Does your attire really reveal your identity? Do your clothes affect your own mood or emotions? According to research, Yes! Studies have shown that personality and mood can be managed and reflected through one’s attire (Moody et al, 2010; Ruetzler et al, 2012). Yet, when individuals say, “dress appropriately” or “wear something professional,” do you understand what this is?
To add to your confusion, sometimes “what is appropriate” can differ based on the event or occasion. The definition of professional or appropriate attire can also vary by service industry or the type of job. For example, business-casual in a setting in which you work with young children may mean to wear khaki pants and a polo shirt, something that allows you to get on the floor and work with young children. In a Fortune 100 company, however, khakis combined with the polo may be viewed as too informal. Thus, you have every right to be confused.
I’ve included some resources below that might help you distinguish what you want to wear for your first day on the job or in an interview setting. In addition, one of my undergraduate students at UIUC, Eric Finny, also had the question “what is professional attire,” and he did some of his own research to find some answers. His research included advice for grooming, hygiene, and other components that are critical to your professional image. See Eric’s Buzzfeed post on Business Attire in the Workplace.
- Moody, W., Kinderman, P., & Sinha, P. (2010). An exploratory study: relationships between trying on clothing, mood, emotion, personality and clothing preference. Journal of Fashion Marketing and Management, 14, 161-179.
- Ruetzler, T., Taylor, J., Reynolds, D., Baker, W., & Killen, C. (2012). What is professional attire today? A conjoint analysis of personal presentation attributes. International Journal of Hospitality Management, 31, 937-943.
- What is Business Casual – Forbes
- Career Spots Videos from Cal Poly
- Professional Attire – University of Georgia Career Center