Fashions change. Fundamentals don’t.

By Laura Bergells on
The right to bare arms!

In the 1990’s, I worked for a company that changed its dress code. We went from business formal to business casual.

Employees accepted this change readily. I felt like I got a raise, because my dry cleaning expenses almost disappeared. And the comfort of ditching a suit for the dark jeans, tee-shirt, and blazer combo? Whee!

Last year, I read about a relaxed dress code at Goldman Sachs. In the same year, I heard the controversy over bare arms.

The buzz about “well, what do I wear now?” hums and throbs with a fair amount of regularity. Why, I wrote a blog post on this topic in 2011. I touched on it in another post in 2012.

In 2017, I did (more than one) workshop and consult on the topic of “Establishing Credibility as a Public Speaker“. In it, I answered the “what do I wear?” question yet again.

In 2018, I filmed a course for LinkedIn Learning titled “Establishing Credibility as a Speaker“. In this 2:35 minute video, I discuss the whole “what do I wear” concept in more detail.

For the past few decades, my advice hasn’t changed that much. Bottom line?

Fashions change. Communication fundamentals don’t.

And guess what? I suspect my 2017-era advice still be apt in 2027 and beyond.

Know this: your non-verbal communication impacts your credibility as a public speaker. As you face your audience, think about your fashion choices.

How will your fashion choices help support your message and intent?

Sometime you’ll want to blend in. Other times, you’ll want to use your fashion choices to stand out…or to make a stand. Depending on your message and intent, dressing provocatively may help you establish credibility and inspire change more than playing it safe.

What do you think? In 2037, will I be dispensing the same “what to wear” advice? Or will we have evolved beyond judging others on their appearance?


Laura Bergells is not a fashion expert. She’s a writer and teacher. Check out her courses on Crisis Communication and Public Speaking. The above video is an excerpt from a 2018 course, “Establishing Credibility as a Speaker“.

You can find Laura on Twitter and at YouTube.