How to dress for success | Different perspectives

It’s the final day of a design course and you have to present your design to your tutors and fellow students: what are you going to wear? When choosing an outfit for your presentation, do you think about how it will match with your posters and the concept of your building, do you want to look extra stylish and official today or do you just wear something that you would wear any other day of the year? It’s quite interesting how presenting yourself can be seen as a distinguishable trait between architects. Some want to stand out by dressing boldly or extremely minimalistic, but in what way does the way you present yourself, influence your success as an architect or a designer in general?

When looking from a very theoretical perspective, your appearance does not in any way affect your actual personality or your values as a human being. However, when looking into the subject from a more practical perspective, people’s impressions of you are heavily affected by your appearance. In an article by Smith (2014), she explains that one of the most important ways of getting people to trust your capabilities is, besides of course a certain level of communicative skills, by having a certain appearance.. About this specific appearance, she wrote that there are seven tips you should consider when ‘dressing for success’:

1. Don’t show too much skin.

2. Never wear dirty clothes.

3. Don’t wear wrinkled clothing.

4. Wear clothes that fit you well.

5. Always follow the dress code.

6. Wear appropriate shoes and accessories.

7. Don’t wear shorts.

Although certain points are very much considered as a standard conception of dressing appropriately, such as no dirty or wrinkled clothes, other points may restrict us architecture students from wearing our eccentric clothing. Tip 1 of ‘not showing too much skin’ is most probably one that stems from a more conservative period in time where the presence of “naked skin” is tightly connected to the professionality of a person. Nowadays, a lot of new ways have been found of dressing appropriately while still showing some skin. Simultaneously, the trend of oversized clothing has also definitely reached a peak, especially at our faculty where loose jeans and big sweaters have already become a staple in everyone’s closet. This possibly shows that these 7 tips are possibly more aimed at a more business-oriented career path than one of a designer.

Also worth mentioning is that the phrase “dress for success” originally stems from a manual written by John T. Molloy in 1975 called “Dress for Success”. 4 years later he produced a similar manual called “Women: Dress for Success”. In both manuals Molloy used quantitative testing to see how individuals reacted to the use of certain clothing objects in business attire to find the most effective outfit for both men and women (Entwistle, n.d.). You can already guess, solely by the divide of gender between the manuals, that this testing process came down to men needing to dress adequately and women needing to “managing the sexuality of their bodies” . Concludingly, the phrase ‘dressing for success’ can be deemed old-fashioned but it still does not take away the perception that almost everyone has when judging someone’s appearance.

Additionally, I also believe that a person’s eccentric clothing style can positively influence their appearance. While a colourful tie could make the difference at a serious business firm, one may choose to wear a neon green oversized leather jacket to their job at an architecture firm. This is of course depending on the field of expertise of the architecture firm, but I think wearing such striking clothing could very much carry an essence of daringness that the firm might want to emit. Examples of people wanting to emit the essence of their business through their clothing are Steve Jobs, minimalistic and sleek, or Zaha Hadid, a monochromatic, voluminous clothing style accentuating the structure of the clothing, which is in line with her daring, sculptural architecture.

Concludingly, a person’s clothing style can make them more memorable and it can also help people to understand their design style from a different perspective. While wearing a bright green leather jacket to your job interview might be a bit bold for a first impression, it still depends on the job you are applying for what the reaction may be. I believe it can be said that the key to dressing for success is to have your clothing support the design style that you use instead of overshadowing it. So if you are still wondering what to wear for your next presentation, make sure it suits you and your presentation as well!


- Smith, J. (2014, August 22). Here’s How Your Clothing Affects Your Success. Retrieved 7 February 2021, from 8?international=true&r=US&IR=T

- Entwistle, J. (n.d.). Dress for Success. Retrieved 8 February 2021, from,sartorial%20presentation%20in%20 the%20workplace.