You enter a situation wanting people to know you mean business. You speak like a leader. Do you look like one? Everyone has a personal and professional wardrobe. But certain pieces inherently contain more authority and you probably don't even know it. Enter 2010 as the communal power-player. Capture attention, command respect, and nonverbally indicate you take care of business. What you should know and yes, pictures included.

DRESSING FOR POWER

1. Apply color psychology. In American culture, the darker the color, the more authoritative you appear. Black, navy, and gray are classic standards for power dressing, but other options exist. Any color looks more powerful when "shaded" (addition of black to current hue). Hunter green, deep plum, dark brown, and burgundy also impart strength and add sartorial variety.

Gray BlazerContrast these two jackets of exact design. As jackets and layering pieces, they suggest power. But detect the degree of dominance.  The darker jacket communicates visual authority while the white jacket less so.  Bottom line: All jackets contain some authority. But the jacket's color increases or decreases the degree of strength. 

2. Assess personal coloring when selecting your favored power color. Black communicates significance, but its starkness may overwhelm your personal coloring.

In color analysis, I'm a warmer-based skin tone. Wearing black directly by my face sucks the radiance and vibrancy from my skin.

Possible solutions? Wear a color that complements your skin directly next to your face (a shirt, scarf, necklace, tie, etc.).  I incorporate two in the pictures/explanation below.

Here I (deliberately) wear an animal-print scarf with colors that flatter my skin tone (the rust).  To enhance color harmony, a bronze-pigmented lipstick should have been applied.  

Here I (deliberately) wear a red cowl-neck sweater directly underneath, surrounding my face. The red complements my skin tone, offers contrast to the face area (see # 5), and honors my audience. In this shot, I was speaking to a UC student group. Our school colors are red and black.

3. Wear straight lines in your garments. A woman awakens in the morning and has a choice to make. Should she wear the white woven blouse on the left (straight collar)?  Or would the better choice be the white woven blouse on the right (ruffled collar)?  The straight line is more authoritative, the curved line less so. Thankfully, impression management allows us the option of both power and softness. A navy jacket (powerful) can be softened by a repeat collar ruffle (softness).

PinStripe SuitThis concept (straight lines) also explains why pinstripes are powerful. Additionally, pinstripes lengthen and slenderize the body, two objectives most clients (of both genders) seek. 

Men's Black and White Paisley TieEven men's tie designs communicate power.  The striped tie with the straight diagonal lines is more potent than the curved lines of a swirl-shape (paisley pattern).  While the paisley tie has strength in its color base (black) and contrast (with the white), its swirls and curved lines soften the message.

 Gentlemen, hear my plea!  When women shop, they look in store mirrors and position garments next to their face. Is there a "man-rule" that forbids the same? Place your prospective purchase by your face and see if they flatter. This simple practice discards colors that need jettisoned.

This jacket to the left contains power in its color (medium gray) and its heavy, textural weight.  What softens the garment are the curved lapels and interior lines.  Furthermore, contemplate body shape.  While a slender body could more easily carry the visual heft of the fabric, others would look leaner in a lighter-weight wool.  Speaking of fabric  . . .

4. Artfully utilize fabric texture. The woven jacket on the left (stiff, sturdy fabric) possesses more visual authority than the cabled knit jacket (soft, pliable fabric). Both are light gray jackets, but stiffer fabric increases perceived clout.

5. Contrast, contrast, contrast. Pictures look better when properly framed. You do too. Attention goes to contrast and you want people noticing your face. Contrast equals visibility. That's power. That's attention-on-you.

Here's contrast at work.

The woman to the left wears a black jacket with a peach blouse. Dark jacket + lighter blouse = instant contrast. Her face is now highlighted. She's a human being flawlessly framed.

Now take unfortunate me. I'm wearing a jacket (the darker olive color gives me power), but without a blouse underneath, your attention probably goes to my gold necklace. If that was my intent, fine. But sadly, this wasn't my objective.  I'm better served with a contrasting cream woven shirt with a point (straight line) collar.  An application of face powder wouldn't hurt either.

"What a strange power there is in clothing" noted Nobel-Prize winning author Isaac Bashevis Singer.  Mind you, I'm not suggesting you purchase a sweeping new wardrobe.  Why not first shop in the one you already have?   Instead, I advocate you view clothing in 2010 as a catalyst to launch you into the power stratosphere.   Seeking increased respect, control, and visibility?  Then heed Mark Twain:  "Clothes make the man."   

Dress Like a Power-Player Part IIhttp://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/the-image-professor/201002/2010-resolution-dress-power-player-part-ii

Dress Like a Power-Player Part IIIhttp://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/the-image-professor/201002/2010-resolution-dress-power-player-part-iii

© 2010 The Image Establishment, All Rights Reserved

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About the Author

LisaMarie Luccioni, MA, AICI, CIP

LisaMarie Luccioni is an adjunct professor of Communication at the University of Cincinnati, a business etiquette expert, and one of 100 Certified Image Professionals in the United States

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