I’ve seen lots of exceptions to the rule, but when it comes down to winning the confidence of a business audience, you need to look professional, but not mundane. You need to look distinctive, but not loopy.
Consider who your client is. Whether you’re an outside counsel or an in-house communications pro, your look shouldn’t be too far out of synch with the expectations of your client.
Senior executives of major corporations expect their business advisors to look, talk and act like business people. The same goes for medium-sized businesses, and even many small shops.
When the creative director of an agency shows up, the business types expect the bohemian look. When they turn to a public relations advisor, they want someone who looks like they understand business.
Sometimes they are willing to accept eccentric geniuses who look scruffy but have brilliant ideas. Unless you’re well on your way to being a distinctive brand of your own, you should look the part of the business person.
The Hip Look
The technology industry can be different. When even the CEO is in denim, coming to a meeting in a full suit can make you look out of place. Think Steve Jobs and other execs who use a sport jacket or a turtleneck to give them the sleek lines of a business suit without the suit.
The casual look is just as much a uniform that says something about you as the business suit.
Whatever you do, don’t try to be hipper than you are. It’s possible to fake being more conservative than you are, but faking hipness never works.
Don’t apologize for who you are. But don’t undermine your credibility by underdresssing for an important meeting.
Check out Omiru.com’s What to Wear to a PR Interview (for women): "The perfect interview outfit for a fashion public relations firm is one part fashion-forward and one part professional. So while you want to show that you’re in the know with up-to-the-moment trends, reign in the tendency to go all out."