Dressing to Look Like you Know What You are Doing

Dressing to Look Like you Know What You are Doing
alex in 3 work outfits
Do you look like you know what you are doing?

I spent some time today sneering at the latest round of advice on write-and-secure-a-great-job-yesterday-resumes, and further revising mine for my next assault on the job market.  Happily for me, there was also some substance to add because I recently had the pleasure of a few weeks paid work in an office.  With a bunch of people like me – other short-term contractors, who were all redundant relatively senior public servants…

On the one hand, I found it a fairly interesting social experiment, meeting new people and comparing the different ways that we have and haven’t adequately adjusted to various lengths of unemployment.  On the other it was kind of creepy because we all had a sort of common attitude of lost and dispirited dismay that here we were at our age, out of work – this was never part of the plan!  This is not helped by Australia having reached a record twelve-year high in unemployment.

And to make matters worse (for me) the Australian Bureau of Statistics found that 21,500 women lost their full-time jobs in the November reporting period against 22,300 men gaining full-time employment.  Also during the period, 4,400 men and 36,400 women achieved part-time jobs and I for one wonder what they are doing (Labour Force Statistics November 2014).

Anyway, as noted previously I came to the importance of personal presentation via the notion of command presence.  And with this in mind, while working with a group of people similarly life situated to me, I found it fascinating to compare our personal presentation.  I made some conclusions about who looked more professional, or cut and dried, more like they had chosen to dress to look like “you know what you are doing”.  And that is why we dress appropriately for our circumstances, isn’t it?  Though I also find that dressing more formally makes me more productive, not just feel more productive.

As I share my professional dress conclusions, please bear in mind that I base these thoughts on my anthropological observation of, and shameless eavesdropping on senior level people in an office situation.  I don’t agree that it is fair to judge others on their appearance, but we all do it all the time. I also understand that there are looser and harsher dress codes in existence.  This is just what I noted, that the people who embodied these tips were accorded more respect than those who did not.

Five tips for women:

  • neat hair, make-up of at least lip colour and mascara
  • formal attire, e.g. pencil skirt and woven shirt
  • necklace
  • low heels with hosiery
  • a plain yet good quality watch

Five tips for men:

  • neat hair cut, clean shaven, or very well groomed beard (but I fear clean shaven does look more professional by comparison)
  • crisply pressed white shirt and tie
  • pressed suit with a clean well cared for belt that is not stretched or stained
  • polished lace-up shoes
  • a plain yet good quality watch

Supplementary five unisex tips:

  • wear deodorant
  • wear good quality, discreet fragrance
  • avoid stretchy clingy clothes where possible
  • avoid tight clothes that gape in awkward places
  • ensure all your fastenings are in fact fastened

And there you have it.  Do you agree that this type of dress would be appropriate where you work?  Do you think that these tips would gain you more respect?  Is there anything else that you think should be on the lists?


  1. JoJenna says:

    Loved this blog Alex. I think you are a hoot and it would be fun to sit and chat a bit about life, love and all things on your blog. Looking forward to reading more. Keep up the good work. JJ

    • Alexandria says:

      Thanks so much for your kind words JoJenna. There’s a lot to talk about – I hope I don’t disappoint you.

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.