FT.com: A Style Guide for Job Hunters

It is a paradox not lost on the fashion industry that with rising unemployment (the jobless total hit 2.44m in the UK in August, the highest since 1995, according to a report from the Office for National Statistics) comes a rising tide of job applicants, which means a growing need for … new clothes. After all, in a competitive professional market, what you wear when you walk in matters.

Gone are the days of the casual dress code

“I’ve worked with most of the large banks, including Bank of America, AIG, and Citibank, and there’s a trend: the way you keep your job is by looking as if you’re working all the time,” writes Syl Tang. So says Samantha von Sperling, an image consultancy director, of recent changes in office wear. Smart, it seems, is so very now.

Sperling’s approach is seconded by corporate image consultant Carol Davidson, who points out that Merrill Lynch has recently returned to a business dress code of full-blown suits. “Gone are the days of a casual attitude and a casual dress code to match,” she says.

“A friend who works at Citigroup noted that as layoffs were happening during 2008, there was a more sombre tone in what people were wearing,” says Rebecca Matchett of Rebecca & Drew, which specialises in women’s dress shirts tailored to bra size. “Pushing the envelope in dress was considered in bad taste.” As a result, she says, “we have scaled back our trend-driven items and focused on classic styles.”

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