Updated: Sep 1
Most of my female clients work in the corporate sector, and have job titles such as General Manager, Director, Senior Consultant, Executive or Partner.
Many are also working in traditionally conservative, male-dominated industries, which comes with its own set of challenges when it comes to getting dressed.
Like most clients in this type of workplace, when Alice came to see me, she was struggling with:
How to exude a sense of confidence, presence and stature, without hiding all her femininity
How to find the right brands that catered to her particular body shape
How to achieve a simple polished look with minimal fuss and with outfits that are easy to coordinate
If you’re in a similar workplace or situation, read on for the style strategies that I used to help Alice create a powerful, professional and chic look, while reducing her wardrobe by half and injecting more high quality, versatile pieces.
Style Strategy #1
Learn what colours suit you and work them to your advantage
One of the first things we did was look at what colours really suited her.
Through a virtual colour analysis, I could see that Alice had very soft, low contrast colouring. I identified her as a Soft Autumn, a palette of colours that is not easily flattered by black (it tends to look overwhelming and too harsh), so I wanted to show Alice what other colours we could incorporate in her wardrobe instead.
As a Soft Autumn, a warm, rich navy, chocolate brown or deep teal are all great options for staple items and investment pieces AND will still create a strong sense of presence.
Navy is a flattering choice for everyone (but the specific hue will vary depending on your own colouring).
In Alice’s case, a contemporary navy suit can be mixed back with a soft, petrol blue knit (which was one of her best accent colours) or any of her other best accent colours such as salmon or green.
A soft grey, check blazer can be combined with a rich, soft burgundy for a different look and feel, but one that still exudes presence and professionalism.
Just through colour, Alice also learnt how to create a more commanding look through the use of contrast, utilising higher contrast combinations (such as pairing a navy blazer with cream) or lower contrast (navy blazer with blue) for a more approachable look.
Style Strategy #2
Add some structured pieces to your outfits
The right cuts and styles of clothing can quickly and easily add presence and credibility to your look.
In Alice’s case, as well as adding a lighter and darker neutral blazer (in navy and cream), which could be easily mixed back with pants or dresses, we also added some structured dresses.
A dress cut with strong shoulder lines (a traditionally masculine look) is a dress that means business, and will make you feel in control no matter the occasion.
A wrap blazer dress in a soft, creamy ivory is feminine, while also being powerful (just be careful that it’s no shorter than knee length – as a petite, this worked perfectly for Alice). Add black tights in winter and you have a dress for multiple seasons.
Another dress featuring a v-neckline, double breasted cross over front and shoulder pads works beautifully paired back with Alice’s blazers, or as a stand-alone piece.
Here’s 3 Dresses to Establish Presence At Work
Style Strategy #3
Have a smaller wardrobe filled with the right pieces
Alice had a wardrobe that was overflowing with choices and was wearing less than half of what she did have.
The very first thing we needed to do was assess what really deserved to stay – based on:
Is the colour flattering?
Is the cut/shape flattering?
Is it in good condition?
Does it suit your personality and desired image?
Not only did we discover some fabulous pieces that weren’t being worn, but there were also new combinations that Alice hadn’t thought to pair together.
One blouse or jacket can easily be paired back with 3 or 4 different bottoms, so rather than just thinking ‘this piece has to go with that’, look at multiple variations that you can create.
This is where the trained eye of a Professional Stylist can help. Going through your wardrobe before shopping also helps me to see exactly what is missing – which means our shopping trip is super focused and strategic.
Summary – The Challenges and Solutions
If you need to establish presence in a male dominated industry (while still being feminine, but not fluffy), here’s what to do:
Make sure you have some well-tailored, structured pieces in your wardrobe. These can be paired back with more feminine elements if you desire.
Use colour contrast to scale up or down the authority level (and according to your own personal colouring)
Use sharp lines and stiff fabrics for an extra level of authority