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Dress for success -- it really works, honestly

'Casual Fridays' replaced by 'Dress Up Fridays'

Jenny Lee
Vancouver Sun
May 20, 2005

Want a promotion? You might want to look for it in your closet.

A new survey suggests that dressing up for the office significantly helps how people are perceived on the job. And that mean no more Casual Fridays.

Local technology companies are shedding their ultra-casual "anything goes" image and beginning to introduce Dress Up Fridays, Lisa Kershaw, a Vancouver-based partner with executive search firm Ray & Berndtson said in an interview.

"We're putting on our good duds and we're all coming to work," she said. "Backlash [against Casual Fridays] is probably too strong of a word -- they're looking at it as a fun thing to do."

She did note, however, that one CEO told her "when people were too casual, they didn't seem to take as much pride in their work."

"From a building culture perspective, there's a fine line between being too casual where people don't take pride in their work, versus being too judgemental about someone's quality of work just because they are dressed casually," Kershaw said. "The pendulum has swung from suit and tie, to quite casual, and come back to smart casual."

"Business casual" is out, and a more conservative, formal dress code is in, Lisa Fried, division director for administrative staffing company OfficeTeam, said in an interview.

"Compared to the 1990s, the job market has now become more competitive and people have begun to dress more conservatively because of the increased competition," Fried said. "It's an employers' market, so companies have increased expectations of their staff."

A few years ago, an OfficeTeam survey found that 84 per cent of companies surveyed allowed casual dress once a week, and one business in five had a casual dress policy every day, Fried said. Last year, a survey found that almost 40 per cent of managers believed their workers dressed too casually.

And those looking for a promotion may first want to turn to their closets, suggests the latest OfficeTeam survey conducted in the fourth quarter of 2004 by International Communication Research.

Eighty-one per cent of employees polled said a person's work attire affects his or her professional image; nearly half of respondents said wardrobe significantly impacts how someone is perceived on the job.

Vancouver graphic designer Dave Webber of Webbervision agrees that dressing well is important to business success.

Dressing well is "very effective shorthand that gets a lot of other issues out of the way quickly and lets you get to the business at hand," he said. "I always wear a tie to a first meeting. I used to dress according to no code at all, and accidently discovered, completely contrary to what I always thought, that people believe that clothes make the man. People respond to you in a different way."

Dressing professionally doesn't necessarily mean wearing a suit, Kershaw said. Men might wear a nice jacket and pants, an open-necked shirt, but pressed and of good quality, and an Italian knit sweater. Women might wear good quality pants or a skirt, a jacket, and "a great bag and great shoes," she said. The overall look can be stunning and individualistic, but exuding professional presence.

Fried suggested a classic business "uniform" in navy, grey, beige or brown, and polished shoes with conservative heels.

The Vancouver Sun 2005

© 2005 Ray & Berndtson



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