What does your wardrobe say about your professional headshot?

What does your wardrobe say about your professional headshot?

You don’t have to be a fashionista, nor a London Fashion Week regular, to be aware of how vital our dress sense is to our reputations. The clothes we wear send powerful signals to our peers and strangers, projecting the self-image of us that we want to display.

Yet, how many of us truly understand the psychology of how people that see our images interpret our wardrobe choices and how this impression might differ from the one we believe we’re conveying to them?

This article looks at how our fashion choices today affect our professional headshots and how those around us interpret our unconscious clothing choices in our images. 

Why clothing choices are essential for professional headshots

Clothes have not always been as influential a ‘tell’ of our personalities as they are today. Only due to technological advancements over centuries have fashion choices become significant.

In early civilizations, clothing was to keep us warm and relatively dry. Today, central heating warms our homes, reducing our dependence on clothes to help us survive. As a result, clothes have developed from a practical asset to a social marker, affecting how we see ourselves. 

The clothing we wear either puts us in the spotlight and exudes our personalities and social status or hides us, and we use them to blend in and not stand out or be seen. And most of the choices come from how we feel about ourselves, consciously or subconsciously.

Does your wardrobe project a good or bad image?

Aside from the adage of “dressing to impress,” what do we know about the psychology of clothing choices concerning headshots?

Have you ever been told that you can judge a man by his shoes? Unfortunately, it’s more complicated than that; you will likely not see your shoes in your headshot. However, not one particular article of clothing or style makes a person look more successful or less prosperous. However, it’s how the outfit and the confidence come together wearing a particular style.

Anything that looks like you have taken the time or made an effort is better than pulling something out of the closet and throwing it on. The worst clothing is the kind that tries to undo, ignore or hide where or who you are; the dress that shows you didn’t pay attention to your body/age/situation, or the suit that is old, ill-fitting with a very outdated tie, or clothing that is not clean and pressed or looks worn out. Not giving much thought to what you wear for your headshot sends the wrong message.

Rember that time when your friend dragged you out of the house and told you, “Get dressed up! You’ll feel better!” after your last breakup/failed interview/terrible day? They were onto something. “When you dress in a certain way, it helps shift your internal self. And when that shift happens, you instantly feel better about yourself, and your self-confidence rises; therefore, your headshot becomes substantially better.

The clothes you choose for your professional headshot send a message to those around you and yourself. So when choosing a wardrobe for your headshots, dress for your next position, dress for the job you want, and choose clothing that represents where you want to be, not necessarily where you are.

In “You Are What You Wear,” Dr. Baumgartner features some of the most common wardrobe and perception problems. For example, do you recognize yourself in any of the below?

If you …You might …Consider:
Keep every piece of clothing you’ve ever ownedBe clinging to the past through the sentimental value of your piecesAdopting the Golden Wardrobe Ratio: Get rid of 2 out of 3 items you own, including anything too big/small, ripped/torn or outdated.
Wear only neutrals, largely devoid of accessories.Be stuck in a psychological rut, too comfortable to shake it up, or too afraid to draw attention to yourself.Deviating from your routine in small ways (a different route to work, a few new spring accessories–like these inexpensive ways to incorporate trendy polka dots–to jog your brain into feeling excited
Dress in clothing too large for your body.See your body differently than others see it or as a reflection of how it once was.Bringing an honest friend shopping to find out what looks great on you, ignoring sizes, and getting used to wearing clothes that really fit.
Have you been told you’re dressed inappropriately or too sexilyConsider the same outfit appropriate for every occasion (i.e., clubbing and family barbecue), or be looking for the wrong kind of attention.Consider the image you want to project in given situations (at work, on the town) and choose outfits based on cues from those around you.
Dress too young (or too old) for your age.Be trying to express the age you feel you are, but getting caught between your actual and internal ageGearing your outfits toward your goals (like getting a promotion, meeting a significant other, traveling the world), rather than a specific age.
Are always in work clothesValue yourself primarily through your work and work-related accomplishments.Recognizing your talents outside of work (great artist, compassionate, fun to bring to parties, etc.)
Covered in designer logosThink you need to broadcast wealth to be treated well by othersPractice wearing “blank canvas” pieces and only accenting with logos to emphasize that people value you for more than your labels
Live in your “mom outfit” of jeans and a hoodiePut the needs of your family before your ownTake more “me time.” Remember: When mom isn’t happy, nobody is.

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