by Courtney Wong
Photography Courtesy of Carina Lee
The alarm rings to signal the start of another day. While some throw on jeans and a sweatshirt to hustle to their 8:00 a.m. classes, others iron their suits for another nine to five day at work. Wherever people hurry off to in the morning, the day-to-day choices of what to wear play a large part in how the outside world perceives them.
Fashion is not exclusive to trend setters and runway designers. Every day people wake up and rummage through their closets until they settle on the perfect outfit that, at some point, they bought out of necessity or desire. Whether they are conscious of it or not, it makes a statement about who they are. This idea of a personal ‘brand’ is very important in the workforce. From the retail sales associate to the corporate mogul, every workplace maintains a certain atmosphere that reflects a certain culture or lack thereof.
Michelle Sullivan, a recently inducted professor in Boston University’s College of Communication, has witnessed the power and importance of fashion in the advertising industry and as a professor at BU.
“In the academic environment here at BU, the agency world and the corporate world the clothes you choose––the brands, shoes, handbags––become a part of how others see us,” said Sullivan.
According to Sullivan, what people choose to wear to interviews, work and class creates an image of their ‘brand’ to onlookers. While Sullivan’s coworkers may sport casual looks, she prioritizes a more professional, put-together style––regardless of her environment.
“I never felt comfortable coming into the office or this environment at BU with a t-shirt or shorts or flip flops,” Sullivan said. “I want my brand to be a little more polished.”
The power of fashion extends beyond the appearance of the wealth and status clothes and accessories can typically symbolize. Instead, style reflects personality and makes a statement about who you are and who you want the world to see you as.
Kirstin Fong (Questrom ’19) interns at a boutique wealth management firm in Boston. Everyday at work Fong gets to experience a relatively professional environment, and she must dress the part. While her go-to look for days off is a t-shirt and jeans, she wears business casual attire to her job. According to Fong, she draws inspiration for her own professional style from her co-workers’ outfits because she feels it is important for her look to represent the company brand.
“There is some expectation that everyone will be dressed in at least business casual,” said Fong. “There really isn’t a formal dress code.”
Unspoken rules curate the style everyone is expected to adhere to. The culture of the firm is a serious and professional one, and the employees follow suit. People subscribe to an atmosphere that reflects who they want to be through their clothing choices.
High fashion is not for everybody, and many people do not want to spend hours trying to pick out the perfect outfit everyday. However, the power of fashion in the workplace is immense. A message and a brand are manifested every time someone walks out the door in the morning. It is imperative the clothing they choose to wear fits the environment and the image they strive to convey at work, school, and anywhere in between.
Sullivan suggested a tip for anybody––especially undergraduates––to consider when they go to an interview: “Always wear a suit. It does not matter where you’re going, doesn’t matter what city––Boston, LA, New York, Minneapolis––if you’re going on a job interview, always wear a suit.”