 staff members in attendance. Under the umbrella of “Excellence in Etiquette,” I addressed the key issues of business manners: powerful first impressions, greetings and introductions, telephone courtesy, e-mail etiquette, getting along with co-workers, handling difficult people and professional dress. The latter hit some hot buttons.

Appropriate attire for the workplace has become a challenging topic for all concerned-employers and employees. Since the introduction of business casual, very few people seem to be clear on what to wear to work.

This brief newsletter will not allow me to cover all the issues about professional dress. If you want more information fast, I refer you to chapter four of Manners That Sell – Adding the Polish That Builds Profit. You can download the electronic version of the entire book in minutes. If you can stand to wait, I am writing a book on “Dressing for Work” and will let you know as soon as it is available.

In the meantime, here are a few points to consider no matter which side of the aisle you are on when it comes to choosing your business wardrobe.

  • Business attire is not about the latest fashion.
  • Business attire has nothing to do with personal comfort.
  • The primary considerations for business attire are:
  • The industry in which you work.
  • The job you have.
  • The climate in which you live.
  • What your client expects to see.

You may need to reconsider your choice of workplace wardrobe if:

  • You have to defend or apologize for what you are wearing.
  • You have to ask yourself as you stare into your closet, “Should I wear this to work?”
  • You don’t have to change your clothes when you get home from work.
  • This is a thorny subject for many people. Ultimately it is a personal choice of sorts. The choice is whether you want to be seen as professional or questionable.

2 thoughts on “Professional Dress: What to Wear to Work

  1. Lydia Ramsey

    Namitha, thank you for raising this question. It is a challenging one since as you say, formal dressing in India is different from that of the rest of the world. This is not as much of an issue for men as it is for women. I am working on an article that will address the topic. Please send me any comments you have regarding professional dress for women in India. Best to you.

    Reply

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