is it weird to start dressing like my boss? — Ask a Manager

A reader writes:

Tl;dr – Is it weird to want to dress more like my boss (and do you think she’ll notice if I do?)

Okay, basically I’m so lucky in my current job. I’m a quality manager at the lowest level of management in my organization, but I love my job, I love my team, I love my boss, and I love my boss’s boss too!

My boss’s boss is the one who I consider a bit of a role model (although I wouldn’t dream of confessing this to her — I think I probably have a bit of a manager crush on her, in a non-romantic/attracted way, I hope that’s a thing and I’m not just a total weirdo haha!). She’s 35, which for her position in my company is really really young (most are between 50 and retirement age) and I’m 22, which is young for my position (my next youngest same level colleague is 32), but she’s just so put together. I feel like saying I want to be like her when I grow up, which sounds so ridiculous when I type it out!

My point is, I want to start being more professional and organized and feel and look more like (excuse my French) I have my shit together!

Sometimes in meetings I zone out (because I only really go to look like I’m doing something, as they have zero relevance to me or my team) but I’m in my head like, “That is a really nice top (or outfit)!” She wears a lot of plain tops with basic cardigans and lots of pastel/pale-colored clothes, whereas I tend to wear soft blazer-type jackets, floral trousers, and bright block colors paired with black or navy. I am thinking of expanding my wardrobe, and the more I think about presenting a more professional look, the more my thoughts flicker to this boss.

In short, I’m wondering what I said at the start. Is it weird to want to dress like her, and do you think she’ll notice if I do? (To be clear, I DON’T want her to notice.) Have you ever come across any managers who are worried that their employees like them too much (hopefully not in a weird way!)? I wouldn’t say I’m trying to emulate her specifically, I just want to start changing my professional image so that I can progress within the organization, and I feel she like she has a really good image!

You can totally start dressing more like your boss and emulating her general style!

I’d be more cautious about doing this if her style were especially unusual or unique to her — like if she always dressed in polka dots or in clothes with tiny giraffes on them, you wouldn’t be able to emulate that without it coming across strangely. But her clothes sound like a typical enough professional look that it’s not likely to stand out as a strange move.

In fact, paying attention to how senior people who you respect present themselves is a pretty common piece of advice, and there’s nothing weird about doing it.

Obviously, you want to be inspired by her look rather buying the identical pieces and assembling an identical wardrobe. But assuming you keep it more “inspired by” than “carbon copy,” she’s not likely to think anything of it. She may notice that your look has changed, and she may even notice it being similar to hers — but if anything, she’s likely to find that flattering in someone she manages (again, as long as you stay on the “inspired by” side of things), and will probably just assume that you’re taking cues on professional dress from her, which isn’t something she’s likely to object to.

And actually, in some offices it’s a noticeable thing that most women over a certain professional level dress similarly, and I suspect it stems from everyone taking their cues from each other — or originally from one senior woman — and all individually concluding “this is what looks polished in this office.” (It may happen with men too, but there’s usually less variation in their work clothes to begin with.)