Recent research suggests that what we wear impacts how we feel and how we perform. As an executive leadership coach who often works with leaders to enchance their executive presence, this is really helpful information. I often coach women leaders to observe how other senior women, who they perceive as competent and powerful, are dressing. Often the differences, i.e., in accessories, shoes, etc. are subtle, yet worth noting. I sometimes advise clients to change and/or upgrade their wardrobe. I have also advised male clients to make sure that their shoes were polished (I learned this from my grandfather who always said you could tell a lot about a man by the appearance of his shoes.) My clothing advice was based on my own experience in the corporate world and observation. Now, with the power of this research, and recent articles, I feel even more confident in strongly arguing that clothes do make the man and woman!
Further, in difficult, tangled, emotionally charged situations, our perceptions of ourselves and others do influence how we behave. In research I conducted, those who felt powerful and competent, yet viewed others as not, took actions that made the situation more tense and more tangled. Those who felt powerless and viewed others as more powerful and less competent also took actions that added more tension and limited productivity.
I don't believe that the problems of the world will be solved by upgrading our wardrobes. I do believe that understanding the symbolic meaning of what we are wearing, and making conscious choices to wear something that makes us feel our best is a very good place to start. And I have worked with leaders who needed to stifle their urge to dress down those junior to them in the organization. In discussions with them, they dressed down some but not all. Perhaps those who wore their power clothing were not targeted. It is certainly food for thought!