The Style Quotient

This year I promised you that we will have the best of professional advice, so instead of pretending I know it all; I’d rather bring you to the experts.

So, what should you wear to work and how to get the right look- how about hearing from Mary Jo Matsumoto who is a designer of luxury goods that includes clothing, accessories, and perfume. She also works as an image consultant with a wide range of clients ranging from ladies who lunch to Fortune 500 mover and shakers. Her nationally syndicated lifestyle blog, has a feed to the New York Times, Wall Street Journal, CNN Money, Lexis Nexis, Kindle and other major venues. The beauty editor at Affluent Magazine talks to us here today.

We all want to be stylish- how do you think it impacts our presence in our professional space?
Style tells a story without words. It's the first thing people take in before you open your mouth. It may sound basic, but dressing well and appropriately makes you feel better about yourself. I've seen this first-hand as clients who came to me feeling unsure of their dressing choices literally transformed in their career (and personal life) when they showed up at work looking pulled together and professional and began receiving compliments from higher-ups and important colleagues on their attire. When you show up looking like you can do the job, it sets off a nice chain reaction. People will have more confidence in you and treat you more respectfully. When you're treated with more respect, you rise to the occasion and perform better. Good performance is usually rewarded.

What according to you are the three staples that every newbie (male and female) should have in their wardrobe?
I believe in coordinating pieces that can be mixed and matched to really extend the look of your wardrobe. Here are the three basics to start with:

1) A nice white shirt that fits well and is well-made. White paired with a black or navy suit is classic and it will always make a more casual look pulled together.

2) A great jacket. Even if you have a job that doesn't require you to wear a suit, a great jacket will pull your outfit together. If you are just investing in one jacket, find one that has a well-made lining (that will extend the life of your jacket) and that looks great with skirts (for the ladies), dress pants, and can also be worn with more casual looks. I had to seriously convince one of my clients to spring for a beautiful tweed Armani jacket that cost as much as a more formal Armani suit he was buying. "But it doesn't even come with pants!" he argued. I knew that while part of his job was spent in a corporate office, he also had important meetings that took place on job sites where he needed to wear jeans. I also knew that these were important meetings on which millions of dollars were at stake and this well-made beautiful jacket worn with jeans would give him just the perfect amount of clout. I can't tell you the number of times he has finished up a meeting and called to thank me for recommending that jacket!

3) Shoes! I could write a book about this but I'll keep it brief. Try and find something classic, slightly conservative or at least not too decorative, so that it will go with as many of your business looks as possible. If you consider the number of hours you'll be wearing these, you'll think twice about buying a pair that is less than comfortable.

What should we look for while shopping?
The two key elements that separate a great look from an okay one are fit and quality. If you want to look your best you need to pay attention to the fit. Does it hang right? Do your pants graze your shoe at the right place? Do your sleeves hit your wrist at the right place? Is it too tight? Does it ride up? A good fit will enhance your appearance and minimize your flaws. It will be comfortable but not baggy.

Quality is not the same thing as price, but often it will be more expensive. Cheap fabrics will not last and you'll end up needing to replace them after (or in the middle of a season). If you save and buy something well made it can and will last you many seasons. Designer names often (but not always) equate quality. Consider the fabric. Does it feel good on your skin or scratchy? Then consider how many hours a day you spend at the office, plus add in the time commuting and going out with colleagues after work. I believe it's worth it to invest in clothing that will make you look and feel good.

Why are colors so important in a wardrobe? What do they say about you?
Colors telegraph self image. Darker colors are more serious than lighter ones, it's that simple. I think it's important to consider big picture career goals when you're looking to build or revamp your business wardrobe. Do you want to be liked or respected? If you're conscious about the colors you wear to work, you can affect your paycheck--I've seen it happen!

One client came to me frustrated because he was getting passed by for promotions repeatedly despite the fact that he was more experienced and knowledgeable than his colleagues who were being promoted. We sat down and talked about his career objectives. He wanted to be promoted to Vice President and hopefully one day be considered to run the company. I asked him how the people who were Vice Presidents dressed and how the CEO of the company dressed. We decided that instead of dressing like the Vice President that he hoped to be, to dress as if he were running the company. (This is not always the right strategy for every situation, but in this case it worked!) We picked out more somber colors, power colors if you will. In the past he had worn a lot of brown and gray--they did not compliment his complexion and they definitely did not stand out. He decided on 3 beautiful suits that were in a much darker color range than he normally wore. In a midnight navy suit, it was if he came into sharp focus. Not only was he promoted to Vice President within 3 months, but he was being groomed to be the next President of the company by the CEO himself!

Thank you!

An Armani jacket might not be the right fit for the newbies pocket but you get the point, dress your part! Yes, it helps most of the time. When I got a raise and was meeting more clients, my CEO wanted me to come dressed more professionally so I was ready to meet clients at moments notice. Point taken. I gave up my relaxed look to get the I-am-ready- look.

By the way, if you haven’t noticed, Mary’s site usually has some amazing give away’s every week and I recently won a cute bag. If you are planning on adding quality products to your wardrobe, try her site and then go shopping!

(Pic Courtesy- Mary Jo Matsumoto)


Unknown said...

Thank you Soma for including me in your series! It was an honor to be part of it. I've been reading your other posts and your blog has so much helpful information about succeeding at work--good job!

Mary Jo

Rock Couture said...

LOVE IT! Mary Jo is awesome!

The Image Expert said...

It's true -- the way you dress, your image, affects the way you think, the way you act, the way you feel and only then, the way that others respond to you. The quickest way to boost your self esteem is to dress nicely.

SIPM said...

@Mary Jo- Appreciate you taking the time and agreeing to do this. Thank you again.