I like to think of myself as a person with good style. I definitely pay attention to fashion trends, and I try to incorporate them into my daily wardrobe choices along with a little bit of my own personal flair. But I will be the first to admit that I am also a bit of a copycat. When I see someone wear something I like, I try to recreate it. I tend to copy individuals named Reese Witherspoon, Rachel Bilson, or Gwyneth Paltrow, but often they are people of the less famous, but equally as talented variety: my co-workers.
I work with some people who dress incredibly well. I often find myself running out and buying the same (or very similar) fabulous pair of pants or a blouse they had on. I felt fine about taking a few style cues from my co-workers, but one day I realized I had bought the same blouse as our wonderful and super well-dressed CEO Caroline Ghosn. Did this look bad? Did I look like I was sucking up? Or wasn’t creative enough to come up with my own sense of style? Well, according to The Wall Street Journal, I had actually made a suave career move with my Zara purchase that day.
By paying attention to the style in my office, I showed that I cared about what we were trying to say about our company as a brand. It is also very important to be aware of the company culture and to not stick out too much in terms of apparel. Don’t dress down if you work in an office where everyone is wearing suits, and don’t wear a buttoned-up ensemble if everyone looks like they are dressed for a music festival. You have to read the room.
Dressing in a similar style as your boss also shows that you are looking ahead in your career. You are dressing for the job you want, not the job you have. Dressing like a higher up is an attempt to have more executive presence, a new term defined as the “wow” factor that makes great leaders stand out.
Sylvia Ann Hewlett, economist and the founding president of the Center for Talent and Innovation, said that one of the most important facets of executive presence is appearance. At an event hosted by Marie Claire last year Hewlett said, “Appearance is an extraordinarily powerful first filtering. It can get you knocked off the list in a second.” And though dressing similarly to your boss will get you some points, you have to be very careful to not completely copy them. You still need to have your own style (and that is why I paired my blouse with different pants).