How to Dress for Success in Times of Stress

By Joanne Blake | Dress & Image

Jul 28

Style and Manners Advice for Hugely Important Occasions

Sweating about:Style and Manners Advice for Hugely Important Occasions

Meeting the in-laws?

A make or break job interview?

Face-to-face with online date?

Walking onstage for a public presentation?

Is your heart racing just thinking about these scary first impression scenarios?

What would you wear?

How should you act?

Here’s the clothing tips and etiquette advice you need.


The Edmonton Journal recently interviewed me for a story on dress for the stress or maybe I should say dress for success in times of stress. Reporter Janet Vlieg ran these panic inducing scenarios past me and penned a great story around my clothing and etiquette tips.

Here’s the link to the enlightening Edmonton Journal article that was picked up by numerous media across Canada including the Saskatoon Star Phoneix and the Vancouver Province.

Excerpt from Edmonton Journal Article:

Here are Blake’s top tips for making an impact in high-stress occasions:

Let’s face it: what’s most nerve-racking about making a good first impression is the fear of, well, not making a good first impression. Whether it’s that initial coffee date with an online match, being introduced to the in-laws, going to a job interview, or walking onstage for a public presentation, we want to make a positive impact.

What not to do is the stuff of nightmares, or sitcoms. Local image consultant Joanne Blake, owner of Style for Success, knows all about embarrassing wardrobe malfunctions. But she doesn’t run her business by dwelling on worst-case scenarios. Common-sense style advice is her forte and it goes a long way toward easing first-impression jitters.

No doubt you’ve bought a new outfit for the big occasion. Start preparing by giving it a thorough test drive at home: sit, stand, stretch, cross your legs. Most important: do an audit of your appearance before a full-length mirror. If you were meeting yourself for the first time, what would you think?

Face-to-face with an online date

Careful grooming: Clean hands, fingernails and hair. Guys, trim your beards.

Aim for a casual, comfortable look, pulled together with small touches that show personal style.

Ensure your personality gets the attention it deserves by avoiding clingy, skimpy clothing. “Don’t reveal all your assets on your first date,” advises Blake.

Brush up on your table and dining-out manners; do your research before the date if you’re uncertain.

Use conversation skills to focus on getting to know the other person. Put your phone away.

Meet the in-laws

Plan your ensemble for the evening to fit the social occasion. For a family barbecue, a nice pair of jeans and a collared shirt or newish T-shirt are fine.

For gals, a long, flowing dress is a summer trend that fits a wide range of events and works well with sandals.

If you’re wearing leggings, choose a long, mid-thigh tunic. “You want them to notice how smart and attractive you are, not what a great bod you have,” says Blake.

Take your style cue from your significant other, since the couple you’re meeting are his or her parents. You want to be authentic, but respectful of their expectations.

Make a public presentation

Remember you’re on display, particularly on a raised platform, so skirt lengths and keeping your knees together are crucial.

If you have to climb stairs to get onto the stage, test your pencil skirt and high heels beforehand to ensure you can move toward the podium gracefully.

Refrain from touching up your grooming (lipstick, hair, nails) while you await your turn to speak.

Avoid jackets or shirts in distracting colours or patterns, as in strong, bold checks.

Wearing white is risky when the chances of coffee spills are ever-present.

Job interviews

Gear your clothing and accessories to the industry you’re applying for: more colour and jewelry for the creative fields; tone it down for business and banking. Socks, ties, pocket squares and dress shirts, however, now afford men a splash of colour with the business suit.

A blazer or suit jacket adds credibility. “For young people, it allows them to borrow the power they don’t have,” says Blake, who does job interview training at the University of Alberta.

Avoid fashion trends that could distract from the serious impression you want to create. For instance, distressed shoes may be the cutting-edge for guys, but Blake points out the older demographic will just think you forgot to polish your shoes.

Shave off the trendy five-o’clock shadow, especially if it’s sprouting grey bits that make you look like a street denizen. “That’s not the look you want to project,” Blake cautions.


Posted by Joanne Blake – the Canadian corporate image consultant, executive coach and speaker

About the Author

JOANNE BLAKE Canadian speaker, corporate image consultant & business etiquette expert. If you're interested in booking a presentation, keynote or coaching, contact me. Based in Calgary / Edmonton, Alberta in western Canada.