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So, what do I wear?

It’s late in the evening

She’s wondering what clothes to wear

She puts on her make-up

And brushes her long blonde hair

And then she asks me, “Do I look alright?”

And I say, “Yes, you look wonderful tonight.” – Eric Clapton

Whenever you ask, “How do I look?” you always hope the answer is, “Fantastic”. We ask this question because how we look matters to us. Caring is one of the keys to developing a good personal image. This image – what we wear, how we look – represents not just how we choose to present ourselves, but also the importance we attach to the occasion. Casual, comfortable and stylish – this describes how everyone prefers to dress today. Jeans, for example, are now a must-have and are worn almost everywhere. So would I approve? Totally. I’m all for style with a dose of practicality. But when “casual” lapses into sloppy or inappropriate, I would definitely disapprove. Last night, I asked a friend what she thought of young girls wearing slippers for an evening out. That’s a definite ‘no’, she said, and I agree. Whether casual or formal, the principles of respect for the place you are in, plus a good measure of common sense, should guide your decisions.

Individuality and personal expression have their place, but the etiquette of grooming today involves rules that lay a great deal of emphasis on making sure others aren’t uncomfortable while interacting with us because of the way we are dressed.So, what’s appropriate?

When you’re wearing the right clothes, you feel confident. It’s one thing to stand out because you look great; it’s quite another because you look out of place. Sometimes, there are dress codes to follow, but more often than not, there are no rules. For example, you won’t go wrong wearing jeans to the movies or dressing up to go to the theatre. But what do you wear to dinner at a friend’s or to a charity event? Whenever in doubt, your best bet is to ask the host.Wearing jeans to a religious service is okay in some houses of worship but disrespectful in others. The question of traditional-versus-casual comes up in social situations as well. A sports jacket or cocktail dress are as casual as it can get for an evening do, while shorts and flip-flops are perfect for a barbeque. Tradition does hold its own against formal wear at any occasion.

Be prepared to adjust what you wear according to the situation. If you’re selling a concept to a board of directors, choose a suit. If you meet with a client at a media company where jeans and T-shirts are the norm, dressing too conservatively could signal that you’re out of touch with the culture there. Having your own style statement is a sign that your personal image matters to you. It’s simple, and you can fall back on it any time.

Next week: How to differentiate between business formals and semi-casuals and more dressing rules. Source: The Hindu

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