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Week 4: Personal Appearance - The Silent Seller

Young Professionals Connection Personal Appearance

From previously working in the retail industry, I learned that visual merchandising is known as the silent seller. Mannequins display the way apparel and accessories are put together. The purpose of this visual technique is to attract, engage, and sell the merchandise without having a salesperson actually verbally selling it. This is the same concept with your personal appearance which can be considered your personal brand image.

Forget the old saying, “Don’t judge a book by its cover” because employers and peers do judge by first impressions and how you present yourself verbally and non-verbally. Personal appearance is a non-verbal and silent form of showcasing your personal brand image and how you want to be perceived. This is especially important in presenting a professional first impression during an interview and maintaining that image while in the workplace. During the interview it’s important to be well-groomed and professional. This means displaying good hygiene as well as an interview ensemble that is ironed, fitted, and appropriate based on your work environment. Once you’ve landed a job, upholding that professional image is vital in advancing your career. Dress code varies from different employment establishments, but from my experience in retail and speaking with various men’s and women’s retailers who specialize in career wear, I have established some guidelines in dressing for success in obtaining the job you want.

Get the Job You Want

Interview Process


Menswear specialists I spoke with suggest wearing either a charcoal, gray, or navy suit with a white or blue button up shirt paired with a more conservative tie and lace-up dress shoes. One gentleman explained to me that a black suit is still appropriate, but they prefer the other color options because they are easier to accessorize with multiple colors and styles of menswear.


Retailers suggest wearing a pantsuit or dress suit in a darker wash, such as charcoal, gray, navy, or black paired with a more conservative top. A conservative top means that it shouldn’t show a lot of cleavage, but it doesn’t mean to shy away from color. Color is appropriate with solid colored shirts being the preferred option. I would advise to stay away from bold prints and bright neon colors. Employers want to see you, not the bright shirt you’re wearing. When finding a pantsuit or dress suit, make sure the pants don’t drag on the floor if they are a basic trouser pant and remember to have the hemline of a skirt hit just at the knee or little bit below the knee. If you are petite, it’s better to keep the hemline of a skirt just above the knee. Another tip is to also keep hair, makeup, and jewelry minimal for an interview.

Just a reminder these tips may not all apply to every business. Businesses that are more in a creative field may have more flexibility in what they can wear to interviews. Please talk to other peers in your field about the work environment if you are unsure on what to wear.

At the Workplace

Now this is the time to highlight and express your personality through your appearance and brand image. Don’t know where to start?

Starter Items


  • Suit
  • Navy Sports jacket
  • White & blue button-up shirts
  • Black dress shoes
  • Tie


  • Pantsuit or Dress suit
  • White button-up shirt
  • Straight or pencil skirt
  • Black trouser pants
  • Blazer
  • Cardigan
  • Sheath dress
  • Black heels

You don’t have to have all of these items, but it helps when putting a work appropriate ensemble together. Work appropriate clothing and accessories are endless, there are numerous ways apparel, accessories, and even shoes can be mixed and matched together. Remember it’s not about having the most expensive or trendiest wardrobe. It’s about looking professional and polished by wearing work attire that is both functional and stylish while still expressing your personal brand image.

If you do have some or all of these items and want an extra oomph to your wardrobe, the following are some ways to differentiate yourself from other co-workers and it may even catch the eye of your superiors. The three additional techniques I personally use to boost a bland outfit are to add color and print, texture or shine.

Techniques to Boost Your Outfit

Color and Print

Men could wear a colored button-up shirt or printed tie, or even a sports jacket that is a print, such as plaid. Women could use color or print in a shirt or skirt, or can accessorize with colored jewelry or shoes.


This means adding different types of textures, such as leather, linen, corduroy, fur, velvet, or tweed. Men could wear a corduroy blazer or linen pants. Women could wear a tweed skirt or a cashmere sweater.


Men could add shine by wearing a watch or cuff links. Women could wear metallic jewelry, an embellished top, or even a metallic hair accessory. 

Your personal brand should reflect your personality and how you want to be received. By engaging and putting that little extra effort into your brand image, this silent seller can take you farther in your career.

She works as the Marketing Coordinator at Kidder Benefits Consultants, Inc. Has experience in the retail industry through formerly being a manager at BCBG Max Azria and also has a degree in fashion merchandising.

Kristin Gredy Headshot




Kristin Gredys

Marketing Committee Member

Young Professionals Connection (YPC)

The Young Professionals Connection (YPC) promotes an environment that attracts and retains young professionals in Greater Des Moines (DSM). YPC connects young professionals to each other and to the community through social, civic, charitable and professional development endeavors. YPC members have unique opportunities to grow personally and professionally and forge lasting relationships. They engage, connect and form a foundation for their future in DSM. YPC is an initiative of the Greater Des Moines Partnership.