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How to Dress Well

Updated on March 31, 2010

Whether applying for a job, attending a party, going on a hike, going to church, or visiting friends and family, these timeless principles will help you decide how to dress well for the occasion and create a good impression.

1. Stay away from new fads.

Most people can judge a person's character by his or her appearance, and wearing overly trendy clothing that labels you to a particular generation or social/emotional class will automatically put you in a certain character "box" in people's minds, as unconsciously as it may be done. Wearing slightly outlandish, edgy clothing will tell people:

  • I belong to a certain peer group and care only what they think of me.
  • I am uncomfortable being myself and dressing as would best complement my appearance, therefore I must look to the latest fads and trends to "fit in" with the cultural set I want to belong to.
  • I am a product of my generation; I can't relate to any other generations.
  • I am indecisive; I can't decide for myself which styles would work on my figure.
  • I am an unstable, transient, changeable person because I am no longer satisfied with the clothing style I was wearing a year ago.

Dress well to create a good first impression.
Dress well to create a good first impression.

2. Stay away from old fads.

Just as it is good for your image to stay away from new fads, it is also expedient to stay away from the flighty trends of a few decades ago. Wearing an item of clothing from an older pop-fad can instantly give people a wrong impression of your character. They will assume you are living in the past, unable to cope with life in the present, and that you are perhaps stubborn and narrow-minded. You may give the impression of being inflexible or dense to the changing needs of the current society.

What is a good balance? Find a timeless style that suits you, neither rejecting old or new without good reason. Many fashions from older decades have stayed around or been brought back into circulation with success because they are the styles that are always flattering and complementary, easily fitting into the wardrobe of any generation.

Formal or informal? Warm or cool?
Formal or informal? Warm or cool?

3. Dress appropriately for the occasion.

 If you have attended similar events in the past, try to remember what was worn and what would have been convenient or inconvenient. It should go without saying to dress according to the invitation's direction, whether it be "black tie," "formal," "informal," "casual," etc. If you aren't sure what items of clothing fall under these categories, talk to one of the clerks in a department store or outlet store. They are usually very helpful and knowledgeable about what colors, textures, styles, and items of clothing would be appropriate.

If you are going to be doing a lot of manual labor during the day, or will be going from recreation outside to dinner inside, choose clothing that gives you good coverage without needing constant adjustment, as well as sturdy, flexible, and well-fitting.

Also, relieve yourself from embarrassment or discomfort by checking the weather forecast before dressing and leaving the house. If the temperature is subject to change, then find some coordinating layers that you could put on or take off as needed.

4. Dress with propriety and modesty.

Dressing well means honoring others by your clothing choices, and nothing could be more dishonoring in dress than to wear something that reveals too much, that gives the wrong impression of your character, or that incites others to improper thoughts. There are many flattering shirts, jackets, dresses, pants, skirts, etc., that are flattering and complementary to any kind of figure and at the same time do not cause anyone else embarrassment or shame by seeing you in them. Many try to make a good impression on others in their own age group without thought for the older or younger generations who will be seeing them. Young children can often be blunt and clueless about a person's appearance, and they will often say out loud what everyone else is thinking. Many embarrassing situations could've been avoided if someone would have dressed that morning with the honor and respectability of others in mind. Your goal in choosing clothing should never be to attract attention to certain aspects of body shape or physique. Your goal should be to honor others by giving your body proper covering, deeming the inside person and character of more value than the outside. People will then be attracted to your personality and impressed by your integrity of character (if you have it) than merely your outward appearance.

Mend and repair your clothing to show that you are responsible.
Mend and repair your clothing to show that you are responsible.

5. Keep your clothing clean, wrinkle-free, and mended.

Though it has recently become the fad to wear worn-out and wrinkled clothing, it is rarely impressive to others, and soon wears out far faster than it should. Invest in sturdy, high-quality clothing that is not excessively pre-worn or sanded, not thin to the point of see-through, and that will provide years of service as well as a multitude of savings.

Use a lint brush and an iron before getting dressed in the morning, and smell and examine clothing before deciding to wear it again. Wash your clothing gently and repair small snags or holes before wearing again or washing to avoid making the holes worse. 

6. Wear colors and patterns that suit you.

If you aren't sure what colors and patterns look good on you, ask a friend or family member who is honest and kind to evaluate your closet or take you shopping. Take note of colors that bring out colors in your eyes, give life to your skin, and make you feel like yourself. What are the colors you tend to gravitate to more frequently? What are the items of clothing you tend to get the most complements for? What colors and patterns make you feel confident and comfortable? Let the answers to these questions be your guide. 

Also, realize that certain colors consistently give certain mental or emotional impressions to others:

  • Red: dominance, authority, anger, leadership, boldness, romance, excitement.
  • Orange: comfort, warmth, vivacity, conversational, homey, sociable, adventuresome, hearty appetite.
  • Yellow: cheerfulness, spunk, joy, light, energy.
  • Green: life, renewal, natural, earthy, fresh.
  • Blue: serene, placid, soothing, cool, contentment, moodiness or sadness.
  • Purple: creativity, royalty, mystery, spirituality, (and in some cultures, death).
  • White: innocence, purity, clean, sanitary, fresh, holiness.
  • Black: elegance, sophistication, capability, and darkness/death.
  • Pink: youthful, feminine, innocent, childish, sweet, kind, healthy.
  • Brown: warmth, ease, comfort, homey, woodsy, natural.

There are few other principles you can follow that will do so much to help you dress well and give a good first impression as these. Don't forget to put on a smile: that will light up your face with a radiance no clothing could ever achieve!

© 2009 Jane Grey


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