Dressing for Business – Are you overdoing it?

You may wonder ‘What is the big deal about professional dressing? How is it different to my normal going out dressing? The truth is, business dressing is a completely different ball-game to say a weekend social dressing. No matter how snazzy a dresser you are, you may need to consider your work wardrobe if you want to be taken seriously as a professional.

Although an individual’s style, personal taste and fashion ultimately come into play when they turn out at social functions, it is important to consider what is appropriate over what is fashionable when dressing as a professional. In a society that places so much importance on dressing and the way people turn out, it is necessary to stress that the fashion trend that you adore may not be advisable when it comes to business.

Whilst you may go to town with jewellery, make up, style and colours at an evening event, discretion is clearly needed when getting dressed for the office.

I often see career women at work, often in a front office role looking like they have just stepped out of Vogue magazine. The bling (jewellery) is outlandish, the hair immaculately coiffured and the ensemble completed with six inches Manolo style shoes. Whilst the dress sense of Nigerian and indeed African women is commendable, it is important for a professional to remember that the work place is for serious business and a corresponding dress code is required. I often pity the men when I consider the suggestive, hip-hugging, tight-fitting, cleavage-blearing attire some of our women wear to work.

Men also get things wrong in this department. Shiny, brown, snakeskin and sharp pointed shoes may be trendy for a weekend party but will certainly misrepresent you in the workplace. Your clients need the perception of a serious minded professional, not the hottest guy at the bar or a P-Diddy wannabe.

Sadly in life, we are judged by ephemeral things, not by the real value of a person which lies in their character. A client meeting you to discuss a million dollar deal may develop cold feet if your dressing presents you as clownish entertainer. In the same vein, for a woman, the idea of flaunting your cleavage could backfire if you are meeting a conservative business partner, male or female.

What to remember is that the office place is a business environment. The latest trend may therefore not suffice when cutting a business deal. Also a business professional must be ready at all times, as there may not be an opportunity to change into ‘a more appropriate outfit’. The following are suggestions and ideas:

- Cleavage, hot trends and loud colours are best left for the weekend.
- Keep a separate wardrobe for evening and social functions.
- Looking smart is what is necessary for business, not looking sexy.
- Your business counterpart must be able to hear what you say – your clothes shouldn’t be doing the talking.
- Black, dark brown, navy blue shoes are best for business for ladies.
- Open toe, strappy and embellished sandals are not advisable for business.
- Black women are often very curvy; however, curves are best kept under wraps during business hours.
- Women should consider their body shape when wearing trousers.
- Jewellery and make-up should be understated.
- For men, combine your ties, shirts and suits appropriately – no striped tie on striped shirt etc. – Black shoes is the business for men.

My greatest wish is to see smart variations of our national dress in the business arena.

We all benefit when we do things right. EtiquetteBank