The Sunday Times (UK) Style section devoted a number of column inches to the do’s and don’ts for women who find themselves at the front of the political stage either as leader or consort. It seems that once again the dilemma for high-profile women has surfaced; about giving the right sense of gravitas without appearing domineering, or warm and genuine as against frivolous and ‘fashiony’. From some of the books I have collected about the psychology of clothing its background is long and complex. This rarely seems to be a problem that confronts men. What I question however is the term power dressing. Is it not a dated term in itself? Also, let’s not confuse the fact that the needs of the political band wagon are rather different from those of a shareholder meeting.
For me power dressing immediately conjures up a dated picture of big shoulders, tight waists and sculptured hair-dos that look not dissimilar from the City Hall building here in London, and with as much immobility!
It smacks of theatre with only a veneer of seriousness, and as I visit my clients in the City you can see that these financially challenging times require a degree of authenticity that suggests a ‘safe pair of hands’.
One of my clients articulated her dilemma well when she talked about walking into a room of 100 venture capitalists, all male apart from a handful of women, and all with the same, almost regular-issue pinstripe uniform. Custom and practice has not given us the opportunity to develop a similar sort of iconic look, and in this the fashion industry has been no help.
“Real power dressing is about being smart and true to yourself, and the balance between the two is what makes it new. Work out what suits you, and don’t deviate” says the Times. But what does this mean in practical terms, and where are the places a busy executive can go to build an appropriated wardrobe without spending vast amounts of time doing it.
So I would suggest that the journalist in the Times should perhaps look a little closer at the trading floors and boardrooms and consider the realities of the executive life-style, and whether or not the concept of power dressing may in reality be rather disempowering