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Suit Up for Success!

published August 27, 2007

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( 28 votes, average: 4.7 out of 5)
What do you think about this article? Rate it using the stars above and let us know what you think in the comments below.
Business attire is becoming more and more casual. However, a lot of how people perceive someone in the workplace is not excused by the casual environment. No matter how relaxed the environment may seem to be, someone is judging you based on your clothing.

Maysonave has been in the image consulting business since the 80s, so she has become an expert in the field of business attire. Her book addresses the reasons business attire is essential, and she believes "anyone who wants to have success or have more success" should take a look at it and see what he or she needs to change about his or her social dressing habits.

"It is similar to product packaging," said Maysonave. "We are essentially 'packaging' ourselves every day, and we want people to buy into our ideas and hear our messages and respect us."

The legal workplace has different standards when it comes to attire compared with other professions, and the rules can vary depending on location, but one underlying factor seems to be the same everywhere.

"I think it depends on the region, but naturally people assume that in a legal environment [business attire] will be formal," Maysonave explained. "But now some of the dress codes are relaxed, yet it is still important to inspire trust and confidence. You can inspire someone to trust you and give you a chance to prove yourself by [your outfit]."

Maysonave, the founder and president of Empowerment Enterprises, said that people in business settings should look like they know what they are doing and appear educated. These points are especially important in the legal field because legal professionals see clients on a daily basis and because it is a highly respected industry.

"It's about paying attention to your attire. It is not about being a 'fashionista' but, rather, presenting yourself [properly], which can dictate the responses and opportunities you will be able to receive," she said.

Below, Maysonave gives female paralegals and legal secretaries some tips on how to dress conservatively without looking frumpy and earn the respect they deserve.

  1. A woman should dress for her body type in something that fits her well...women should avoid what I call "fidget clothes." These are things that make you tug and pull at your outfit. If it's too short and too tight, you will be pulling and tugging, and people can misread it as insecurity.

  2. Semi-tailored clothing is essential. It can be extremely stylish, but over-the-top and provocative won't be taken seriously in any office setting.

  3. Many law firms have dress policies, so you'll want to know if there is anything in writing [or] something I call the "unwritten dress code." Look around at who's made partner [if you are in that situation] or who's successful; look at them and see the office "culture," and then you will see what is rewarded and what is [frowned upon].

  4. Women should express themselves but not to the point of sabotaging themselves by their choice of clothes. There are a million different ways a woman can look professional and stylish, and her personality will still come through. However, she can sabotage herself if she is not dressed so well.

  5. A dark suit is a cornerstone for the workplace. Pants and skirts are the best options. Skirts are good, but they should not be too short; they should be knee length or an inch or two above the knee. Find out if you are required to wear hosiery or not. If you don't have to wear hosiery, then you should wear a skirt that goes to the knee and wear closed-toe shoes! Especially avoid open-toe shoes for interviews. Always wear closed-toe shoes in interviews. Remember to dress businesslike but not frumpy.
Maysonave said some of the same guidelines also work for men. Men should note that dark suits never fail, and if you are a man, you should always wear socks. It can mean the difference between moving ahead or staying behind, according to Maysonave. If you dress inappropriately, people can jump to conclusions about you.

Casual Fridays give you a bit more freedom, but "don't drop to the lowest denominator, and tread carefully" when dressing for, say, the courtroom or the office, asserted Maysonave. You do not want to lower your estimation in other people's eyes, so keep it casual but not "sloppy casual."

Another important tip is to hold off on the "ultra-edgy" look and keep the runways and Hollywood fashions out of the workplace.

"The Hollywood look can spell disaster in the workplace," Maysonave said, chuckling. "It is so easy to fall into the 'Hollywood trap' of dressing. Unless you are in the entertainment business or on the runways, don't try it [in the workplace]."

Maysonave said that legal shows also portray more of a fantasy image of attire in the workplace and that distinctions need to be made between reality and television shows about lawyers.

"Always keep in mind what items on you command respect from others," stressed Maysonave as one of her most important points. "Remember that people are paying you as an expert [in your field], so look authoritative, not flashy."

published August 27, 2007

( 28 votes, average: 4.7 out of 5)
What do you think about this article? Rate it using the stars above and let us know what you think in the comments below.