OPINION

Dressing for success is your own business

I am getting ready to move into my new office in the coming weeks and in my infinite wisdom (ha!), I thought this would be a great opportunity to revamp my personal business style.

This decision has led to my realisation that this is actually a point of vulnerability for me.

I posted on a Facebook group for women in business seeking advice on where to begin with such a revamp, especially as I am certainly more on the "curvy" side than I would like to be, and I was blown away by the response.

So many women called me brave for "putting it out there" and others responded with "OMG are you talking about me?" - I realised that this must be an issue that is not uncommon.

Two of the questions that I hear a lot with my clients are, "what do I wear to an interview?" and "what does business casual look like?"

There is also an argument that is currently circulating my household with regards to the traditional suit and questions regarding whether this is a staple for every business wardrobe, or if it's okay to have a personal style that is unique and colourful.

Workwear is clearly a more complex topic than first glance would suggest.

It turns out that the days of the conservative suit appear to be heading out the window.

Sure, there will be professions where it is expected, such as law or corporate executive roles, but if the women I was talking to over the last week are anything to go by, there seems to be a gentle shift towards personal expression in our business attire.

And I love this.

One of the commenters said that as women, we have previously been quite stuck in the mindset of wearing the same sort of clothes as our male counterparts - the pant suit has been the omnipresent staple in all of our business minds with regards to what a woman in business should wear.

Is it an equality thing?

Is it an attempt to squish ourselves into a male mould of what business looks like in practice?

I'm not sure, but what I am sure of, is that women don't have to become men in order to be successful in the workplace and those suits are both damned uncomfortable, and in my line of work, not always appropriate!

Our style is the stamp of our personal identity on the way we present ourselves to the world and is more than just the clothes we wear.

The way that we feel about how we look, impacts our sense of confidence in our interpersonal interactions and thus the impression that we leave on others.

Even if we need to wear uniforms, we can still stamp our personal identity on what we wear to work perhaps with the bag that we choose to pair it with, the shoes we wear, the badges on our lanyard, the earrings in our ears or the hair style that we wear.

By changing the way we dress, we can alter the way that we feel about ourselves and this will impact the way we interact with others.

If we don't feel comfortable in our clothes, if we feel self-conscious about the way we look in certain outfits or if we feel shame or embarrassment about being overweight in an outfit that exposes or accentuates it, it can actually impact our work performance.

Comfort is important, but so is presentation - there is a happy medium to be found somewhere between tracksuit pants and suit pants!

An actor will tell you that putting on their character's costume helps them to become that person.

What if I were to tell you that stamping your personal style on your workwear in a way that made you feel more like "you" could improve your work engagement and outcomes, simply by giving you the confidence to go out there and kick ass and take names?

What if I were to tell you that stamping your personal style on your workwear in a way that made you feel more like "you" could improve your work engagement and outcomes.

I'm still finding my way and probably will be for a little while, yet.

But part of this process is exploring my personal style and getting to know what makes me feel professional and comfortable with what I look like.

Mark Twain may have said that "Clothes make the man" but it turns out that style forges success.

Zoë Wundenberg is a careers writer and coach at impressability.com.au