I have a friend who recently posted on her own blog a rant about how women in academia are expected to dress, something that would never happen to a man. She talks about how some professional women in academia are telling emerging academic women not to show their cleavage and other, frankly inappropriate, advice on how to dress and how to conduct themselves. The implication is, of course, they can’t be taken seriously if they don’t dress appropriately.
I will leave you to read her blog and form your own opinion on the issues she talks about. But her discussion about what women wear in the professional world of academia got me thinking. And I feel it is important to talk about what we wear as freelancers.
One of the first things people think about when they consider being a freelancer is they can work from home in their PJs all day. It’s like living the dream, breaking away from the shackles of the working world. It’s the ultimate protest against the 9-5 grind, right?
This may very well be true. But that doesn’t mean it’s good for you to dress in your PJs or even sweats all day every day. Why?
Because you can get into a rut that’s hard to get out of. I’ve been there. It’s easy to do it day in and day out. But I eventually get to the point where I realize I need to put on some nice clothes and feel part of the real world again — even if I’m still in my home
After all, how easy is it to feel confident and professional and high-performing if you are wearing your PJs or sweats all day every day? I’m not saying that self-confidence comes from the clothes you wear. Of course it doesn’t. However, the clothing you wear still has an affect on how you feel.
Your Clothing Can Affect Your Performance
There is a term floating around out there — enclothed cognition. It was coined by Adam Hajo and Adam D. Galinsky, of the Kellogg School of Management at Northwestern University, who conducted a study to see how much the clothing a person wears affects their psychological processes.
They had some participants wear a white lab coat and some wear no lab coat. Of those who were wearing the coat, some were told is was a physician’s lab coat and some were told it was a painter’s jacket. Then the participants were all given tasks to complete that required careful attention.
The people who thought they were wearing a physician’s lab coat performed better!
This is because we associate the clothing we wear with certain feelings and attributes. If we are wearing comfy clothes, such as sweats, we often associate this with feeling relaxed and comfortable. If we are wearing a business suit, we tend to associate this with professional conduct and high achievement.
In other words, the clothes we wear have a symbolic meaning to us. When we wear clothing we think represents professionalism and power, we will take on that persona. And we channel those feelings and that energy into the work we do.
Does that mean all our confidence and professionalism comes from our wardrobe? Again, absolutely NOT! But our clothes can still make us feel a certain way. They can still make us stand taller and straighter and hold ourselves differently.
Separate Business and Personal
One thing about wearing clothing that makes you feel more professional is it can help you make the divide between your professional and personal life more distinct. It’s so easy for the lines between work and home to be blurred when you work from home. It can make you feel as though you are never truly away from work or that you always have to be on all the time.
When you wear more professional clothing (whatever that means for you) during your workday, even if you are sitting in your home office, then change out of them and into those comfy sweats at the end of the workday, you can feel that division. It can help you shut off the work and transition into personal and family life more easily and more fully.
And quite frankly, that’s something that, as freelancers, we all need to do.
Wear What Makes You Feel Good
Please know that this post is not a statement that you should rush out and by a traditionally professional wardrobe. I am not telling you what to wear.
What I am saying is, our clothing matters. It matters a lot. If you are just wearing PJs and sweats because you can, because you think it’s the epitome of what it means to be a freelancer, or because you don’t want to be bothered getting dressed for your cat, then you might want to rethink your clothing choices.
Ultimately, you need to wear what makes you feel your absolute best — and that’s not going to be the same for everyone. My friend who wrote that blog post feels best in cute dresses. Some people feel they perform their best if they are in full business attire. Some feel their best in jeans and a blazer. And maybe some feel their best in their sweats.
Just dress with mindfulness and intention and you will rock your freelance world. In fact, let us know how you dress for freelance work in the comments section below!
And on that note, it’s time for me to get showered and dressed!