Dress for Success at work – Know What is Being Said Without Any Words 

by | Aug 28, 2020 | Dress for Success

Know what is being said without any words — what?

Like it or not, your clothing creates a persona around you about your values and characteristics that you can either embrace or ignore. Humans process visual information in the form of cues, and in the blink of an eye create judgements about others. Want to know how?  Let’s study the example of the image I selected for this post.

Q- What is the gender projected?

A – Feminine.   What are the cues and how do we know?  Her body language is almost gender neutral, but way her hands are folded is a feminine gesture.  Her rings and nail polish are subtle but present. Her makeup and clothing selection of a soft knit and printed scarf suggests femininity, as well as her hair length and style which support a feminine gendered person.

Q – What age is projected?

A – 40’s to 50’s.  What are the cues?  She has lovely skin, suggestive of the younger end of the spectrum.  Her body shape suggests a fuller figure that a woman approaching or post-menopause might possess.  Her sweater and scarf would be more common with a more mature woman. However there are a few details that say either younger, or a bit rebellious (!).  Can you spot them?  Keep reading.

Q – What activity is projected?

A – She is at work in industry or an office that is more relaxed in dress code.  What are the cues we use apart from the background of the image?  Her knit garment, or sweater places her level of business attire formality at the lower end of the spectrum.  Nothing wrong with this look at all, just pointing out that the soft knit dress or sweater is a business casual look, rather than business classic (or formal) which include more tailored, structured garments.  This woman’s office is a more open office environment, and likely supports a level of creativity, as her bold printed scarf looks right at home. Her grooming is impeccable.  Her hair is smooth (a pillar of more formal business applications) and her braids are tied back neatly.  Her makeup is minimal, and office appropriate.

Q – What personality traits are projected?

A – Friendly, approachable, and open.  Professional, capable and creative.   What cues do we use to determine this? This woman demonstrates medium Image Integrity.  That means that most of her visual cues are in alignment, with a few that are strategically and purposefully added in.

Her body language is on the feminine side of neutral not distracting. Her posture is erect but not stiff.  Now, we have something deeper and fun to consider running in the background.

Her long braids reinforce her African American heritage more than if they were tied up in a bun, or her hair was short.  Her many gold rings are a statement of style and success.  Her blue nail polish is a little unexpected zing toward the rebel or the creative in her.  This woman may have marched in a protest in college, and she still keeps up on current events.  Her understated makeup application and the way she wears her hair suggests a bow to corporate conservatism but on her terms.   The soft, relaxing blue of the colors she choose, the soft knit of her dress, and soft drape of her scarf becon one to come on in and have a chat.  Very approachable.  Can you see how different she would feel to you if she were wearing black?  Or red?  She is aware of her body shape, and chooses to wear unstructured garments and the scarf to do a little camouflaging.  It is elegant in its simplicity.

Q – What personal values are projected?

A – Reliable, competent, a quality worker, team player, and creative thinker. What cues do we use?  Well, all of the above!  Do you see how we have been building all along with all the cues this photo has provided us with to get to the bottom line – what you are projecting to the world about who you are and what you stand for?

The question becomes- do you want to take responsibility and ownership for these messages?  And if you do, that’s where I come in to help! We can start with the most integral messages you want to convey – professionalism, excellence, affluence, power – these of hundreds of characteristics that define the very best you can be.

Ann Lindsay is Style of Success

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