In a perfect world, you could wear whatever you want to and let your skills speak for themselves. Unfortunately, the world we live in isn’t perfect, so if you have a goal of moving up and being seen as a leader, considering your wardrobe choices can play a hand in helping you rise.
The “dress for the job you want” maxim still holds truth. If you’re interested in being seen as a leader, what you wear can help give you the boost you need to excel and inspire confidence. But in order to do that, you'll want to avoid the following six workwear faux pas.
1. Wrinkled clothing
Investing in an iron, steamer, or wrinkle releaser can pay for itself 10 times over. Arriving to the workplace looking disheveled can create the impression that you don’t pay attention to detail. If you often find yourself pressed for time, gravitate toward wrinkle-free fabrics to keep your image crisp.
2. Impractical pieces
There’s nothing wrong with adding personality to your outfits, but make sure that you can easily move around in what you’re wearing. Don’t let fashion hinder your ability to perform daily tasks. Heels that make walking difficult or extra voluminous sleeves that cover your keyboard can send a message that you’re more concerned with being seen than taking charge, so opt for pieces that you find attractive but aren’t a hazard.
Unless you’re working alongside a body of water, play it safe and keep your feet covered. While dress codes differ from place to place, it’s hard to lead when you can’t walk easily, and flip-flops are one item that’s almost universally acknowledged as too casual for any professional setting. If you crave comfort, an open-toed mule can provide a professional look that will keep you cool during the summer.
4. Strong scents
One important factor of being a leader is that people want to be around you. It’s hard to take someone seriously when they’re known as the person no one wants to be near. Wearing perfume that’s too strong can mark you as inconsiderate. Take everyone’s feelings into consideration, and think before you over spray.
5. Excessively baggy clothing
If you have to stop giving instructions to pull your pants up every five minutes, people can lose focus. You don’t want others to focus on your fidgeting more than your message. Hiding beneath extra fabric can look like you’re putting up a barrier.
6. Excessively tight clothing
It’s hard to be comfortable when your clothes don’t fit correctly. Constantly tugging down the hem of your skirt can make you look insecure. No matter the cost of your clothes, they should fit appropriately.
At the end of the day, the most important thing to keep in mind is that leaders should appear comfortable and confident. Wear what makes you feel your best, but when you’re working to be seen as a leader, make your clothes work for you—not against you.
Kayla Heisler is an essayist and Pushcart Prize-nominated poet. She is an MFA candidate at Columbia University, and her work appears in New York's Best Emerging Poets 2017 anthology.