Power Dressing: How to Dress for Acquiring Power


Bullet points from various researches:

  • Formal is higher power

A raft of studies have shown that people in more formal attire get served more quickly in shops, have more luck soliciting charity donations, and are usually judged to be more intelligent and academic.

  • Designer clothes increase power

Although it might seem tacky, research shows that a man wearing a shirt with a designer logo is rated higher in status than one who wears a plain shirt.

A woman wearing a sweater with a designer logo is also seen as more successful. People trying to solicit contributions to a charity who wear clothes with a designer logo get twice as many contributions.

However, you shouldn’t overdo this at work.
My Gucci shoes here would be tacky at work.

But a small “V” that says “Valentino” on your suit is great.

  • Go for tailor made

True for both men and women.

A study that looked at female applicants for a managerial job found that those who dressed in a smart, tailored style were perceived as more forceful and aggressive and were more likely to get hired than those who did not.

  • What shoes say about you

Dutton (Dutton, 2015) says that:

More agreeable people tend to wear shoes that are practical and affordable (they don’t go in for pointy toes and brand visibility).
Socially anxious people tend to keep their shoes in extremely good nick (overcompensating for the possibility of rejection, perhaps?).

What does it mean to you?

Pick high-end shoes that look great.
And keep them polished.

  • Uniqueness: depends. Yes in creative industries, and only if the higher up are also unique

People wear more daring outfits are perceived as more attractive and individual, which could be advantageous in more creative industries.

If you have a high need for uniqueness, you will give high ratings to others who dress that way.
If your boss swathes herself in colorful shawls and scarves and big jewelry, it would be to your advantage to mimic her bolder style, if not her attire.

picture of lucio buffalmano founder of thepowermoves.com

This is a good mix of high-power and enough fanciness that you are both high-power and unique 

  • Women: shorter air

Female coaches advising on career strategies say that there is an inverse proportion of hair to age. Typically, your hair should get increasingly shorter as you get older and go higher on the corporate ladder.
If you don’t want to cut your hair, wear it up to give it the appearance of being shorter.
And if your hair is graying, consider a good colorist. Whereas gray or graying hair on men is viewed as distinguished, women aren’t typically afforded the same compliment.

  • Women: use skirts

Women who choose skirt suits over pantsuits are thought of as more confident, higher earning, and more flexible.

Gender and Clothes

Clothes matter more to women.

So women should also budget more time to pick the right clothes.

Says researcher Tannen:

Of course, the men in our group had to make decisions too, but their choices carried far less meaning. The men could have chosen styles that were marked, but they didn’t have to, and in this group, none did. Unlike the women, they had the option of being unmarked.
I asked myself what style we women could have adopted that would have been unmarked, like the men’s. The answer was: none. There is no unmarked woman.

Coaching tips

  • Dress for the job you want: follow the maxim “dress for the job you want”, and you won’t go wrong
  • Copy successful folks in senior positions: that’s how you should dress
  • View clothes as an investment: budget enough money to buy several really good outfits a year. When you feel good in clothes, you act more confidently
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