Maintaining a professional image means asserting one’s credibility, especially for entrepreneurs trying to establish their own brand. “Basically, you have to look like someone that people can entrust their business with,” advises Altaire Bautista, head fashion stylist of Stylist in Pocket, an online platform that offers personalized styling. Here are her fashion do’s and don’ts when dressing to impress clients and customers.
Do invest in a capsule collection. A set of basics makes for a good start. Upgrade your closet with a few neutral button-down shirts, plus a pair of dark denims, khakis, and slacks that you can easily mix and match. Once you’ve figured out your personal style, play it up by mixing in timeless and versatile patterns such as stripes. Stay away from polka dots and animal prints that take away too much attention from your actual pitch.
For men, it’s best to stick to crisp, plain basics, so avoid wearing graphic T-shirts that appear too casual.
Do prioritize. Looking professional should always be a top priority, but what about comfort versus style? “Instead of trying to balance them out, choose what your priority is,” Altaire notes. Meeting clients for the first time is the only chance to make a good first impression. Choose a stylishly sleek outfit that you can balance out with comfy shoes. For a lunch meeting, wear pieces that aren’t form-fitting, so you won’t be self-conscious when you’ve had too much of that delicious dish.
Do highlight your assets. “Instead of focusing on your flaws, why don’t you create another focal point?” Altaire suggests. If you’re not confident with your lower body, draw attention to your torso. Wear a bold lipstick, go for a neckline that flatters your décolletage, or rock a short haircut that frames your face perfectly.
Don’t mistake smart-casual for sloppy. Assess your whole outfit before leaving the house. It’s good to ask yourself, “If I bump into my competitor and a client comes over, who would that client most likely trust based on how we look?” Whether you’re a boss or an employee, a blazer is your best bet because it upgrades any clothing—so always carry one. Are you looking out for a promotion not just in terms of performance but style, too? Ditch the hoodie and go for a chic bomber jacket in case an emergency meeting comes up.
Don’t over-accessorize. “My rule of thumb is that you cannot have more than four accessories,” says Altaire. A pair of earrings counts as one, so does a ring, a necklace, a watch, and a bracelet. Avoid wearing too many bracelets at the same time—they make noise when you’re typing or even as soon as you enter the boardroom.
A sophisticated watch is a must-have for men. Altaire notes, “It shows professionalism and that you’re always aware of everyone else’s schedule.”
Don’t sacrifice functionality over style when it comes to bags. Entrepreneurs are always on the go, so a roomy bag that carries a laptop, chargers, notebooks, and even spare clothes is a must-have. But keep in mind not to go for goofy designs such as cartoon characters. The best way to know if your bag is business-appropriate? “If you have a three-year-old son and he likes your bag, then that is the wrong bag,” Altaire advises.
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