Have you noticed how someone who just walked into a meeting took total control just by his/her mere presence through a compelling appearance?

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Either by natural charisma or a sheer look of authority this person will easily establish a connect with his audience without having even uttered a word. That power comes from what they are wearing and how they are wearing what they are wearing. This first non-verbal expression / communication that emanates from a person exuding power, authority and calm was first termed ‘power dressing’ in the early 80s.

The 80s idea of power dressing included boxy suits with padded shoulders, double-breasted suits, dress shirts, briefcases and silk ties, the colour palette dominated by black and other dark shades. Much earlier than the 80s, in ancient Egypt in 1497 B.C., Queen Hatshepsut rocked in what can be termed as one of the first most successful attempts at power dressing. She is said to have sat on the throne like a man would - bare-chested, in a man’s kilt, false metal beard and a headdress adorned with cobras, usually worn by a male pharaoh. She may have tried to imitate the style of male pharaohs in an attempt to reinforce the seriousness of her office and win the confidence of the public, which by the way could be construed as having worked, for, she ruled the country for 20 years. In those 20 years, Egypt is known to have flourished. She remains the best known female pharaoh. Historians often refer to her pioneering style of not just ruling, but also dressing, the power and sway of which no other female pharaoh could own.

The most powerful personalities of the world are half their attire and half what they do. Take any example - Condoleezza Rice, Vlamidir Putin, Barack Obama, Michelle Obama, Angela Merkel, Marissa Mayer, Leila Janah… they own power suits that are not just head-turners but statement makers. These power suits give them a lead; their dressing imparts that kind of a power that makes the others shut up and listen.


‘Power dressing’ does a little more than helping feel and impart power. It makes the outfitted look current, professional, fresh and effortless. It portrays the person as efficient and as having the knack to cope with whatever is thrown their way. Power dressing is ‘shouting silently’. That means every piece of garment and accessory involved are huge contributors to the overall look. That being the case, the key is to make the dress-up look effortless. It shouldn’t look like you took forever to get dressed. By making it look effortless, you also make a statement that you do not waste valuable time in getting ready which could be used to engage in business.

It is the demand of the corporate world that you own at least one go-to-business outfit, be it for an interview, or a board meeting. This is the piece that would make all the difference to who you are and what you can. From the 80s, the expectations of the corporate world with respect to dressing hasn’t changed much – you are still expected to be dressed in complete formals – tie, watch and shoe shine in place. What has changed are the cuts and the fabric. Now there are fancier, figure hugging and more endearing cuts and fabric one can choose from compared to the boxy wool suits of the 1980s.

With power dressing, the most important thing to keep in mind is to keep your look well-tailored and personalised and not off-the rack. There are plenty of suits you can buy, but it is not necessary that they offer you the perfect fit. Get it re-fitted or better still, find a tailor who can make you a personalised suit from scratch.

To complete your outfit and personal brand message, the next step is to accessorise right – a formal watch, tie/jewellery, shoes perfect for the occasion and an attitude that spells competent.

You can power dress irrespective of who you are in an organisation; no matter who you are, the rules of dressing remain the same – skip the slouch, get the smarter and structured silhouette. From interviews to every day at work – power dressing is crucial. Power dressing is not just a style statement, it is characterisation; so go ahead and be choosy about what will define you when you say hello to the big world out there.

For interviews:

An interview being the first interaction with your future employers, what you wear will be the first score or no-score you will ever make with them. Despite all your abilities, what and how you wear it will determine whether you get the job or not most of the time. While clothing styles have undergone major changes over time, expectations of interview panels haven’t and for the same reason, power dressing for an interview will not be overlooked, in fact, it will be expected and appreciated. For interviews, shun designer wear but always always dress one or two levels above the role you are interviewing for. You will be surprised to see how well this trick works in your favour.

"choose outfits that are harmonious with your attributes (coloration, physique, personality), stature, goals and mission."

For every day other at work:

The overall rule in power dressing is ‘know yourself’. Understand what style, cut and fabric will work for your body type and your operating environment. Your clothing needs to help you blend in to a degree and yet, stand out to a degree. Stick to what works. Don’t wear clothes that keep tugging at you through the day so much that it keeps you from figuring out what you are at the table for.

Also important to know is the type of organisation you work for – are they extremely formal, do their clients expect complete formal attire, or are they creatively bent and would appreciate a surge of colours and takeover by high fashion suits? Track what kind of people you will interact with on a daily basis and how they react to your dressing. Great managers, CEOs and persons of influence have adaptable dressing styles that make them look like one among workers and a pack leader at the same time. They might pick a pair of blue denims and white linen shirts when talking to their creative team but will arrive in dark pinstripe suits while meeting their shareholders and board members. Either way, they will make it a point to stand out and flaunt their character.

Dark suits are not necessarily the last word in power dressing. While dark suits are considered the thing in formal settings, lighter tones can work as well if you have the confidence to pull it off, although you need to be in a position of greater authority to opt for the latter. If you are fledgling, you are better off in a darker suit with slight variations of your own should you want to be bold. With so much of dark going on in formal gatherings, it would be a great and acceptable idea to bring in colour with ties or scarves to stand out from the sea of black, blue and grey suits.


Although there are stereotypical wardrobes designed for “power”, you need more than the cliché. You need your suits to inspire, earn respect of fellow workers, those above and below you and, make you look and feel great as well. For every day at work, power suits are not sufficient. You also need appropriate ensembles and business casuals for more relaxed meetings and social engagements that are in line with the image that you have acquired through your power suit routine. Assemble a wardrobe that allows you total control of the visual messages that you are communicating. Marry off your key attributes with your clothing. Essentially, choose outfits that are harmonious with your attributes (coloration, physique, personality), stature, goals and mission. Pay attention to the tiniest of detail. For God they say, is in the details.

Now that your power wardrobe is ready, go bring on your power play.


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Author:  buddingmanagers
Posted On:  Saturday, 5 July, 2014 - 11:03

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