Interpersonal Edge: Dress for success?

By Daneen Skube, Interpersonal Edge

Dr. Daneen Skube, executive coach, trainer, therapist and speaker, addresses clothing in the workplace, including for remote work, and what it means to dress for success.


I’m still working remotely and wondering how informal I can be when dressing for work these days. Everyone in my office has gotten pretty casual, but for important meetings, what do you recommend for your clients?


I recommend my clients dress for the position they want, not the position they have. Even in remote meetings, you want the clothes on your upper body, hair, make-up, or jewelry to convey a professional image.

There’s an old saying that clothes make the man (or woman). Even though we’ve become casual during the pandemic, this saying is still true. Physical appearance is a powerful part of our nonverbal communication. If we slouch during a meeting, we communicate indifference. If we wear an old T-shirt and look disheveled, we convey a lack of respect for our work.

Imagine you’re going on a date with someone you’re excited about. You would put your best physical foot forward and pay attention to your appearance. You don’t need to compete with a gorgeous news anchor, but you would put energy into your appearance.

Positive examples of dress for success

There are many good books on how clothes or styles communicate professionalism in different careers. Generally, the more conservative your industry, the more conservatively you dress. In finance, insurance, and top positions you’ll still benefit from short hair (men), trimmed facial hair (men), suits (both genders), pearls (women), and tasteful make-up (women).

The color of your clothing also expresses emotion. Blue conveys truth, black seriousness, brown grounded, green soothing, and yellow welcoming. You can imagine how a pink multicolored outfit with colorful tattoos showing might influence an interview in finance.

“But … !”

To readers that say, “I gotta be me!” I’d advise expressing your unique personality during off hours. I have a brilliant male client with a ponytail that’s working hard to climb a banking ladder. He has repeatedly not received promotions. You may think your hair should not influence your promotions, but it often does.

You may believe you don’t want to succeed in a world that judges your book by your cover. Unfortunately, you cannot avoid this problem. People do not have enough time or telepathy to see your soul. Others will scan the cover you present and indeed judge your book by your appearance.

Dressing for success does not mean competing with the men or women on television. These personalities have fitness trainers, cosmetic surgeons, personal chefs, and makeup artists. A television career requires these people run their lives around beauty. Yes, prettier people have an easier time at work, but trying to compete with television personalities will make you neurotic.

In 2022, examine photos of people you admire that are successful in your industry. Evaluate how they present themselves. Clothes are the costume you wear to signal where you want to go in your career. Be willing to let your clothes signal all green lights on the road for your success.

Interpersonal Edge: You get what you negotiate

The last word(s)


When you personally evaluate your top priorities at the beginning of a new year, is there a strategy you use to think about what matters to you?


Yes, I call it the “rocking chair strategy.” Pretend you’re 90, rocking on a porch, and look back on your life. What matters will jump right out at you?

Daneen Skube, Ph.D., executive coach, trainer, therapist and speaker, also appears as the FOX Channel’s “Workplace Guru” each Monday morning. She’s the author of “Interpersonal Edge: Breakthrough Tools for Talking to Anyone, Anywhere, About Anything” (Hay House, 2006). She addresses a host of workplace matters, from why it is important to dress for success to dealing with COVID loss and grief. You can contact Dr. Skube at or 1420 NW Gilman Blvd., #2845, Issaquah, WA 98027. Sorry, no personal replies.

© 2021 Interpersonal Edge. Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.