What to Wear: 8 Tips for Dressing for Success

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First impressions are important. And how you put yourself together does matter. Now, does that mean you can only succeed if you’re wearing the trendiest or most expensive clothes? Absolutely not! Dressing for success is about looking confident, professional, and creating a “look” that allows you to feel like your best self. And you don’t need to be a fashionista to achieve that. 

So whether you’re giving a presentation at school, interviewing for a job, or spearheading your school’s canned food drive, here are 8 tips for helping you “dress for success.”

1.  Be yourself.

Sure, you want to look your best for an interview or big event, and you may even want to do a little shopping if you don’t already have the perfect outfit. But this isn’t the time to try some new, trendy look that doesn’t feel like “you.” If you feel a little uncomfortable on the inside, it’ll come across on the outside.

2. Be comfortable!

You know how it goes. You put on that new pencil skirt with the cute blouse. Everything looks perfect…until you start walking. You want to be sure to wear clothes that work with you, and don’t need constant readjusting. You want to be thinking about what to say, not whether or not your skirt is riding up! And this might go without saying, but wear shoes that aren’t difficult to walk in.

3. Pick the right hairstyle.

The “comfort” thing goes for your hair, too! If you’re giving a presentation, for example, it can be distracting if you have to constantly swipe at your bangs or shove your hair behind your ears. Even a ponytail can be professional if it’s tailored and neat.

4. Err on the conservative side.

We know, we know. We said “be yourself.” And if you’re naturally a more daring dresser, there’s nothing wrong with that. But you might tone it down a notch or two for professional opportunities. If you’re wondering if the print on your shirt is too loud, or your heels are too high, they probably are. There’s a simple reason: when you’re trying to make an impression, you want people to notice YOU (and the marvelous things you have to say) rather than your clothes. Keep the jewelry to a minimum, and opt for more neutral colors. If, however, you’re interviewing for a trendy, bold fashion boutique? Well, go all out. Which brings us to #5!

5. Consider your audience.

You should feel put together and beautiful when you give a presentation or arrive for an interview. Does that mean you should wear the prom dress that also made you feel beautiful? Obviously not. Be sure you’re considering the setting where you’re trying to make a splash, and dress accordingly. Are you trying to land an internship in state government? Dress the part! Are you volunteering for a blood drive? Again, dress for it. And if you’re ever in doubt, ask someone who’s gone through the same experience, or who may have some inside information.

6. It’s always better to be overdressed than underdressed.

This is true for professional situations as well as social ones. A good general rule.

7. Accessorize appropriately!

Think about what you’ll need, and carry a non-cumbersome bag to hold the essentials. If it’s an interview, carry a few extra copies of your resume in a plain folder, your wallet, and maybe a small bottle of water and some breath mints (never gum!). Depending on the occasion, you may need more or less, but the important thing is to be prepared.

8. Smile.

It’s true what they sang in the musical Annie—You’re NEVER full dressed without a smile! We know, it sounds cheesy, but it’s absolutely true. When you meet someone for the first time, smiling can make a huge difference in the way you’re perceived.

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