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Women's Wear Daily

by Julie Blaser, Tero Intern 2005 and 2006, and Becky Rupiper-Greene, Senior Training and Image Consultant, Tero International

You start the day by deciding whether to get up right away or hit the snooze button. You decide whether to hit the gym or sleep in longer. You decide whether to walk the dog or just let the dog loose in the backyard. You decide whether to scramble eggs or have oatmeal for breakfast. You decide if you will brush your teeth or cut it short with a stick of gum. And the inevitable decision; you decide what to wear. How many times have you stood in front of your closet in the morning, asking yourself that very question? What you decide to put on in the morning may be more important to your career than you realize.

Employees in today's atmosphere are judged and perceived by their clothes, personal grooming, and overall appearance. Dr. Albert Mehrabian, a professor at the University of California, has done comprehensive research on communication and found that 55% of the impact we make during face to face communications is a result of non-verbal factors, such as our appearance and body language. Paying attention to the messages we are sending is critical to personal success and there is even more to be aware of if you are a female.

Peter Glick at Lawrence University conducted a study on women in the workplace. The results showed that, "A provocatively dressed woman in a managerial role evoked hostile emotions and was deemed less intelligent. For women, it's not just about physical attractiveness; it's about how you play it up. If you look too sexy, the stereotype is that you're not that bright, and that's certainly not beneficial if you're planning to move up the ladder." Becky Rupiper-Greene, Tero Training and Image Consultant, has been training corporate employees, college students, politicians, and individuals in the art of projecting a professional image for over 14 years. She agrees with Glick and says, "The more skin that a woman shows in the office, the less respect that is shown to her."

Many times individuals think the professional attire information doesn't pertain to them because they are satisfied in their position or have already reached the top. According to Rupiper-Greene, "Even after successfully climbing the corporate ladder, it is imperative that a woman continue to dress professionally and avoid wearing provocative clothing to the office. She may not be trying to get a promotion, but she will still be promoting her ideas and credibility to her colleagues every day. Plus, women are constantly looking for role models. Having female executives who exemplify how to dress professionally and achieve career success is something we are truly in need of today."

In addition to setting a positive example for your coworkers, a number of uncomfortable situations could be avoided with the proper attire. Rupiper-Greene said, "Revealing styles in the office have also created managerial dilemmas. Male supervisors are worried about pointing out the inappropriateness of provocative attire at the risk of the comments being misconstrued as a form of sexual harassment. And female supervisors are concerned about being accused of sounding catty or jealous when addressing the issue. Thus, managers often avoid the conversations, and without repercussions, the use of revealing clothing flourishes as co-workers assume it must be acceptable."

Although there are countless advantages for women who dress professionally, many women can feel restricted and unable to express themselves in professional attire. However, Rupiper-Greene stated, "Women can express their creativity and femininity while looking professional. The first step is to wear clothing that complements their figure and fits properly. Incorporating accessories is a perfect way to add a creative or feminine edge without diminishing a professional appearance."

Many of us have plenty to think about, and the message we send through our appearance isn't always the first thing to cross the mind. However, it has a tremendous amount of influence on how you are perceived and your career success.

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