There is always information about how to dress for different situations. Some of us spend a great deal of time thinking about how we should dress for professional and personal situations.
One aspect I try to consider when I dress is to dress to connect. What will help me connect with the people around me?
I realized the importance of this many years ago when I was working as a consultant dietitian for a long-term care company. When I went into one of the company’s nursing homes it was usually to evaluate the operation of the food service department. To do this I had to be in the kitchen and in the dining rooms. If I was going to be able to do my job well, I had to be comfortable. I also needed to look professional to gain credibility. I dressed in slacks, a shirt or sweater, flats with a decent sole so I didn’t slip, and a lab coat.
Many of the consultant nurses I worked with had a different opinion. They dressed in short, tight skirts and high heels. I thought that was rather foolish; how can you work dressed like that? An aspect that I did not consider until I overheard some of the staff nurses talking was that the facility nurses did not respect the consultant nurses simply because of the way they dressed. The consultants did not look like they wanted to actually help, they looked like they just wanted to sit behind a desk and tell others what to do. It was very difficult for the consultants to get the facility nurses to even listen to what needed to be done.
Additionally, these consultant nurses (not all the nurses I worked with were like this) liked to wear jewelry; big, expensive jewelry. The facility nurses took this as the consultants were showing off how much more money they made. It caused resentment, which further eroded the credibility of these consultants. It never would have occurred to me that staff might feel resentment over what jewelry someone else wore, but I can see it now.
I think a good rule of thumb is to dress a level or two above those you will be working with to look professional and gain credibility, but not so far above that you lose respect.