How does confidence radiate through our clothing, and vice versa?
Confidence is a challenging emotion to distil, and an even harder one to evoke. For some, confidence is a fleeting feeling that stems from great news or appraisal; for others, it’s a lick of lipstick, a glass of red and the promise of good company. While it seems that the triggers behind our confidence varies, one thing we all share is an ability to exude confidence at all times.
It’s impossible to escape situations that have the propensity to give our confidence a knock, or that make us feel less assured of ourselves: there will always be gruelling job interviews, awkward first dates, and events we have to attend where we know hardly anyone – it’s simply a fact of life. So, how can we evoke this air of confidence? Or, at the very least, how do we feign this belief in ourselves, for others to notice?
The answer is simple: clothes.
OUT WITH THE CODES, IN WITH THE CASUAL
Studies show that 80% of employees feel that their dress code is useless and are unhappy with the restrictions imposed upon them; in contrast, there’s evidence that 61% of employees are more productive when they have a relaxed dress code at work. This negates the view that dressing smartly in some way inspires professionalism. Feeling relaxed in your workplace (where you spend a third of your lifetime), will lead to a more confident outlook throughout your day-to-day life. The feeling of satisfaction engendered by performing well at work will naturally permeate into your confidence, thus, the perception that the best work is done in heels, feels more than a little outdated in our modern society.
Similarly, ‘Olga Anderson’, we pride ourselves on espousing the notion that women must be free to decide how they wish to dress in the workplace, sans rules or regulation. Whether you desire heels and a pencil skirt, or flats and trousers, is your prerogative - it’s all about whether those clothes provide you with the comfort to perform at your best.
DOES 'POWER DRESSING' INSPIRE CONFIDENCE?
Indeed, not everyone thrives on a dress down Friday like the aforementioned 61%.
Since the 80s, the term “power dressing” has become something of a buzzword in the fashion industry. The concept rests on the belief that, in order to feel powerful, one must dress powerfully; to exude such through your clothes will, in turn, invite others to treat you differently. Women have been told for decades that to be seen as a true professional they must dress like one, but what does this mean, exactly?
Without overtly stating the fact, this comment has always referred back to the male domination of the workplace: being seen as inherently professional due solely to their gender made the idea of dressing professionally and powerfully synonymous with the fitted suit and tie look. Therefore, for a woman to be taken seriously in the workplace, she had to not only channel what were traditionally viewed as male attributes (thus abandoning her feminine attributes in the process), but also don elements of their work apparel, too. The prominent shoulder pads on fitted blazers and tight pencil skirts of the 80s were a perfect reflection of this notion – luckily, we’ve moved on a bit since then.
The movement itself dates back to the early 1900s – just before the 1920s – when the term, “working woman” was coined. A whole generation of women were, at long last, allowed to earn a wage whilst their husbands were at war. It was only then that society woke up to women’s capabilities, sparking the beginning of female emancipation and the transformation of the workplace
Vogue defines the term as, “adapting and being heard.” Power dressing, then, is not simply the act of ‘smartening up’, but of dressing as an extension of oneself. You must dress so people notice, listen, and remember you. But more than simply exercising control over how others perceive you, power dressing provides you with the ability to feel better in yourself. To regain control of your emotions, therefore taking hold of that confidence whenever you need to.
The essence of power dressing is derived from an effort to assimilate women into a male-dominated work environment. This really came into play in the 70s when women veered towards androgyny in the form of shoulder pads and trousers suits. Since then, the core values have remained much the same, but women are less afraid of mixing those boxy silhouettes with a little femininity, establishing less focus on dressing like a man and more focus on dressing like yourself.
And here we discover the crux of the matter: dressing to inspire confidence is dressing to express your true self. There is no universal rule to dressing confidently or conveying your confidence through your clothes. We are nuanced individuals with constantly changing styles, opinions and states of being. A trouser suit could bring us joy and assurance on Monday but, come Friday, we might prefer to don a baggy jumper and ripped jeans. Confidence is embedded in our being, not in the lining of a blazer.