Dress for the job you want, not the job you have. Up until recently, I more or less imagined this to mean, dress more conservatively, and if possible, in a better suit. Upon further observation, it’s actually possible to see the true meaning of this statement reflected in the personal style of the top CEO’s, Editors, Politicians and everything in between. With the death of Margaret Thatcher this week, a bevy of related articles regarding her style sprang up, unveiling the subtle yet undeniable importance of personal image in climbing your way to the top.
For those that don’t lay credence to the power of personal aesthetics, the thought that others care about a politicians clothing choices or an Apple CEO’s mock turtleneck, is astounding and seemingly pathetic. However, as much as you can point out the trivialities of style as a real mark of one’s authority, it is in fact a biological tool we use to immediately assess one another. This tells us that it does in fact have real implications on who we decide is worthy of our attention, and how ones legacy is defined, be it for a politician, a rock star or even an historian.
For women in power roles, the visual aspects are always a focus to some degree. The strange thing about the debates in more recent years is that it has created marked opposition; you are dressed well and everyone applauds, or you sport a 90’s hair band and with it incite a public outcry. For the male counterpart, style is noticed but contrary to the raging debates over female style choices, it seems to have a smaller effect on their career either way: If they dress well it’s fantastic, and if they don’t it’s probably assumed his intelligence or perceived character overrides his style, therefore negating the controversy over his ill-fitting suit and brown tie. (Obviously this also opens up another discussion, but that is not the point of this article, so, moving on!)
Some of the best examples of dress-for-success cover all different types of styles, from Michelle Obama’s Jason Wu partnership to Carine Roitfeld’s penchant for sexy pencil skirts and low cut blouses to Christine Lagarde’s sharp Chanel suiting. Granted, starting out in any of these fields will often find ones budget tight and closet teeny, so perhaps luxury clothing will not be a go-to. Instead, it seems crucial to observe the details of whomever your style and career inspiration may be, and look for ways to reimagine it.
Again, the meaning of ‘Dress for the job you want’ is to say that you should dress how you would if you were already the head of your dream job. Going back to the last article on How to Be Stylish Without Following Trends, you need to create your unique uniform, and you must be consistent, even despite a low-key office or a hyper-conservative dress-code. Dress like this from Day 1, because whoever sees you in that entry-level position will remember that person who projects a personality through attitude, work ethic and style.
For those of you that continue to doubt the power of dressing for success, I want to finish with 2 examples from real situations. In the wake of Margaret Thatcher’s passing, it seems only relevant to touch on her style. The Iron Lady as she became known, developed a style that became synonymous with her political stance,
“Thatcher wore that Asprey handbag so often, it came to symbolize the Iron Lady’s tough negotiation style, … (Fashionista.com) “Thatcher used clothing to help create a variety of personas…to build relationships overseas and send political messages,” (Fashionista via Cynthia Crawford told Loughborough University’s Dr. Daniel Conway.)
The people of Great Britain were sharply divided on her time in office, but nevertheless it seems they were unanimous on her style as a tool for power and political prowess; something she learned early on in her career and fully embraced it as time went on.
In an example of current influential style, the wife of China’s new President, Peng Liyuan, is making a statement both at home and abroad, the tipping point being her elegant style, “Much of the coverage focused on her personal style…but in recent years has won new acclaim as an ambassador for the World Health Organization.”(Christopher Bodeen, Huffington Post) All debates aside, this attention hints that personal image and style often sets the precedence for a positive public image (public in this case being a global stage, but the effect is similar on a smaller scale). It shows that people are still more likely to put their faith in you if you present yourself in a thoughtful manner.
Whether this article leaves you in disappointment over the state of humanity, or if it enhances your confidence to dress for future success, it remains a topic to be aware of – regardless of your end goal. People, subconsciously or fully aware, will judge the way you look for better or worse. The good thing is that, to an extent, you control the way people see you initially and the way they might continue to judge you as you continue on your path to success. Dress the way you want to be seen; be consistent and chase after what you want most.
- Margaret Thatcher Set the Bar for Power Dressing (fashionista.com)
- Margaret Thatcher’s steadfast style: Suits, pearls and floppy ties (today.com)
- Margaret Thatcher : The Style Of The Iron Lady (thecitizensoffashion.com)