There was a day when corporate image was all black suits, sensible heels and leather brief cases. Now, the corporate world and fashion industry has moved on to a more expressive place where black suits alone no longer cut it and if you want to stand out you must shop accordingly. It’s Power dressing but not as you traditionally know it.
Women like Amal Clooney, Victoria Beckham and Miriam Clegg (Lawyer and spouse of Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg) have moved on the traditional corporate look. It’s not just about good suits but good taste and creative flair. It is clear to see that much has changed in how we perceive formal office wear yet the importance is just as high.
Let’s look at some of the statistics. How important is it to think through and plan your work look?
- Upon meeting someone new for the first time, we are judged 55% on how we look, 35% on our body language and only 10% on what we say. Scary, but true.
- We make up our mind about someone in the first 3 seconds of meeting them and spend the next 90 seconds trying to confirm our first impressions were right!
- According to ‘The Journal of Experimental Social Psychology’ women who have a style they feel confident about leads them to take on the attributes of powerful women – confidence, assertion, body language and increased productivity This is called enclothed cognition.
- According to the lady in the know Vogue Editor, Anna Wintour “Your closet isn’t frivolous, it contains a myriad of channels to heightened performance, a selection of gateways to the best versions of yourself.”
One of the big challenges in any corporate environment can become the idea that fashion is frivolous and women are not seen as ‘serious’ about their job if they care too much about fashion. What rubbish. As Miriam Clegg said once in an interview in Grazia Magazine “You can be clever and care about fashion. The two things should not be mutually exclusive.”
Think of it like this. Think of a brand or product that always jumps out at you from a shelf. Packaging creates strong visual brand aesthetics and ensures an immediate, and positive, first impression. Successful packaging design tells consumers a story that connects with them. It is a vehicle for a product to go from the shelf to the till. In the corporate world, that product is you.
However, we can see it’s no longer about masculine tailoring to make you look like a leader. As long as the basic rules are covered, your formal wardrobe should be a reflection of your personal taste and your interpretation of what’s acceptable in your work environment.
My Top Tips
1. Do not flash too much flesh. Boobs away. Skirts should be to the knee. If in doubt, it’s probably a no!
2. Build your foundations first. Buy good basics from the neutral colour palette of grey, black, brown, tan, camel, khaki etc, which give you lots of versatility to accessorise and personalise. They also last as fashion trends come and go. The key here is the fit. Spend a little more money and time getting these right as good fabrics and cut can make all the difference. If the fit is not right when you buy, bring it to a tailor (I recommend The Zip Yard) to make it perfect for you. The right fit will do wonders for how you feel when you wear it. Invest in two or three smart structured blazers. A black and a bright colour are a must. They can completely transform a dress or trousers and top for a slick, confident professional appeal.
3. Get your inspiration from others & take a day out for yourself. Ask colleagues where they shop, set aside a day and make it all about you! Shops I love for workwear include Zara, LK Bennett, Hobbs, H&M, Warehouse, Whistles, Massimo Duitti, Next, River Island, Mango, Harvey Nichols, COS, The Kooples & Sandro in BT2. For shoes I love Clarks, Dune, Aldo, Marks & Spencers, LK Bennett and Fitzpatricks Shoes. Check out this blog (The Classy Cubicle), which I love for some inspiration.
How you wear them
4. Remember, it’s not just the clothes you wear but how you wear them plus your grooming. Hair should be neat and tidy, nails clean and stay away from too much make-up. Keep it minimal but don’t be afraid of a bright lipstick. If you wear lippy, leave everything else neutral. Your body language is also a hugh part of your professional look. Having good posture, making eye contact and looking comfortable in your clothes is so important.
5. Understand the power of your accessories. In a corporate environment, keeping it slick, simple and neutral will always work but you need then to ask yourself, what is making your look different? This is where your accessories come in. They also allow you to get a little bit more creative and inject that all important individuality to your look. Spend money on good handbags, shoes, belts and accessories. Don’t go too blingy but don’t be afraid of colour and print. Get some inspiration from my gallery below.
6. Be individual. Looking for quality pieces that are unique and have something about them is so what makes power dressing. I does not have to cost a fortune but it has to have that something about it. The cut? The colour? A modern twist on a traditional style? Always look for something special. Check out my gallery below for some inspiration.
Finally, remember that your style is the first thing immediately available to others. You can’t hide it, but you can control it.
Post by Julie Cobbe, founder of www.stylefish.ie