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What Your 9-5 Style Says About You – Dressing for Success

  • By Andrea Schlapia
  • |
  • September 18, 2014

Dress for Success

Oh how this topic takes me back to the days of visiting my grandfather at his office. I would plop down on one of the chairs and pretend I was his client. I held such deep admiration for this man, not only because he was my grandfather, but he projected such confidence, comfort, and professionalism. He wasn’t sporting $3,000 suits. In his generation the belief that “clothes maketh the man,” his attire was a subtle message that said he was distinguished, trustworthy, and safe. That’s exactly how I remember him to this day.

As an advisor, your clients entrust you to manage their financial future. You have the responsibility to make sure clients feel safe. Believe it or not, your wardrobe impacts how your clients feel about you.

Your Image is Your Brand

Your attire makes a powerful visual statement and first impression. Granted, times have changed and company cultures vary. Business casual, summer dress codes, and dress-down Fridays have made their way into policy handbooks. With that being said, I’ve seen some self-expression fashion attempts that were hands down a “wardrobe malfunction.” While jeans, t-shirts, and flip flops may express your individuality, you must consider who will see you and how you are perceived.

Kim Zoller, President of Image Dynamics, tells us that 55% of another person’s perception of you is based on how you look. Not only that, your 9 to 5 wardrobe sends messages to others about how you see yourself. Many studies have shown that your appearance can increase income, but it also displays self-respect and composure.

I know, you may be thinking, “Don’t judge a book by its cover.” But think about it for a minute, publishers dress the covers of their book to draw in the audience they are aspiring to reach. Just like the cover on a book, your wardrobe should exemplify your product; professional and polished.

7 Dress for Success Tips

1.  Make a Visual Statement: Everything you do sends a message and that includes the clothes you wear. Fashion stylist, Lindsey Shores tells us, “Respect, confidence, and self-empowerment all start with your diligence to apparel.”

2.  Express Respect: Dressing appropriately for the occasion is a way to express respect to your clients. Your look may need to change depending on the circumstances. If you are meeting with a client who is conservative; transform your look from a hot pink silk dress, stilettos, and extra bling to an outfit that matches the way you want to be perceived. Your “dress-for-success” should be solely intended for your client.  You want to ensure your clients feel comfortable.

3.  Detox Your Closet: I know, I hold on to the clothes that I hope to fit back into someday too. The best thing to do — discard or donate them to a charitable organization. Choose pieces from your closet that represent your title, your firm, and your co-workers. Spend time creating a few go-to ensembles to make your morning rush less stressful.  When you feel good about your appearance, your clients will see you as fresh, professional, and well put together.

4.  Nine to Five for Women: For women, the wrong purse, too much make-up and perfume, or the wrong hair style can all reduce credibility. Image consultant, Frances Jones says, “Stiletto shoes, low-cut tops, and skirts falling above the knee appear far too often in an office setting. Executive women who appear too trendy can come across as alluring, moving the focus away from their reputable business skills.” The more skin you show, the more power you lose. Women can still show their feminine side and stay professional by adding a ruffled blouse, choosing softer fabric, or adding accessories with a floral design. Women, you can stick to the basics without spending a ton of money and look your best.

  • Solid color, conservative suit
  • Coordinated blouse
  • Moderate shoes
  • Limited jewelry
  • Neat, professional hairstyle
  • A dab of perfume and make-up
  • Manicured nails

5.  Nine to Five for Men: Suit up men! Build your wardrobe so you have appropriate attire for all occasions. Consider your wardrobe as an investment and keep in mind that your image is a powerful marketing tool. Purchase suits in classic colors – black, tan, gray, or navy blue. If you like the more trendy colors, save those for your accessories. Before you grab your red power tie, think about the message it sends and how it will make clients feel. Is your relationship one of power or one of collaboration? Your tie can send subliminal messages. Choose the best color based on the message you want to convey:

  • Blue: loyal, intelligent, and honest
  • Green: relaxing, peaceful, calm, and efficient
  • Black: strong, mysterious, dignified, and cold
  • Pink: calm, compassionate, friendly, and easy going

6.  Don’t Wear Old, Dirty Shoes: Why spend time putting together a professional outfit and ruin the entire look with a pair of worn-out, dirty shoes? Put your best foot forward and make sure your shoes are clean and well-kept.

7.  Dress for the Part: It’s not about the curtain going up and show time beginning. Popular columnist, “Mr. Mafioso” says, “Regardless of what you’ve done in the past, how much money you have in your bank account, how famous you are, or how fat you’ve become, a man in a well-tailored suit will always get treated better than some salame off the street.” His point applies to everyone. Whatever your part, dress the part. It is a vital component of visually communicating who you are.

In the end, it’s not a fashion show, but the clothes you wear do have an impact. It’s about making your clients feel secure. Confidence in your own appearance will make others feel more confident in you.

More than likely, clients won’t choose an advisor if they like their wardrobe, but they may not choose you if they don’t like it.

The foundation of our Performance Coaching and Consulting Programs are based on Ironstone’s Fundamental 4™, which is essential to design, develop, and sustain a successful business. Our ultimate goal is to help you avoid trial and error; shifting your mindset to launch your process of intentional change. [LEARN MORE]

Photo credit: ©iStock/Getty Images/Thinkstock

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Author Bio

Andrea Schlapia, RCC™, HCS, sHRBP, is the Founder and CEO of Ironstone, which represents the culmination of her 20+ year career within the financial services industry. Her experience began as a financial advisor evolving into a consultant coach for advisors entering the field. This ignited her passion to support others through learning and development of best practices in order to achieve substantial results. To this end, she followed her desire into positions of senior-level practice management specialists for Dreyfus, Prudential, and DWS Investments prior to the realization of Ironstone.  Andrea’s focus is on practice management strategies to enhance and improve both business and personal life. Andrea identifies 4 key performance areas known as the Fundamental 4™, which are required to design, develop, and sustain a successful business. Through coaching sessions and speaking engagements, she captivates her audience with interactive, high-energy presentations which are built with “how-to” strategies resulting in real-world implementation for significant impact. Andrea has been featured in multiple publications and audio broadcasts as a specialist and distinguished spokeswoman in the financial industry.