We also don’t usually have the budget to dress for the job we want, even though looking like a million bucks is a big deal. Dressing in a similar style as your boss also shows that you’re looking ahead in your career and are attempting to have more executive presence, a new term defined as the “wow” factor that makes great leaders stand out. Sylvia Ann Hewlett, economist and the founding president of the Center for Talent and Innovation, said that one of the most important facets of executive presence is appearance. At an event hosted by Marie Claire last year Hewlett said, “Appearance is an extraordinarily powerful first filtering. It can get you knocked off the list in a second.”
So how can you dress for the job you want without going totally negative in your bank account?
1. Invest in a classic, wardrobe staple that can give you a lot of mileage.
Eunice Cho, Founder and Creative Director of AELLA, told Levo, there are certain items you should invest in to build your wardrobe. “This includes a season-neutral trouser, blazer, or pencil skirt. Stick to black, navy, and gray so that you can wear it with everything. Here are some examples for outfits: If you have a really nice pair of black pants (slim, flared or wide), you can wear them with a relaxed ivory blouse and boucle jacket for a very Chanel-inspired office look (think Cate Blanchett in “Blue Jasmine”).
“You can wear that same pair of pants with an easy white T-shirt and a colored blazer for a slightly more relaxed office look. For an even more casual look, wear the pants with a long, chunky sweater and channel your inner Stella McCartney.”
“Another example: If you buy a navy blazer with a black collar: you can wear this with navy or black pants and a light grey cashmere sweater on the days when you need to look like a boss. When you’re going out, you can wear this same blazer with skinny jeans, sharp stilettos, and a silk, slinky camisole for a super sleek look. You’ll still look like a boss, but in a different way.”
2. Tailor everything.
Tailoring everything perfectly can make a world of difference. Cho told us, “An alternative is to buy reasonably-priced staples and take them to your tailor! A tailor can nip in a jacket at the waist, slim down the legs of an overly baggy pair of pants and hem lengths on garments.”
“Things that your tailor cannot change easily are shoulders or collars on jackets and crotches on pants, so look out for these areas when you’re shopping.”
3. Look for statement jewelry pieces.
Look for a fabulous piece of jewelry that will catch everyone’s eye. This doesn’t mean it necessarily has to be a big, blingy, costume-jewelry-type necklace (but those can be great and J.Crew and Bauble Bar make them quite accessible and budget friendly). It could just be a strand of pearls. Of course, a pearl necklace is very expensive, but you can get some great quality fake pearls. After all, pearls were Margaret Thatcher’s secret weapon.
4. Wear heels.
Now I’m a flats girl all the way, but when I want to make an impact, it’s heels baby. It’s unfortunate, but there’s just something about heels that convey power. According to a European study that correlated heel height with confidence, “Research has suggested that a tall woman is considered more assertive, confident, richer, capable, successful, independent, and even more intelligent than their shorter peers,” psychologist Emma Kenny said in a statement. “Perception is incredibly powerful and it makes sense that the feedback we receive from the way we are treated by others will reinforce our choices.”
Heels can literally help your career, too. Career coach Marty Nemko wrote about shoe obsession disorder being a major benefit. He said women buy conversation-starting shoes, which can be a great ice breaker for networking, as long as they aren’t too odd (think Mrs.Frazzle in “The Magic School Bus” series.)
Tall is not better than short (I’m a petite woman and proud of it), but the illusion of tall can be a benefit. You want to buy shoes and clothing that support that illusion.
But if you really hate heels, than opt for a pair of power flats. Read all about what counts as a power flat here.
5. Get enough sleep.
This one sounds funny, but sleep is so essential for helping you work smarter and more making you look healthier. You may not need as much sleep as everyone else, but try to settle on a number that makes you feel well-rested and ready to attack the day.
6. Wear clothing that makes you feel powerful.
As the great Cher Horowitz once said in Clueless, “Lucy! Where’s my white collarless shirt from Fred Segal!?!! It’s my most capable looking outfit!”
We’re all going to have different items of clothing that make us feel powerful and capable. For some it may be a hot pink blazer, for others it could be a navy blue suit or a cashmere cardigan. “[Women] have edged out their standing in the world. Today, they don’t have to wear a suit jacket to prove their authority,” Giorgio Armani recently said. Wear what makes you feel powerful.
7. Always be aware of your style choices.
According to The Millionaire’s Handbook: How to Look and Act like a Millionaire, Even if You’re Not you need to be aware of every style choice you make from the coat you wear to where you buy a cup of coffee. From the book:
“The brand of coffee that you choose has become a style statement, and those who work and socialize with you are just as likely to pick up cues about your aspirations by your coffee selection as all of the other brands you carry on your personage. If you carry it, then its brand becomes part of yours—by association.”