You have undoubtedly heard the expression “Dress for the job you want, not the job you have.” This is good advice, but it leaves a lot of questions unanswered. The job you want might be at another company, which has a different dress code. The job you want might have the same dress requirement as the job you have. You might not even know what job you want, much less how to dress for it. Plus the person currently in the job you want may be a terrible dresser.
The key question to ask is how to dress more professionally so that you can get a promotion, or so that any job you express interest in will be open to you. In conjunction with Rider University Women’s Leadership Council and the Princeton Chamber’s Women in Business Alliance (WIBA), Sharon Kornstein and Raleigh Mayer speak on “The Power of Presentation” Wednesday, March 12, at 5 p.m. on the Rider campus. For more information, visit www.princetonchamber.org or call 609-924-1776. Tickets are $25 for members, $40 for nonmembers.
The evening will also feature some women from WIBA and Rider in a fashion show of clothing from Lord and Taylor and makeup from Clinique. Wine and light hors d’oeuvres will be served.
Kornstein, founder and president of ImageDesign LLC, an image consulting company based in Livingston, offers the following tips:
Always include a collar; whether you are wearing a jacket with lapels, or a button-down collared dress shirt, the neckline is where people focus. A collar sets off your face and provides a level of professionalism regardless of what else you are wearing. For men a tie completes the business-like look. Women can add a necklace or scarf for the same effect.
Wear one bright color and one dark color. Black, navy, gray and olive are all terrific business-appropriate neutrals, but they need a bright accent like teal, fuchsia, yellow, or chartreuse to set them off. Choose a blouse, shirt, or tie in a flattering accent color that will provide a level of contrast and brightness.
Emphasize grooming. Keeping your hair trimmed, nails filed, and makeup touched up provides more than a smile from your coworkers. In a study by the American Economic Review, it was determined that women who wear makeup earn up to 30 percent more than those who don’t. Check with a makeup artist to learn your best colors and new application techniques.
An updated hairstyle and current eyeglass frames help lift your features and your mood. Styles, hair texture, and vision all change over time. As important as keeping your hair neat is investigating new styles that are current and consistent with your stage of life. Likewise, contemporary and flattering eyeglasses draw attention to your face and eyes, which is where you want it.
Your shoes are noticed by everyone except you. Even though we don’t usually look down at our feet, those we come in contact with will observe if our shoes are scuffed, damaged, or out of style. Keep shoes current by visiting the shoemaker for polishing and minor repairs; style may be trickier to attain but buying name brands and wearing a small heel will help. Men should match the shoe style to their level of dress, and remember that a thick rubber sole indicates a more casual shoe. Slip-ons (not loafers) for men can double as a professional and business casual style.
Men who dress professionally in a suit and tie have fewer opportunities to let their personality shine through. Some ways to add a unique twist or custom look to a dark suit include a white or decorative pocketsquare, a tie clip, shirt with monogram, or patterned socks. Just be careful to stay away from looks that could brand you as unserious or goofy.
Mixing patterns adds a level of sophistication to an outfit for both men and women. Men can wear a striped suit, together with a plaid shirt and patterned tie so long as the colors blend and the patterns are a different size. Women can mix a woven or patterned jacket with a floral blouse and dark pants for an updated version of the pantsuit.
A good fit: Regardless of the level of dress in your office, make sure that your clothes fit properly. Sleeves to the wrist, slacks to the floor, and skirts to the knee are three areas that will make a difference.
Kornstein grew up in Highland Park, where her father was an attorney and her mother was a teacher. She earned an undergraduate degree in business from the Wharton School and a degree in image management from the Fashion Institute of Technology.
She started out in bookkeeping and accounting. One day in 1998, she says, she read an article in the New York Times about an image consultant, and decided that was what she wanted to do. Since then she has given programs at many corporate and non-profit groups including Merrill Lynch, Novartis, Cablevision, and NYU Business School.