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‘Intelligent Dressing’ for the Party Season


The party season is upon us and the question is, is your office party a social event or a career opportunity? And do you think about your visual impact? Consultant Mike Morrison explains the art of "intelligent dressing".

Some of us plan what we are going to wear for impact in the workplace – others just put on what they feel like wearing. What is the impact of wearing the wrong or the right clothes at the wrong or the right time? Can it really inhibit our promotion – or accelerate it?

As a young professional I remember thinking about what to wear for the Christmas 'works do' and increasing my chances of dating an employee. I remember one particular event when I chose to wear a gold shirt (don't ask!) and black trousers. For days after the event people around the organisation kept asking me about 'that' shirt. Memories of 'that shirt' carried on for a long time. For many in the organisation it was the biggest impact I had on them – but what was the long term cost?

Some years later I learnt the art (and science) of "Intelligent Dressing" from Peter Landau, successful business man and entrepreneur. He was inspired by NLP to look beyond the language we use and look at the sartorial and visual language we use.

He told the story of an organisation he worked for which had a dress down Friday. The leaving presentation for the director of the organisation was to be on (you guessed it) a Friday and to be presented by their successor (promoted from within the organisation). Peter decided to use "Intelligent Dressing" (ID) to demonstrate its influence to some colleagues. His goal was to show the impact dress down Friday was having on the decreasing morale and success of the business. Peter wore a crisp suit and smart tie. The new director looked uncomfortable seeing Peter wearing the suit, others commented on how good he looked. The centre of attention had moved from the new director to Peter. This simple demonstration showed how precarious the leadership balance is.

Peter uses the phrase "Intelligent Dressing" to reflect the power of subliminal messages carried in the clothes we wear. For example how often do you watch a TV programme – the news or a daytime programme and just know the person is wearing the wrong thing?

As Billy Connolly said "I hate the tabloid press for what it does to people. Never letting them be intelligent. 'I hate all those weathermen, who tell you that rain is bad weather. There's no such thing as bad weather, just the wrong clothing."

From a psychological point of view, much of this has been programmed into us from our formative years and most importantly from our teenage years – the success of wearing the right brand, the right footwear, having the 'in' gadgets etc. This has helped to set up how we react at a subconscious level.

For some it is the colours we wear (my shirt example) for others it is style and accessories. The way we look helps to build a picture and image in the minds of others as to what we are like. We all have our own perceptions and prejudices. We may know what some peoples 'hot buttons' are – for others we will not (visible undergarments etc).

So if you are going out on the company event, what is your goal – short term or long term? Who are you trying to influence? What will be the impact on others? And is that important?

Or maybe you are just the mystery buyer of the £460,000 little black dress!

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Mike Morrison is an organisational and management development specialist with 20 years experience. For further information visit Rapid Business Improvement. The term "Intelligent Dressing" is © Peter Landau and is used with permission.


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