I’m not going to lie, the term POWER SUIT makes me cringe a bit. Yes, the right suit can help you look powerful, at least if it fits you perfectly, but just donning a suit does not by itself do the job. There are other pieces to the puzzle. So if you’re going into a situation where you want people to sit up and take notice when you walk in, read on for 4 easy tips on how to manage your appearance.
1) Straight lines and angles in patterns and clothing silhouettes signal authority. An easy way to apply the former is with ties: the tie above left is much stronger because of its angularity than the tie to the right with its curved lines. For silhouettes, you can see this everywhere from glasses, to suits, to sport jackets (if you wear glasses, my article on how to choose glasses frames is a must-read). For example, a squared-off jacket shoulder is more commanding than a soft shoulder.
2) Adopting the posture and body language associated with dominance, can change not only how others perceive you, but also how you feel about yourself. Check out this fascinating TED Talk by Harvard Professor and social psychologist Amy Cuddy. According to her research, if you spend just two minutes in “power poses” before going into an evaluative situation like a job interview (you can do them in a bathroom stall), the benefits will be considerable.
3) Dark colors in general, and high contrast color combinations like deep navy and white, are commanding and will cause others to perceive you as powerful (that’s why a tuxedo is typically black and white).
4) Crisp clothing textures are more authoritative than rough textures. So if you are going into a situation where you want to be received that way, you should wear a crisp suit, a pressed and non-textured dress shirt and a smooth tie.
The nice thing about looking more powerful is that it actually causes you to feel that way, and that in turn affects how you act, causing you to take more “leader-worthy” steps. Of course, the flip side is that many leaders can appear too dominant, without having communicated warmth in a way that allows them first to build trust with the people they are trying to lead. Stay tuned for more on how to fine-tune your image so that you strike the perfect balance.