Dress for Success: How-to Achieve Your Unique Look | Part 3

Updated: Mar 21

In this post, we will complete our series on dressing for success by discussing how you can use your wardrobe to bend rules to create positive advantages and opportunities.


In our previous post on dressing for success, we focused on how challenging perceptions and dressing with intentionality helps you be successful in any environment.

We want to help untether your inner charisma and individuality and then apply that energy to your foundational capsule wardrobe.

Be Strategic Within Your Office Dress Code

Regardless of your office’s dress code, there is always merit to showing up at work in a suit that makes you feel powerful. Dressing for success is the first step to accomplishing your dreams and pursuing your passions. The clothes, to a certain extent, make the employee - historical research has demonstrated that dressing more formally can enhance focus, boost confidence, and refine abstract, big-picture thinking.

The serial innovator and visionary, Thomas Edison, once said, "Opportunity is missed by most people because it was dressed in overalls and looks like work."

Edison’s words echo in a resounding manner for leaders across industry. Opportunities are missed every day, especially as people with great potential are overlooked for growth opportunities because they don’t look, smell, or sound like a million bucks. People are seldom interested in a work in progress; they crave to see success already achieved.

A woman wearing a wide-brimmed hat and rustic blouse smiles while working on her computer, as she sits on a terrace balcony beside assorted red and pink flowers.

Building upon this idea of securing opportunity, Coco Chanel, the founder of Chanel, once said, "Dress shabbily and they remember the dress; dress impeccably and they remember the woman." If you want to be successful and competent, it’s simple - dress the part. That means dressing impeccably every time you walk out that door, and don’t be afraid to elevate the standards of those around you.

We have all heard (or experienced firsthand) horror stories of interviewees showing up improperly dressed or hastily groomed. It is not just the interview setting or the boardroom that can benefit from a higher standard. You can strategically take command of your office with the way you dress. Life is unpredictable and you never know who you’ll meet and what opportunities, such as getting a promotion, might be missed because you didn’t look successful.

Even Facebook's own Mark Zuckerberg, who is often recognized for sporting a minimalist capsule wardrobe composed of plain gray t-shirts, understands the power of dressing in a strategic manner and the influence such a decision conveys. Since 2009 was a pivotal year for Facebook, Zuckerberg made a public commitment to wear a tie every day for the entire year. He explained the rationale of changing his appearance to his entire organization and discussed his decision at length publically, "My tie was the symbol of how serious and important a year this was and I wore it every day to show this."

Mark Zuckerberg wears a suit and tie while delivering a speach at the APEC CEO Summit in 2016 in Peru.

Proven Ways You Can Dress for Success

Our objective is to help you navigate your wardrobe decisions and help you create an appearance you are proud of, and you don't have to break the bank in the process. If you keep the following strategies in mind, you will immediately begin making powerful impressions on others:

  • Master the basics and stick to foundational strategies - always select dark socks when wearing dark pants and/or shoes. Your belt should match or coordinate with your shoes. These two simple tips are often missed.

  • Prioritize cleanliness and hygiene - limit your use of cologne/perfume; scents are intended to compliment your presence not overwhelm.

  • Use accessories artfully - it is well know that finishing accessories are an essential part of any wardrobe and can be used to polish in a variety of ways. Ensure that your jewelry and belts are not overwhelming, flashy, or distracting to those around you. If they overwhelm your outfit you can be sure they will overwhelm your personality as well.

  • Groom properly - this one is straightforward. Clothing should be clean and pressed. Invest in getting a suit that’s been tailored to your build. Nothing looks worse than a piece that is too baggy (or too tight), and jacket sleeves or pants legs that puddle up at the ends.

  • Dress selectively for occasions - if an event calls for black tie on the invitation, they mean a tuxedo not a navy suit. If the event is more casual in nature and you are unsure of the appropriate business attire, wear a jacket regardless.

  • Follow the "plus or minus one rule" for company dress - for example, if most people in the office wear button-up shirts, you might want to put on a blazer. If most people wear blazers, you might want to wear a suit. And so on. The general rule of thumb is that you always want to be the best dressed in any room.

  • Remember dressing well is more than just clothing - your attire is an essential part of your comportment and demeanor, but so are the contents of your mind. Read often and seek to improve the quality of your thoughts. For instance, George Washington’s Rules of Civility allude to many underappreciated ideals of how one should “carry oneself” in any setting, and we recommend adopting a growth mentality of constant education to become a leader inside and out.

Academy Award winner Edith Head says it best, "You can have anything you want in life if you dress for it." There's more truth in this statement than you may think. Start by dressing like the person you want to be and the success you desire will follow.

How Dressing for Success Cultivates an Evergreen Mindset

Why would you ever stop learning and seeking ways to improve? Staying in the game and building skills is only possible through the adoption of a growth mindset. Regardless of where you find yourself in your career, there is always a next chapter, and the way to navigate any career plateau is to reinvent yourself and strive to move forward.

A man wearing a hat and a sweater waves a red and white flat while gazing up at an open sky, as he stands in front of a range of mountains that are covered in a bed of clouds.

People who dressed more formally at work are shown to improve at thinking abstractly, but only when they were more dressed up than everyone around them. And in that regard, the opposite tack — skewing way more casual than your co-workers — has its benefits, too. Remember to balance your individuality, or “red sneakers effect,” as mentioned in our previous post about dressing for success, while still artfully navigating your office dress code. Learn to inspire your confidence by the way you present yourself and articulate your values. Help others channel their inner passions and be more charismatic.

Dressing for success is the first step to achieving all your goals in life, however the journey never stops. We recognize that you make bold decisions and are unafraid to step out from the majority to express your convictions. The way you dress expresses your confidence in who you are. You don’t follow trends, you set them. The world is your oyster and nothing is standing in your way.

The Bottom Line

You should feel empowered to represent your unique personality and create an identity through your wardrobe. And by wearing clothes that allow you to feel like the best version of yourself, you too will be equipped to achieve your destiny in life.

Starting your own business or managing a team can feel like venturing into a desert without a map or compass. It is essential to maintain a positive spirit during challenges, and it is helpful to build a base of situational and strategic knowledge to learn from other individuals who have been in similar positions. To learn more about versatile strategies and gain insights about how to create advantages, check out our pillar piece about innovative leadership.

At Kahana, we live and breathe content creation. We love learning new concepts, exploring emergent trends, and writing about topics that foster creativity and wellness. If you're interested in writing with us or would like to collaborate for your dream business blog, we'd love to hear from you!


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