Why We're Begging You to Dress to Impress Every Day

| Career
(Photo: iStock)

We totally understand how you might not have time to do your full-face makeup and wear that stellar #OOTD when you’re short on time, but did you ever think that ‘passive-tude’ shown towards yourself through wardrobe shows everyone who you might be when you leave the house?

Not to be dramatic or anything, but the “dress to impress” adage is true. No matter where you are heading, your clothes are a direct reflection of your motivation, self-worth and character.

Taking a few minutes each morning to look your best not only changes your path to productivity, but it helps you to look good, feel good and perform better.

As president to one of Forbes’ Top 100 Most Promising Companies in the U.S., Lena Requist of ONTRAPORT is a firm believer in the “enclothed cognition” theory from Northwestern University — a study that found the more professional we choose to dress, the more we begin to act and feel professional. Not to mention, the incredible benefits that follow conscientious dressing.

“Piecing together a business professional outfit each morning reminds your brain to play the part of a professional businesswoman,” she says. “While it’s tempting to wear those comfy leggings into work, people will take you more seriously if you dress like a professional — more importantly, you will too.”

Changes the way you see yourself

When you start to dress more like a professional, you start to see an inner change take place: you’re more comfortable in your skin, less concerned about what others think and you feel better about your body as you embrace who you are and what you look like.

“We naturally attach symbolic meaning to everything we perceive to be better — and more quickly — make sense of the world,” Requist says. “Instinctively, we make snap judgments about the likely characteristics of a person by their type of attire.”

Similarly to how we mentally categorize a stranger in a tailored suit as perhaps hardworking, organized and confident, Requist adds we subconsciously make those same assumptions about ourselves when we dress that way too.

Shows off your personality

Fashion is a remarkable way to show off your unique and imitable personality, but it shouldn’t stop when you head to work. If you are a bright and bubbly individual, embrace lively colors and wild prints; if shy, aim for neutrals. Whatever the case, showing off your personality and career ambitions through wardrobe says a lot about you as a person. Moreover, it feeds an incredible amount of independence as you stop caring what others think.

Broadens perception

In addition to affecting how you think, Project Runway mentor and fashion authority, Tim Gunn recently told guests at a New York event that dressing to impress not only has the power to calm your anxiety, but it sends a message to others of how they perceive us.

Requist agrees and says that formal wear allows us to be perceived as a distinguished professional.

“I believe your self-perception and others’ perceptions of you, work simultaneously,” she says. “As you begin to feel more successful, people perceive you as more successful, which fuels your inner confidence to grow your success, and so on.”

Builds confidence and self-esteem

We all know that feeling: you wear something you really love, it makes you feel great and it’s as if you’re on top of the world, just beaming with confidence. A study from the Journal of Applied Social Psychology found a correlation between your wardrobe and confidence, suggesting those who dressed-up were more likely to “think of themselves as competent and rational.” On the contrary, those who dressed informally identified themselves as laid-back and friendly, but not characteristically leading to a high-powered career.

“While many aren’t aware of it, the clothing they’re wearing affects their confidence levels and boosts their self-esteem,” Requist says. “These studies make ‘dressing to impress’ less superficial than it is commonly believed.

Attribute to your career

Remember that saying, “dress for the job you want; not the job you have?” Requist says the Northwestern study offers scientific backing to the age-old adage and that this motivated mindset definitely advances your career.

“A professional outfit reminds our brains of all the expectations and ‘roles’ we have about people from that profession,” she says. “We set higher expectations for ourselves — we give ourselves higher standards of achievement.”

Additionally, researchers from Columbia University found wearing formal clothing was associated with “enhanced abstract processing” — simply meaning, dressing up inspired creative thinking, particularly when subjects felt they were more pleasantly outfitted than those around them were. Wearing something nice not only helps you to problem solve and think outside the box, but focus on the bigger picture, while impressing your boss.


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Tania Hussain |

Tania Hussain is a native of Toronto and a Hoosier at heart, studying journalism at Ball State University in Indiana. She has a mad love for fine cheese, film, music, and meeting people upon her many travels. When Tania’s not writing at Womanista, she can be found going for long nature runs, rooting for the Indianapolis Colts and St. Louis Cardinals, photographing sights and food, or writing for her online magazine, The Hudsucker. She is also a member of the Indy-based, Society of Professional Journalists—one of the oldest organizations in the U.S. that promotes and represents journalists.