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The Voice of the Black Community

Life and Religion

Dressing for success
Fashion advice on developing a positive professional image
 
Published Friday, January 10, 2014
by Khalia Wilkinson

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PHOTO/ GETTY IMAGES
Your professional image can go a long way in helping your further your career or find employment. At a minimum, keep clothing neat, clean and pressed.

Whether you are working to be promoted at your current place of employment or are in the market for a new job altogether, dressing the part can be an essential component to moving your career in the right direction. Is your professional image in need of an upgrade? Here are some tips to get you started:

Know your body type 

Looking your best begins with understanding your body type and determining which styles of clothing best complement your frame. There are four basic body types – triangle, hourglass, diamond (or oval), and rectangle. Understanding which type best describes your build is key to figuring out what styles of clothing will and will not flatter your figure.   Typically, no one is an exact match to any one body type and that you may be a slight combination of two, but having a general understanding of the basics of your body type will help guide you when shopping for new garments.

Keep your clothing neat, pressed and tailored 

Looking your best doesn’t necessarily mean investing a week’s worth of income to purchase a suit. The key is to buy within your means and take good care of the clothes you have.

Also keep in mind that having a good seamstress on your team is priceless.  A seamstress that can educate you on finding pieces that cater to your specific body type is a true jewel. Plus, a good seamstress can alter off-the-rack shirts, pants and dresses to fit your frame.  This small investment will be well worth your while, considering that your wardrobe will look ten times better when it’s custom fitted for your body.

Before stepping out, always evaluate your clothes from head to toe.  Be sure to repair any loose or missing buttons and check for excessive lent, loose threads, holes or any other element that may be out of place.  Keeping your look neat, clean and tailored is the key. 

Clean out your closet 

I’ve had to do this recently, so I know that it’s hard to let go of your favorite top or get rid of that dress you found on sale and haven’t worn but know you will wear “one day.”

However, letting go of clothes that are damaged or no longer fit is essential. Holding on to items that you will never wear only adds clutter and confusion to your closet. Give your wardrobe a thorough inspection, and discard any items that you haven’t worn in the past year or can longer fit. Resale any designer duds online, at consignment or resale shops or donate them to charity.

Make a wardrobe chart

A wardrobe chart is a good tool because it will help you see what you have and identify any key pieces you may be missing. Make a list of all the clothes you own. Seeing these items on paper will show you where you may have gaps. It will also help identify any bad shopping habits you may have, such as a tendency to purchase virtually the same pieces over and over again. If you find you have a dozen pairs of black pants or eight brown tops, try to change it up a bit in the year ahead. Having a variety of colors to choose from can be fun and exciting. Add a new hue that complements your skin tone.

Purchase classic pieces that are interchangeable

Classic wardrobe essentials are fundamental to your successful look.  A few key pieces for your professional wardrobe include a pair of black dress slacks, a crisp white button-down shirt, a satin, silk or chiffon scarf, a set of pearls (earring and necklace), a nice black pump, a good pair of dark denim boot-cut jeans, a basic cardigan, little black dress, a good black (or brown) belt, and a pair of khaki chinos.  These pieces are worth investing in because they will diversify your wardrobe and never go out of style.

Understand your company dress code

Reviewing and understanding your company’s policy is critical. Following company policy will make you stand out and set you apart from your fellow co-workers who may be out of compliance. You never know who is watching so make the best impression possible by following the dress code to the letter. If your company does not have a dress code in place, take your cue from those who are senior in rank. How are they dressing?  If they are setting a good, solid example, use them as your guide. 

Dress for where you want to go

Don’t just dress for your current position. Dress for where you are headed in your career. Doing so will boost your confidence and keep you motivated as you work towards your goals. 

Next time you go shopping, ask yourself “does this item project the image or the look that I wish to have?”  If it doesn’t, then don’t buy it. Steer clear of making purchases just because it’s on sale or it looks nice. Only purchase what fits in with your overall goal and image you wish to project.

Need some inspiration for your new look? Think of a mentor that inspires you or has excelled in the field in which you want to be successful. Take note of how that person dresses and image they project, and keep it in mind when building your wardrobe.

As you can see, dressing for success is a process, and that’s okay.  Just remember, to take your time when making wardrobe selections and don’t feel rushed to do it all at once.  If you pursue each and every clothing option as an investment towards your vision of success, you’ll feel wonderful about your final wardrobe outcome. 

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