Raise Your Performance Higher : Dress Like You’d Desire

A friend recently reminded me, “Dress for the next job you’d like to have.” This sentiment is similar to the belief that you have to envision yourself having the ability to do something before you will actually achieve it. It happens first in the mind, then in reality.

Many years ago, when I was a residence hall advisor to a group of 50 young women, I used to tell them to wear nice clothes while they were studying for exams, to help them focus. Many girls thought my idea was a little bogus and continued donning their pjs.

Regardless, the way you dress does reflects what you value and what your interests are. In older times, your level of dress would tell someone automatically what your social class and level of prosperity were. Today, how we dress communicates something to those around us and communicates something to ourselves.

Image: Adam Foster

A recent study by Kellogg School of Management at Northwestern University, shows that what you wear actually affects your work performance. The study conducted a set of object recognition tests on participants wearing white jackets. Two groups were tested: those wearing the jackets believing they were in doctors’ gear and those wearing the same jackets believing they were in artists’ attire. Those wearing the doctors’ jackets performed better on the tests than those wearing the artists’ jackets.

This suggests that the emotive experience of wearer of the clothes, and meaning that person creates for the clothing, has an impact on behavior. In a work context, dress may make the difference between a captivating presentation or one that’s just above par. Not because of the clothes, but because of the way the person feels in the clothes. Maybe there was a little nugget of wisdom in my words to my advisees years ago, after all.


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