Self Assessment Quiz – True or False:
- I enjoy feeling frazzled each and every work morning.
- I have a hard time getting organized.
- I have clothes I never wear to work because I can’t find them, they’re dirty, or they don’t fit.
I often hear people say, “You always look so nice!” or “Look at you! Fashionably meticulous as ever!” I politely thank the person giving the compliment and the closet gods for helping me get outta the house coiffed to a T. But you need to understand something. This look doesn’t “just happen.” It is very carefully thought out and executed.
Now to you millennials who think a clean pair of jeans and t-shirt is “dressing up,” you might take issue with this post. But read it in its entirety, then decide if you need to up your wardrobe game. Casual dressing has become the dress code du jour for offices, but I am old school. Every time I go into a causal work environment where people are walking around in torn sweatshirts and ratty jeans anchored by flip flops, I just want to pull them to the side and say, “Have some work wardrobe pride, child!” Here’s the deal. If you want to stand out in what you do, I firmly believe you have to put a bit of self-care into your appearance as well. Especially if you interface with clients or the public. And that takes planning.
I plan my entire week’s wardrobe every Sunday night, but it hasn’t always been this way. When I started out in my 20s, rolling out of bed and grabbing the first thing that was clean out of my closet was my go-to-work strategy. It wasn’t a good strategy, but at the time, it worked for my party-until-1am-crash-for-five-hours-before-getting-up-and-dressed-for-work life. However, as I climbed up the career ladder, it became more apparent to me that just wearing any old thing didn’t make me feel great. And guess what! When I didn’t feel optimal, I didn’t do optimal work! I clearly am not alone in this regard according to scientificamerican.com, which supports my belief when it cites, “Many studies show that the clothes you wear can affect your mental and physical performance.”
As my jobs changed and began to include face time with board members, elected officials, community leaders, media personalities, clients, and others, my stop-drop-and-roll out of bed dressing strategy no longer worked. If I was going to make a “WOW” impression at each business function—and yes, that was and continues to be my goal—it became important to plan out each and every outfit because fabulosity doesn’t just happen by itself!
Planning is a strategy. You may not need to be as obsessive with it as I am—determining in advance every single outfit for the entire week, down to jewelry, shoes, handbags, and under garments—but I will tell you, it has become a part of my brand. People think because I look a certain way—polished, professional, stylish, upscale—my delivery will match the visual expectations they have set for me. I recently wore a stunning red dress, statement necklace, and matching red stilettoes when speaking on a panel. Afterwards in the lady’s room, a woman who had attended the session said to me, “That dress is EVERYTHING! When you walked on stage, I was so hoping that your delivery was as impressive as your look, and you did not disappoint!” Ha! SCORE!!
If you answered “True” to any of the above questions, what does your look say to others about what they can expect from you? Are you interested in positively standing out from the others? What’s your unspoken professional brand? If you can’t give a positive response to any of these questions, then why not give this advance planning strategy a go this month? You have nothing to lose, really. Take this coming Sunday, and lock yourself in your bedroom. Turn on your most upbeat playlist, and map out what you’re going to wear this week. Determine which shoes need to be repaired. Decide which jeans should be reserved for pizza and beer night with the after-work gang. Consider how you’ll keep your professional wardrobe separate from your club wardrobe. Be as precise and meticulous as you can … that means from undies all the way to jewelry and even hair accessories. Hang all the clothes and the accessories on a hanger in your closet. If you wanna get cute and fancy with it, make fun day-of-the-week signs for your hangers so you’ll know exactly what you had planned for Monday, Tuesday, and so on.
A side benefit to all of this planning: you’ll be surprised at how much time you’ll have in the morning to get your makeup done at home rather than in the car. Or, you’ll find those few extra minutes to make yourself a real breakfast that doesn’t come out of a foil wrapper. OR, you’ll suddenly have time to actually see what your kids are doing in the morning, rather than yelling at them to “Hurry it up!!”
But more importantly, you will feel better and, therefore, perform better. Isn’t that ultimately what your on-the-job goal is?
Try it on for size, and let me know if you feel a difference.