This week, I quiz Annie Castano and Manina Weldon, co-founders of styling consultancy Red Leopard, on their tips on conveying more authority at work.
They start by listing the screaming horrors they get called into banks, management consultancies and accountancies to fix. Badly fitting and creased suits top the list, along with clothes that have been dry cleaned so often they have gone shiny. Dirty, scuffed shoes, dandruff, men without belts in their loop holes and scruffy beards. Jeremy Corbyn springs to mind. After that, they cite major distractions – visible knickers, tattoos the eyes are drawn to, clunky jewellery and overpowering scent.
So what should we be doing to enhance our firepower at work?
1. Wear bright colours
Castano and Weldon are big fans of colour as it shows you are 'interesting and vibrant' and you should wear it near your face. They advise people to explore what colours really suit them by 'having your colours done'. If that sounds hocus pocus, I confess that a professional coach made me do it ten years ago and a strange woman in a basement swirled brightly colour hankies around my head for an hour before telling me I was a 'winter'. I’ve never worn yellow since and arguably my life is better for it but happily you can now do this online. Either way, they say that too much black, especially on the wrong person, is far less powerful (and indeed slimming) than we imagine.
2. Don't show your jugular
Men and women should avoid 'revealing their jugular', which makes you look more vulnerable. It’s why men wear ties to seem important, something women can emulate with a scarf or necklace. Which, for me, is ten years of Trinny and Susannah’s enthusiasm for V-necks cast out of my wardrobe and onto the floor.
3. Wear a watch
They strongly recommend wearing a watch every day as it shows you respect other people’s time as well as your own. And they don’t mean a chunky plastic affair. Smart and grown up is what you need. Likewise they advise that classic earrings on women finish a look and lift your apparent status. As does the right balance of make up: neither too nude nor too disco.
4. Don't overstuff your bag
Carry a good quality bag and never overstuff it with your lunchbox, yesterday’s Metro, stinky trainers, a biblical-sized novel and a broken Twix. Equally don’t respond to the overstuffed bag crisis by getting another one, as carrying two bags is a vagrant vibe only fashion editors get away with. Also invest in good quality shoes and a jacket (your 'armour') to wear to important meetings.
So that’s it. Chuck what you’ve worn to death. Find out what colours suit you. Get a friend or partner to honestly review how well your clothes fit. Alter everything to make it perfect, even if it means shortening a sleeve half an inch. And smile. The room is yours.
Christine Armstrong will speaking at MT's Inspiring Women event on 16 November alongside top chef Angela Hartnett, TalkTalk CEO Dido Harding and Propercorn founder Cassandra Stavrou. Read more here. Or, for a selection of top stories delivered straight to your inbox, sign up to our Inspiring Women Bulletin.