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You Should Dress Better Than Everyone Else -- But Just a Bit Better

By Casey C. Sullivan, Esq. | Last updated on

If you want to make a good impression, dress better than everyone else. But just 25 percent better.

That's right, looking just a tad sharper and a bit more polished than everyone else around you could be the key to success, whether you're trying a case, interviewing for a job, or just looking to impress your peers.

Brighter Brights, Whiter Whites

Here's the key to looking good: you want to look well put together while still being appropriate for your setting. You don't want to look like you're going to a gala event when you're just grabbing drinks with colleagues or on your way to the symphony when everyone else is coming back from the gym. But you also don't want to look like you're coming back from the gym.

That's where the 25 percent number comes in. In a recent column in Forbes, communications coach and author of "The Presentation Secrets of Steve Jobs" recounts advice doled out by James Citron, a CEO recruiter. When interviewing for a new job, a college grad should "do her homework and then be 25 percent more formal than the prevailing dress culture," Citron advises.

Dressing slightly better is even more important when you're in a position of importance. Gallo recounts a conversation with a "military hero" about leading a team into battle. The hero's advice:

That's a long answer, Carmine. But I can tell you it all starts with how you're dressed the first time you meet them. If your pants are whiter, your shoes are shinier, and your clothes are better pressed, you'll communicate confidence, a commanding presence. You're telegraphing that you're in charge.

What's 25 Percent Better?

How's this look in your day-to-day life? There are some easy ways to make yourself look a bit better than the rest, without having to invest in a whole new wardrobe every few months.

First, get things tailored. Having a shirt fitted costs only a few bucks and can make it look much more than 25 percent better. A bargain suit can look much more expensive after a few smart alterations. (And while "get it tailored" is common advice for menswear, this isn't just for guys, either. Tailoring is just as necessary for women.)

Secondly, take care of what you have. Spend a little extra time making sure your clothes are pressed and your shoes are polished. It'll make you look much more put together.

But most importantly, do some research. If you're going to a networking event where most people will be in jeans and sweaters, don't show up in a double-breasted suit. But if you're having lunch with lawyers from a white shoe firm, maybe leave the jeans and sweaters at home.

The key is standing out, just slightly, while still fitting in.

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