It’s a debate that’s more prominent than ever today: Do you perform better at work when you’re embracing casual clothes, or when you’re dressed to impress? With more than 1 in 10 UK workers now dressing completely casual, the smart vs casual dispute rages on…
S L I P P E R S O R S U I T
With that in mind, we decided to delve into the psychology of work wear, and interviewed a panel of inspirational women from a range of industries, who specialise in psychology through to fashion. We’ve explored three key performance areas to understand how our wardrobe can impact our performance…
M E E T O U R P A N E L
Dr Aurora Paillard
Senior lecturer and course leader for BSc Psychology of Fashion at the London College of Fashion.
Senior Vice President of Marketing at Business Insider, and regular thought leader on the subject of the psychology of performance.
Who was named one of The Drum’s ‘50 under 30’, which celebrates the achievements of young professional women.
Life coach, personal branding expert, and founder of SEVEN Career Coaching.
C O N F I D E N C E
We carried out a poll which revealed that when it comes to confidence at work, 70% of people say that dressing smart made them feel more confident. The concept of “power dressing” isn’t a new one. According to Dr Paillard’s research, “it’s proven that if you wear such clothes, or for example red lipstick, it can boost your confidence and you will perform better.”
Jess agrees that she’s “all for power dressing because I find my clothes are intimately connected with my state of mind and how assertive I feel, [and] it’s definitely great for days when you need that little boost.”
However, it seems that confidence and comfort often go hand in hand, with Jess going on to tell us that “the key to feeling confident in your clothes is a combination of wearing things you love the look of, but also items that you feel comfortable in.”
Jenifer feels the same, warning us not to “cave to the need to dress a part, like wearing a suit because you’re the boss.” She says “I don’t think I’ve ever worn a suit – it’s just not my style. I found what made me feel comfortable pretty early on and I stick with it.”
Hannah adds that “it’s knowing what works for my body shape – if I feel comfortable in what I’m wearing, then I normally feel confident.”
From a psychological point of view, Dr Paillard confirms that “your wellbeing will be higher if you’re wearing clothes you’re comfortable with and show who you are.” So next time you’re putting together your ‘power-dressing’ outfit or you’re thinking of donning the smart look for work – just make sure that you’re completely comfortable in what you’re wearing – to help keep your confidence levels sky-high.
P R O D U C T I V I T Y
When asked what made them feel more productive, there was a divide in answers – with 53% of voters opting for dressing smart, but 42% choosing casual dress. So what do our experts say when it comes to dressing for productivity?
Jenifer finds it helps sticking to a capsule wardrobe, saying: “I hate wearing something that doesn’t fit well – that’s a productivity killer. I try to keep the dressing drama to a minimum so I can focus on the task at hand. My entire closet is pretty much black, white, grey, navy, blue. If it’s well made, classic, and chic, I’m my most productive.”
Evelyn tells us that when it comes to her being as productive as possible, she goes with what she calls “smart practicality.” This means that she owns “jumpsuits and dresses that are easy to throw on and move in, so I can dash around. I love a one piece outfit for ease and efficiency.”
As someone who spends a lot of hours at her desk blogging, Jess finds that she is most productive in something that is relatively loose fitting, but also looks good: “I find when I feel put together, I can get a lot more work done and I’m less easily distracted.” So it appears that comfort and productivity are also linked!
When we asked Dr Paillard about productivity at work, interestingly she told us that “wellbeing is the key of productivity – it’s more than just your image.” So don’t forget that it’s just as important to feel good on the inside, to help you feel better on the outside and increase your productivity at work even more!
C R E A T I V I T Y
The majority of those who answered our poll – 81% – said when it comes choosing an outfit for work, dressing casual made them feel more creative. And our experts agreed.
Jenifer told us that “suits would kill it for me. It would feel unnatural to me and totally uncreative to have everyone dress the same. Personality is important. Structure is important – we’re all professionals and it’s important to set that tone – but too much structure kills creativity.” She adds that “if you need to be super creative, find what works for you and makes you feel great and take that additional stress out of your life.”
When we asked Evelyn whether she found certain clothes to boost her creativity, her top tip was colour: “I’m a fan of bright colours, and I like floaty – anything that moves and feels fun to wear. I like to move about and get more physical if I’m ideating.” Her floaty clothes tend to make her feel more expressive and creative, and when it comes to clothes limiting creativity, “anything restrictive, boned, too tight, a dud colour or itchy fabric, is a no no for me to get creative.”
So to get those creative juices flowing opt for colours, avoid anything too structured or tight fitting, and most importantly find what works best for YOU!
W H A T E L S E D O O U R E X P E R T S S A Y ?
Check out our interactive infographic below for more nuggets of wisdom from our panel:
S M A R T C A S U A L I S T H E R E A L W I N N E R ?
So whether you’re presenting in the office or working from home, rather than focusing on picking between smarter attire or a more casual look, focus on being yourself and feeling comfortable – to maximise your own performance at work. Perhaps that means that the smart casual look is the winner after all?
Why not also have a look at our infographic about how you can rock the smart casual look in every office environment