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The clothes you wear in the workplace are as much a part of business etiquette as the words you say or the actions you take. That's why it's important to carefully consider what you wear on the job. Your choice of clothing can send subtle but clear messages that reinforce the positive—or negative—impressions of others. When making decisions about how to dress on the job, you can ask yourself three important questions, which are listed below.

1. What's the dominant style of dress at my company?
The first question you should consider is about your company's culture. During the 1990s, the number of businesses that allowed workers to dress casually—at least part of the time—increased sharply. But different companies have different ideas about what's appropriate and what's too casual. Although some companies issue a written dress code, every company has an unwritten code that determines what's expected from employees.

Generally, there are four styles of attire appropriate in companies. They are, from most formal to least formal, traditional, professional, collegiate, and casual. Traditional business attire includes dark wool or wool-blend suits for men, and suits or dresses for women. Professional attire includes blazers, skirts, and dressy blouses for women, and sport coats and ties for men. The collegiate style includes khakis, denim shirts, casual jackets, and no ties, while the casual style usually includes jeans, t-shirts, and sneakers. Which style is most appropriate for your company?

2. What will my clothing choices say to co-workers?

This doesn't mean all your clothing choices have to reflect your company's style instead of your own. But it's important to recognize how your choices signal your attitudes to those around you. Different people you work with will interpret your clothing choices in different ways. Think about the signals your personal style sends. Does your clothing say you're one of the team, upwardly mobile, or a unique individual?

3. What risks am I willing to take?

No matter what image you choose, there's always a risk that someone you work with will be uncomfortable with your clothing choices. So the third question to ask reflects your goals. For example, if you're a manager who wants to get ahead, you may have to dress a little better than the rank and file to stand out from the crowd. If you want to stay in your current position for quite a while, you may decide to dress casually, like most of your co-workers.

And what if your personal preferences are vastly different from the prevailing style at the company? Shouldn't you express your individuality and dress the way you want? Well, a few eccentric geniuses and artistic visionaries can get away with ignoring the etiquette of business attire. Everyone else, though, should carefully consider the impact of their decisions.

Asking yourself these three important questions about clothing etiquette doesn't mean you can't express your individual style. But your answers to these questions will help you recognize the impact of your decisions on the people you work with. By asking yourself these three questions and carefully evaluating the clothes you wear on the job, you'll be meeting the requirements of business etiquette established by your company.

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  1. Saleel // February 10, 2009 at 5:30 PM  

    Nice blog yours!
    Interesting article as well. Any interest in exchanging blogroll?
    If yes, please make a comment on my blog
    I will add your blog to my blogroll first, then you can add me.