Save time with our 10 back to work wardrobe tips

Making the wardrobe transition from the school gates to career professional can feel daunting. We've spoken to fashion psychologists and style consultants tfor their top ten tips on how to get out the door well dressed - and on time.  


1. First up

Unfortunately it seems we humans are a bit of a judgemental bunch. According to fashion psychologist, Kate Nightingale, even before you shake hands with someone, they have made all sorts of assumptions about you. 

Recent studies from New York University show you have precisely 3 seconds to make a good first impression! No pressure then...

“We don’t really have any control over it,” says Nightingale, adding that the process is part of an evolutionary trait, where after only the briefest of encounters with someone, we are employing the same parts of the brain we use in both emotional learning and summing up the value of an object.

“In tribal societies, we would be assessing facial features, hair, colours, and embellishments to make decisions about another,” she explains, “Now, we’re also looking at the colours, fabrics, shape and cut of our clothes.”


2. Communicate through colour

Two hundred years ago, the lighter the colours you wore, the higher your status. Wearing darker clothes, meant you were more likely you to have a lowly job.

But over time, darker colours and of course in particular, black, have become the ultimate shades for power dressing and business. We might think wearing black is the best way to boost our confidence and yet wearing a brighter colour can have a really positive affect on our mood.

Wardrobe consultant and personal stylist, Becky Redpath says that finding a colour that suits you is the quickest and easiest way to give yourself a physical and emotional boost.

She helps clients sort out which colours suit them by simply dividing the colour palette between cool or warm, and matching subtle fabric shades with natural skin colour. “Wearing the right colour for you is the best kind of face lift,” says Redpath. “ It is amazing how much difference it can make to the way you look.”

Colours can also have quite a psychological impact. For example, yellow is said to encourage creative thinking, while green is the colour of harmony and great to wear if you’re feeling tired or drained.

And there are cultural expressions too. For example, in the West, red is a colour expressing passion, and confidence, whereas in Asia it signifies prosperity and happiness.


3. Invest in a well-cut suit

Clothing is all about the symbolic. One study showed that when participants donned lab coats while working, concentration levels and attention spans increased dramatically.

There’s no doubt about it, wearing a suit to work gets you noticed. And for women, this research seems to show the more masculine and well cut the suit, the more likely you are to get the job.

So, when dressing for work, think a plain shirt, rather than something printed and a tailor made suit rather than a dress.

This study from the University of Hertfordshire showed that wearing a shorter skirt to work meant you were more likely to be overlooked for promotion. It also suggested dressing in a similar way to your boss may well be the answer for getting what you want!


4. Whatever we wear affects our thoughts and mood

In her book Mind What You Wear, Professor Karen Pine posits research that demonstrated when we’re feeling down, we reinforce and even amplify negative feelings if we dress in a way that expresses our mood. Choosing an uplifting outfit and making an effort, despite not feeling like it, can actually lift our spirits, making us feel happier and more confident.


5. Plan ahead

Scrabbling around looking for something to wear, while trying to get yourself – and the kids - out the door is stressful. A little bit of organising goes a long way. Decide what you’re going to wear the night before or stick a list of favourite outfits on the inside of your wardrobe. This might sound over the top but when you’re in the midst of early morning panic, quickly reminding yourself of what goes together might just save you being late.


6. Buy one amazing jacket you can wear with everything

If you spend money on just one item in your wardrobe – this is it. A well-cut jacket will lift any look in seconds.


7. Accessorise

Inexpensively add a wow factor with a few carefully chosen accessories. You might pare down your overall style for work but accessories can reflect your personality and brighten up a more conservative look.


8. Buy basics in bulk

For an easy way to link you wardrobe together, buy multiples of basic items that you love: t-shirts, tights, shirts and even trousers – but don’t go colour crazy. Stick to the neutral shades to make matching easy.


9. Don’t be afraid to change your look

Many women stick to a style that suited them when they were younger and feel too afraid to change. As Professor Pine, puts it: “ Your clothing needs to evolve and reflect who you are as you go through life,” she says. “That means paying attention, learning about yourself and what makes you feel good. Let go of the past and embrace new looks. “

She has developed an online programme to help women develop their clothes confidence through experimentation. Called Wear Something Different  it encourages women to try new looks and express themselves through colour, style and developing their own sense of fashion.


10. And finally - stand tall in your clothes!

Relax your shoulders and breath into your chest area. According to this Harvard Business school study, the right posture can mean a larger pay cheque!