Jennifer Niehouse, wardrobe stylist of Brand U, has more than nine years of experience working with clients at all levels in a variety of businesses. Here she shares some insight to how employees dress influences an organization’s overall identity.

Every company has its own unique culture. What you create internally has a direct impact on the company’s image externally. When culture shapes your company’s brand and values, you want your employees to represent that brand the best they can every working day.

In the last couple decades, most of us have experienced workplace transformations and technology, specifically, has forced companies to revamp their environments, which has fueled changes in the culture. One basic example is ‘business casual.’ “Comfort” has become dominant fashion requirement and widely popular among employees due to long hours spent working at computers. However, dressing comfortably can create dress code confusion.

In the past, dressing for the office typically wasn’t an issue. With the aid of John T. Malloy’s, Dress For Success, most everyone understood what “power dressing” meant. If there was a wardrobe concern, HR simply instructed the non-conformer to refer to the company’s policy handbook.

Advocating and implementing a ‘dress code’ can be tricky though.

  1. It can feel controlling and restrictive to the employee.
  2. It can feel like the employer is intruding on the employee’s personal space.

Counting on employees to use their best judgment when dressing for the office is one thing, but what happens when the fashion industry promotes a style that may seem okay for some people to wear to work, but HR or management may see it differently?

Today’s dress norms are also evolving because the workforce is a blend of people from all cultural backgrounds, beliefs and generations (and fashion interests). It’s important to take a fresh look at how you approach workplace attire. We’ve reached the exact opposite of Malloy’s ‘dress-for-success’ conformity by instead allowing employees to express themselves in how they dress without compromising the company’s image and integrity.

Encouraging employees to express their ‘personal brand’ successfully (and fashionably) positions them as an investment in the company. Therefore, it’s advantageous to explain ‘WHY’ it’s worth their while to dress well every day.

Maybe ‘dress-for-success’ is a little dated, but without a doubt, clothes have a huge impact on how we feel, our confidence levels and how we interact with others. How your employees ‘look’ and represent the company is a direct extension of your brand, so make sure you’re workplace attire exemplifies fashionable success internally and externally.

Bottom line: Your appearance tells your story.