How To Dress For Success

Whether you are just prepping for your first interview or your first day of work, the journey includes looking the part.

How To Dress For Success

Are you ready for success?

It’s often a difficult question to ask when you’re just starting your journey or even part way through. Whether you are just prepping for your first interview or your first day of work, the journey includes looking the part.

Looking the part can be cumbersome, however. It takes work to look good. But trust me, it’s worth it.


Dress the part

The first thing you should do before you head into your interview or new work environment is to see what everyone else is wearing. You need a keen eye however as there will be varying degrees of influence that go into your work attire. Unless the corporate culture is extremely laid back, you will find the further you go up the corporate ladder, the more formal the work attire. That’s not to say you can play it cool and dress down for your position. Rather, you should look to your peers AND your manager to see what they are wearing. They may even have a work policy to make it easier.


Colour matters

Your choice of colour can be powerful. In North America, colours have a subliminal message. When thinking about the impact your choice of colour will have, think about who you are trying to impress as certain colours will affect people differently. Is your boss a man or a woman, how old are they, what is their background? What are you hoping to imply with your colour choices? Are you looking to show confidence (Blue-Green), trustworthiness (blue), or  professional and authoritative (dark blue or grey). Here is a look at some of the things you can explore when choosing your clothing colour. (



Sometimes it’s because that’s all we have in the closet and others because we have a soft spot for throwbacks. In any case, you want to make sure the style of your clothing will fit into the environment you are entering. You don’t want to look out of place or from a bygone era. Now, there is also a science to the clothing you wear. You’ve heard that some clothing makes you look taller or wider, right? Which would you rather have when starting your new job? Tall and confident, right? The style choices such as shoulder padding, number of buttons you have on your shirt and whether you have buttons or cufflinks all have an affect on how people see you. 


It’s great when someone offers you a suit or a new blouse, but make sure they fit before you wear them to work. Those sidelong glances from your new coworkers may be innocent. They may also be a hint that your clothing is either too big or too small and the last thing you want to have happen when you sit down for lunch is for your pants to tear. 


Self Respect

Your clothing says a lot about your self-esteem. Make sure you take the time to iron what needs to be and keep your ties tied properly. Dressing up one level above what’s expected can give you that boost you’re looking for. Another element that will help is wearing brand name clothing. You don’t have to run out to buy the most expensive suit or shoes, but now and then finding them on sale or in a second hand store is a real treasure. Wearing the right clothes will not only boost confidence, but the people around you will start treating you with more respect.


All in the details

You may like the scruffy look, lip ring, or the purple hair, but it may not be the best choice for your new job. It’s best, at least until you know your manager, to keep it low key. Get a haircut and make sure you brush your teeth. It may seem silly, but if you’re dealing with the public, having nothing in your teeth and fresh breath is a great idea. Furthermore, hide the tattoos under your shirt and try not to experiment with a new hair colour. Take a look in the mirror before you head off to work and look at what others will see. You may have a sales tag or your two-year old’s breakfast on your shoulder. 

If you’re tempted to have a celebratory coffee or ice cream before your shift, think twice. Wait until after work just in case you happen to spill or get jostled by someone else. You don’t want to start off on the wrong foot.

Speaking of your feet, make sure your shoes and other accessories are in good condition. Everyone may not be looking at the ratty old belt you’re wearing, but they could see the running shoes you’re wearing or the fact that they’re scuffed up and need to be replaced. The good thing about footwear is that once you get it right, you don’t have to keep replacing them.


Know what to have more of

After your first paycheque, you’ll have a good feel for what everyone wears at work. It’s a good idea to take some of that money and top up your closet. You don’t necessarily have to have duplicates of everything, just enough that you can mix and match. People won’t notice as much when you can match a shirt and a pair of pants with different outfits. It’s a good idea to have at least 6 shirts so you aren’t wearing the same shirt on the same day every week. Pants don’t necessarily have the same issues and shoes even less so. 

Stay organized

Over time, you will start to fill your closet with clothing. It’s a good habit to organize so you can get what you need quickly. A little forethought will save you time and let you show some of the other characteristics that matter like punctuality.


Dress down days

There are many businesses that have casual Fridays. While fun and often designed to get employees to connect or work on social projects together by supplying donations for the privilege. You shouldn’t feel like you have free reign to wear anything. Leave the beer shirts at home as well as the shorts and flip-flops. You can’t go wrong with khakis and a blouse or sweater. Once you’ve joined a couple times to see what is the acceptable level then dip your toes slowly. 

ProTip: You are a walking advertisement. Advertise for your new company instead of the local hockey team.


Where to find what to wear

Life happens. Don’t be embarrassed to admit you don’t have your first set of clothing for your new job or interview. Speak to an employment consultant to get the closest place available to you. There are “Dress for Success” establishments that offer clothing for men or women at significant price reductions, if not free altogether. Facebook can also be a good resource as you can let your friends know up front you’re entering the workforce and need clothing. People often advertise that they would like to give clothing away to the right people.

If you are looking to buy clothing, wait until there is a sale if you can. Places like Moore’s often have 2-for-1 sales as do many women’s clothing stores. Join their mailing lists so you can be notified when those sales happen.

There are several second hand clothing stores that sell good clothing at a reduced rate as well as Winners that get end of the line brand name clothing and sell them for less.


When in doubt, err on the side of caution. Dress up a level and look professional for both your regular days and the dress down days. You’d rather people looking at you for wearing a suit than jeans and a t-shirt. When you have the whole package, you will start to feel better about yourself and that confidence will in turn help you achieve more at work. 

Pro Tip: Having a job is important. Fitting in is too. If you need to express yourself, but can’t at work, make sure it’s the place for you before starting.