Dress for success
Amidst early morning chaotic hours, when you are in between mails, calls, making breakfast, packing lunch, hustling a child out the door, consuming the morning news and some of the now-cold coffee, how much mindshare do you devote to the question of WTW? It is easier for a man. Their daily uniforms are set. Grab a shirt, throw on a coat, match pants, belt and shoes. Finish it up with a tie if needed. VOILA! They are dressed for success. For most it’s almost automation.
With so much on their hands, women might not wish to expend a single extra brain cell figuring out what to wear. But still, they mostly end up fretting, whining and almost agonizing over their daily decisions. And ultimately never completely satisfied with their appearance. A successful work dress is much more than simplicity in decision making. It’s your visual calling card. It tells the world what kind of work you do, how seriously you take it, and — here’s the complicated part — what kind of woman you are. Are you the one who is trying hard to wear the pants? Or do you prefer to be more feminine, hiding your steel behind chiffon? Do you wear the norm in skirts? or are more settled being an outlier in yellow stilettos? How far would you go to fit in? Instead are you one to innovate and make new rules? Can you be pushed? Or can you stand your grounds? These distinctions matter. Your work dress speaks for you.
In her run up for the US presidency, Hilary Clinton, has been the centre of attention from all quarters. Not just for her political standpoints, but also on her choice of what to wear in public. “Well, there still is a double standard, there’s no doubt about that. I see it all the time where women are just expected to combine traits and qualities in a way that men are not,” she said in an interview. It’s a challenge women all across the globe are facing and tackling on a routine. Hillary is known for donning masculine pantsuits of various colours, which have sparked the famous ‘Hillary Clinton Pantsuit Rainbow’ meme. The digital, image-focused world that we live in decides on our skills through our appearance. Think Hillary, Sheryl Sandberg and Amal Clooney. Or Indira Gandhi and Benazir Bhutto. We have different expectations from each based on our visual images of them.
Your work dress signals your ambition, authority, experience, age. I get distressed every time a woman entering the mid-level ranks tells me that she has been ‘advised’ to start wearing a sari to look professional after having grown out of pantsuits. In offices that are overwhelmingly run by men, these two options seem to be the ‘safest’ bet when it comes to balancing sex, seriousness and power. It’s got nothing to do with comfort or day long wearability. Inside every woman’s mind runs an endless ticker: how much leg, how much waist, how much skin, etc. It’s important to feel confident from inside and let that wardrobe support that. The most successful work dress is reliably flattering; it’s comfortable; it meshes with your work environment; and the various components can be endlessly mixed and matched.
Dressing right takes strategy. A good place to start would probably be to notice the women you admire. And start having a ‘meat & potatoes approach’ to the way you piece your wardrobe together. Once you get it right, your perception of yourself will change. As well as of others around you. Your appearances set your value, decide your worth. It gives you control. Ofcourse, it needs to be backed up with your work. But as my favourite Coco Chanel said, “Dress shabbily; people remember the clothes. Dress impeccably; people remember the woman.”
Nazia Erum is the Founder of TheLuxuryLabel.in.