Has dressing for success become irrelevant?

The phrase “dressing for success” has lost its meaning. Bandied about to blanket the bad dressers, the popular phrase could easily be a frontrunner for a game of Business Bingo, along with the other favourites of win-win, at-the-end-of-the-day and paradigm-shift.
If we had to paradigm shift individuals from superman ties into something smarter, could the formula simply be a black suit? Would this item provide a win-win situation that at the end of the day would guarantee a happy employee and even happier employer…?

Bingo! Great words, little conviction, common cop-outs and even less buy-in. Alas, that is why the phrase ‘dressing for success’ has become redundant. The words carry little weight, and the formula isn’t, unfortunately, simply packaged and fronting as a standard suit.
It may seem simple and straightforward, a relief from Batman socks and spaghetti strap tops, but if you’ve experienced it, you will understand not all suits are not created equal. Dressing for success is no different.

Defining style can never be a one size fits all approach nor is it a mass marketed, common place head-to-toe connect the dots way of dressing. It’s an individually crafted, tailored to the consumer, masterfully-designed ensemble of product, perception, packaging and ultimately, power.

The corporation has an image, your products and services carry perceptions but it’s up to you, the individual, to step up and play ball.
You may be selling a product but in the game of life, you’re moving more than just money or ideas. You are a product, and either you will be bought or your competition will get ahead. Dressing the part of a major player, is not about sinking into submission of the tried and tested, but evolving, moving with the times and staying on top form.

Wardrobe and dress are silent influencers in every deal. You may consider yourself the Mrs Balls Chutney of the business the world, with a steady group of admirers, but at some point everybody wants to try something different. Are you able to adapt? Can you keep growing with your consumer, does your image evolve, or are you a one-trick, one-suit, chino and blue shirt pony?

Start with an honest assessment of yourself. Look at your shoes, look at your clothes, look at your hairstyle – if you think they simply ‘do’, chances are you haven’t felt good about yourself in a while. Being lazy about dressing, is simply limiting your paycheque.

Successful dressing starts with knowing what your consumer, both internally (your employer) and externally (your client), expect to see someone of your calibre wearing. You shouldn’t have to rely on dress codes to guide your style; you should have a keen understanding of what you want and where you are going and what someone at the top of their game looks like – Professional industry, professional dress; Creative industry, creative dress.
Understand the basics of great dressing. If you haven’t fully grasped the concept or have little interest of what you should be wearing, log onto the internet and visit some reputable fashion sites or buy a style magazine.

Both forms of media offer advice in terms of what you should and shouldn’t keep in your wardrobe, what colours you should be wearing and matching and even the types of shoes which look better with certain styles of clothing. Pay attention. Relying on your parents or partner for clothing advice will only lead to repeat buying habits and even more blue shirts. Get external advice, keep an eye on what’s current and stay on-top of your image.
Age, circumstance, position and body shapes are irrelevant when it comes to dressing. There are options for everyone and excuses show a lack of confidence. Trying something new and looking good are just as exciting as landing a major client.
And these clients want to do business with individuals who understand what is expected of them, and offer that and much more. Individuals who know that they have 5 days every week to build their personal and professional brand – 5 days to create an impression- 5 days to work towards the corner office and 5 days to get admiring glances from fellow colleagues.
Allow yourself to feel good about yourself and let no ill-fitting shirt or scuffed shoe break your stride.

If I were your customer would I think of you first or would I even think of you at all? It’s a simple equation really; successful dressing is about knowing what you want, going for it and looking good whilst doing it. It’s a great game.
Are you playing to win?

Article Written By Bronwen Saayman
Bronwen Saayman is the head designer of BRONWEN, a high-end woman’s clothing label. Bronwen has styled over 200 wardrobes, presented image and style workshops to top South African companies and recently completed a TV style series on Kaleidoscope, CNBC AFRICA.

Visit her website:



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