The cut of the cloth

If you want to ‘step-up’ in your career, you need to invest in that, writes Jackie O’Fee.

I recently was a “prize” in an incentive programme for a nationwide sales promotion run by a large nationwide corporate entity.

Along with a night in a city hotel, spa treatments and meals, the winners were to enjoy “A Day with a Stylist” including a Colour Analysis and Shape Analysis and of course, a trip around the shops with spending money. Yes, it was a fabulous prize.

Interestingly for me, the winners were two girls in their early 20s which is certainly outside of my normal client demographic.

If I’m honest, when these young women arrived at my studio for the first phase of the day, my initial thought was: “Will they think I am relevant or will they think I’m old and have no clue?”

For someone who is an expert at what I do, I admit to feeling slightly unsettled for a moment! As it transpired, we had a great day but as I do with all of the clients I work with, I learned something too.

We sat over our lunch together and made a plan for our shopping trip – or should that be, attempted to make a plan for our shopping trip as neither of the girls really had anything they truly wanted preferring instead to just “see what we like”.

This is harder for me than working with a client who has a predetermined outcome, as trailing around shops looking for something to leap out at you is a little too airy-fairy for my type A personality. Eventually one of the girls did express a desire to grab an outfit she could wear for a ‘step-up’ at work. At least I had something to work towards.

And so we began, starting at a boutique that I take many of my younger clients to. Although they loved the clothes, they were uncomfortable spending the dollars, instead suggesting we head to a cheaper outlet.

Now, I know we are all different but for me this felt like such a wasted opportunity and although I was keen for the winners to have the best afternoon shopping they could, I was disappointed for them.

So, off we went. As each of them took their haul to the fitting room I tried to add value with ideas for garments that would both flatter their colouring and shape, while also looking for pieces that would fit the brief of the “step-up” in role.

It was here I struggled most. You see, I have a belief that if you want to ‘step-up’ in your career, you need to invest in that.

I believe that if you want to be taken seriously, it may mean you need to spend more.

There is a lot to be said for a better quality of fabric, a better cut of jacket. These are things that are not necessarily obvious to all, but the absence of them will be.

The other thing that spending more does for you is that it adds to your confidence, makes you walk a little taller and carry yourself differently. I also believe it adds a sense of gravitas, that you may in fact not only be taken more seriously, but also take yourself more seriously.

I’ve written in previous columns about spending more and the way it alters others perceptions of you. Of studies that have compared images of a man in a cheap suit and one of him in an expensive one that looked the same – and in the few seconds these images were shown the scores for building trust and an impression of competence were significantly higher for those in the expensive one.

Am I saying you need to spend more to get ahead? No, but I am saying that the dollars you spend on your garments might just accelerate how fast you go.

Jackie O’Fee is the owner of leading personal style consultancy Signature Style. She works with both individuals and organisations.

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