Project Runway’s Nina Garcia says it best: “When you are comfortable in what you’re wearing, you immediately emanate that confidence. It’s very much reflective in the way you handle yourself”.
Though millennial women are working to redefine corporate femininity, most traditional work attire marketed to women is still a collection of boring pencil skirts or men’s style suits that have been shrunk down and rebranded as the modern woman’s ‘Power Suit’. Women are told to pick between scratchy or wrinkle-prone fabrics. We are sold tops that don't button properly, pants that don't quite fit, and skirts that lose their shape by our lunch break. On top of that these ill-fitting options often require uncomfortable undergarments and do nothing to increase women's comfort or confidence in the workplace. Should women give up, remove these stressful daily work decisions altogether, and resort to wearing the same nondescript clothing every day, à la Steve Jobs? What about the woman who feels her most genuine powerful self in lace skirts and statement heels? Is there a benefit to women wearing more formal quality workwear?
“You put high heels on and you change.”
While it is likely that Blahnik was speaking to his namesake brand when he said, “You put high heels on and you change.”, he has a point.
In an ideal world we could show up to work in our personal versions of workwear and it wouldn’t matter because the quality of our work would be judged instead of our outfits. That is not our world and, at least in business, maybe it’s for the best. Formal workwear has been shown to encourage more successful mind-set in the wearer. That is to say that dressing up for work is similar to a character actor dressing for a part. A study published in 2014, called "The Cognitive Consequences of Formal Clothing”, reports that when dressed in formal workwear (clothing worn to a corporate job interview) participants showed increases in abstract thinking and action identification levels as well as seeing the bigger picture of a situation more quickly. High performance in these areas are associated with people in leadership positions, proving that formal workwear helps breed a successful career.
It turns out that the cheesy adage “dress for the job you want” advice lifestyle gurus love to tout around rings true. Dressing like you hold a position of power will make you behave as if you do, case closed. That’s not all that your work clothes say about you though.
Molly St. Louis, an executive-level creative consultant writes in INC. Magazine that “Your clothes tell a story about you. If you want to show that your work is clean, sharp, and to the point, you need to dress in clean lines, sharp creases…”. A study published by the Journal of Research in Personality, "Shoes as a source of first impressions", hypothesizes a similar theory to Molly's. Our clothing choices, even small details like shoe choices, indirectly communicate aspects of our personality to peers. To test the theory participants randomly rated pictures of stranger’s shoes. The most compelling results were from the Big 5, extraversion, agreeableness, conscientiousness, emotional stability, and openness to experience, personality scores. The rating participants came to a positive, significant, mostly accurate consensus for every category except emotional stability. Results also showed that rating participants had similar success guessing shoe owner's gender, politics, and attachment anxiety behaviors.
Essentially Molly St. Louis is right, your work clothes are an important part of office first impressions and should be treated as such. Yes, be mindful of what your clothing might say about you but most importantly wear clothes that make you feel powerful and self-assured. It is worth investing in workwear staples that are ready to take on whatever your day throws at you. Clothing that’s designed to flatter and support women, with high-quality fabric that holds its shape, and resist wrinkles so that you can walk into any room confident and distraction free. Citrine Grey was built on the belief that it’s not about what you wear, but how you feel that matters that's why we make clothing for women to do exactly that.