If the Suit Fits…

The Psychology of Your Work Wardrobe

Deciding what to wear to work day-to-day takes time and attention.

And it’s worth it.

Screen Shot 2014-10-08 at 7.31.23 PM

Whether you’re in a suit-and-tie environment or a more casual workplace, what you wear — and how you wear it — says a lot about you, your personality and what you do on a daily basis.

In fact, the way you stock your closet for the work week can reflect as much about your work style as it does your fashion sense in a few ways.

To explore this, I spoke with Ann-Marie Triolo, a friend and personal stylist with men’s custom clothier J.Hilburn.

“Being well dressed is as much about the fit as it is the fashion you’re in,” she said. “It makes a statement about you the moment you walk into a room. It signals to others that you’re thoughtful, detail-oriented and prepared for the things you do personally and professionally. It also shows that you understand the value of first impressions.”

Triolo’s advice is actually supported by research published in the Journal of Fashion Marketing and Management. The study explored how subjects perceived a man across five dimensions: confidence, success, trustworthiness, salary and flexibility. Participants viewed faceless images of a man wearing bespoke and off-the-rack suits. They rated the man in the bespoke suit more positively for all traits except trustworthiness.

In addition to generating positive first impressions, your wardrobe also sends signals to the people you work with daily in a few ways:

Attention to Detail
According to Esquire, there are seven points to consider when ensuring that a man’s suit fits well, and Careerealism offers a number of tips for women on dressing well for work. While these tips seem elementary, they can make the difference between seeming competent or inexperienced in business.

If you appear to others as well dressed, polished and put together in well-fitted clothing, this suggests that you provide solid attention to detail in your work, which is something that’s highly valued by many managers.

Quality of Service
Look at the quality of the fabrics, seams and overall workmanship of your work wardrobe. Look at the toes and heels of your shoes. Do they show signs of wear and tear, or are they in good shape?

If you choose quality, well-made clothing for work, it shows that you not only care enough about yourself to dress well but also that you understand the value of providing a quality product or service. Remember, the quality of your work wardrobe represents the quality of your work product.

Creative Expression and Editing
Whether you follow fashion trends or stick to the classics, the way you express yourself with fashion is an exercise in creativity. It’s also the mark of a good editor.

Think about it like this: If you have too much going on with what you’re wearing, it can portray you as disorganized and indecisive. If you have a balanced look, it shows that you can see not only the little details, but also the big picture with your look — and likely your work.

Authentic Confidence
Dean Street Society founder and stylist Hilary Rushford mentions “authentic confidence” as something that comes with knowing and expressing your own personal style.

While I think Rushford’s perspective is focused on a broader landscape than the work wardrobe, her point is spot on.

According to Psychology Today, dressing for success is one of the seven keys to exuding confidence to others in the workplace, and our confidence can be boosted by our choice of clothing.

Whether you invest in made-to-order or off-the-rack clothing for work, one thing’s for sure: What you wear makes a statement about you.

What does your wardrobe say about you at work?