Dressing for Success

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Networking is a face-to-face event and how you dress can help you make the best impressions. Understanding what is communicated through the clothes you wear will help you develop a wardrobe that will enhance your networking and public relations goals. In this module, you will learn the following:

  • The meaning of colors
  • Interpreting common dress codes
  • Deciding what to wear

The meaning of colors is important to know and this should reflect in you’re the clothes you wear.

The Meaning of Colors

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The colors you wear when networking could send a message you did not want to send. Understanding the basic meaning of colors will help you dress in a way that will help you be more successful in making connections with new people. 

Here are some basic colors and their meaning:

  • Red = action, courage, vitality and confidence
  • Brown = order and convention
  • Green = life and well being
  • Blue = youth and peace
  • White = cleanliness
  • Black = stability
  • Gray = security and maturity

The color you choose will depend on the audience and type of function you are going to encounter. When in doubt, dress with the basic colors (ex. Black, blue or gray). 

Interpreting Common Dress Codes

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Many times, a dress code will be announced for a networking event. Understanding how to interpret dress codes will ensure you will not be the odd person dressed at the event. The three most basic dress codes are appropriate attire, business casual, and business professional. 

Appropriate attire presents a challenge to you because what does “appropriate” mean. When meeting people in a business environment, it is best to be on the safe side. Here are some safe guidelines for this type of dress code:

  • Wear casual pants or skirts (avoid jeans)
  • Button, polo shirt or blouse (a dressy T-shirt may be used, but ones with decorations should be avoided)
  • Closed toed shoes (no sneakers)

There will be times when a function has a theme or it is held outdoors. In that case, you may need to confirm if shorts and opened toed shoes are appropriate. 

Business casual is more formal and is similar to appropriate attire but without T-shirts of any kind. Khakis and polo shirts are the most common garments worn in a business casual environment. 

Business professional is more stringent and may be the most common dress codes for networking events in the business world. Business professional include the following garments:

For men

  • Slacks, button shirts with a tie (minimum)
  • Jacket
  • Shoes with non-rubber soles

For women

  • Pantsuits
  • Power-suits
  • Blouses with tailored skirts
  • Professional shoes

If the dress code is unclear, it is best to be a little overdressed that under dressed. You can always remove the jacket, tie, and be business casual. 

Deciding What to Wear

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Sometimes deciding what to wear is a stressful event. Here is a helpful tip to make deciding what to wear a little easier. It is called PEAR

This acronym stands for the following:

  • Place– determine where the event will be held. If it is at a fancy restaurant, then you know that business causal or professional is more where you should begin. If it is at a causal place like a grill, then you may be able to go more casual.
  • Environment– the environment is also a helpful indicator on what to wear. If the event is outdoors on a boat, beach, or golf course, then this could be less formal or require special clothes.
  •  Attendees– who will be attending is another helpful indicator on what to wear. For example, if your CEO will be present then you are better off being more formal. 
  • Reason– the reason for the function is also a key indicator of what to wear. If the function is reunion of professionals, then you should be dressed according to that line of work. 

PEAR is a helpful guideline on how deciding what to wear. The next time you are invited to a particular function you should ask questions that help answer the PEAR model. The answers will give you a better understanding on what to wear.

Case Study 

John had all eyes on him as he sauntered into the office. John donned a top and tails for the Meet and Greet. Camden pulled the good egg aside and offered some advice. John didn’t understand how his fancy duds weren’t appropriate for the Meet and Greet. Camden gingerly explained the work events didn’t call for formal attire. Pulling photos from the last event, Camden enlightened John about what style would be appropriate. John’s face reddened. He’d gone too far. Camden patted him on the back, assuring him that all would fall into place. John ran home to change and returned wearing appropriate business attire, tipping his top hat at Camden before tucking it away in his cubicle for another day.