When I started my newest wardrobe job, there was a training process I went through before they threw me in on my own. On the first day, I followed the woman whose track I cover and she explained out loud everything she was doing as she did it. The second day, I did it with her following behind me telling me everything I had to do. The third day, I did it with her following me and prompting me only if I needed her to. On the fourth day, she followed me and said nothing at all.
On the fifth day, I was on my own. And I was terrified.
One of the reasons I was terrified is because there's a certain degree of teasing and shenanigans that go on backstage, because most of the people there have been working together for so long. One of the actors I am responsible for dressing likes to mess around, and goof off, which made me nervous because I was still frantically flipping through my notes between changes to make sure I'd done everything right.
A couple people asked me if I was nervous before we started the show that evening, and I admitted that I really, really was. One of the stagehands looked me up and down and said "Well, you don't LOOK nervous."
And sometimes, that's half the battle.
Everyone had warned me to not let the goofy actor know that I was scared, because he'd just mess with me more. So when he launched into a bit of teasing about how if I mess up I'd never work in this town again, I planted my hands on my hips, stood up straight (and a little bit on my tiptoes... he's taller than me) and stared him down until he couldn't finish his sentence. Mostly because he was laughing at how ridiculous I looked trying to stare him down, but the point is, it snapped him out of it.
You'd think that someone who helps people dress up to look the part for a living, I'd realize how far looking the part will get you. And I suppose I did, because I do it all the time, I just don't THINK about it.
When I was having administrative battles in offices at my school a few months back, every time I had to go up to school to go to one of the offices, I put on a blouse and blazer with my jeans, nice earrings, and a little more makeup than I might normally wear. I pinned my hair back, and basically walked into the offices with a look of "I'm about to ask you to do something for me, and you're about to do it." I was as serious as I could be, because I wanted them to take me seriously and process my forms as quickly as possible.
I think we all probably do this, to some degree. We all have outfits we'll wear for certain occasions, and not for others. I have a specific series of shirts that I save for days when I'm going to the bar to watch football, because they're sporty, but make me look cute enough that maybe a guy will buy me a drink. (Something I should stop wishing for, because the last few times that has happened it has involved jager and whiskey - not on the same night, thank god)
I think to some degree, it's about dressing appropriate for whatever you're doing. But I think it's also about adopting the attitude to go along with it. I have to wear blacks when I'm working the show. So yea, I look like I'm supposed to be there whether I act like it or not, because I'm there in my blacks just like everybody else. But when I stand up straight and walk around like I know what I'm doing, and like I've got everything under control, I really look the part. It's as much about the attitude and confidence you're presenting.
Don't worry, I'm still flipping through my notes every few cues... just in case!