Professional DressThey say that clothes make the man. While this expression might not be literally true, it does belie a fundamental societal truth: clothing affects both how others perceive us, and how we perceive ourselves. Whether you’re applying for a new job, seeking a promotion at work, or just want to be taken more seriously, you’ll find that the right professional clothing can significantly impact your success. Want to take your wardrobe to the next level, but not sure where to start? Dressing professionally isn’t difficult, but it does take forethought and planning. These simple tips will start you on your way to a truly professional look.

1. Make sure your clothes are in good condition.

While it might sound obvious, the most fundamentally important key of dressing professionally is making sure your clothes are well taken care of. Remember, however, that this concept extends well beyond just making sure your shirts don’t have holes in them. Pay particular attention to small details. Make sure that shirts are ironed, and that pant creases are crisp. Also keep an eye on the hems of your pant legs, which can be a frequent source of wear. Nothing looks less professional than a ragged hem!

2. When possible, favor dark, neutral colors.

In general, darker colors are viewed as stronger, more assertive, crisper, and more professional than lighter ones. Of course, white, beige, and other light colors have a place in your wardrobe; however, don’t underestimate the power of charcoal grey. If your work environment allows, feel free to mix in accent colors, but only with taste, and in moderation. Leave the lime green at home!

3. Wear clothes that fit.

Again, this might sound like an obvious concept, but it’s one that is surprisingly frequently overlooked. Nothing decreases your professional legitimacy faster than a suit that’s too big – or worse – too small. If you find your body shape to be difficult to fit, it’s absolutely worth considering having a few key pieces of clothing made, or at least tailored, specifically to fit you. It might seem extreme, but having truly tailored clothing will pay major dividends when it comes to your professional appearance. If you love shopping at the casual shirt specialist, make sure you only wear those clothes while you’re not at work.

4. Pay attention to details and accessories.

For a truly professional look, it’s critical to keep an eye out for details. Make sure that belts, bags, shoes, and other accessories match each other, and are in good condition. A bottle of shoe shine is a small investment, but makes a huge difference. If you wear jewelry, keep it simple and neat.