What do you wear when you want to show authority without wearing a suit? We’ve talked about what to wear when a suit doesn’t feel right, but Reader R is looking for authoritative clothes that aren’t intimidating and travel well…
I recently started a new job as in-house counsel. As part of my responsibilities, I will be traveling internationally to conduct audits and give training sessions. The job is great, but I’m not sure what to wear! My de facto would be to wear a suit, but my boss suggested that I should avoid wearing suits, since the appearance of a “suit” tends to make people nervous. Some relevant factors: (1) I’m often the only woman in the room; and (2) I’m also often the youngest person in the room.
Basically, I need pieces that say, “Position of authority, but non-scary” and travel well. Help!
Congrats on the new job, R! One of my older friends was a lawyer for a TV network in the 80s, and I remember her telling me that she would leave her suit jacket in her office when she had to go talk to the comedy writers or producers — it was less intimidating, less “this is coming from The Man.” So you’re not alone in wanting to thinking about what your clothes say to people. For my $.02: Put some thought into exactly what response you want from people. For example: Do you want them to respect that your word is the final word, and they should do what you tell them? (Play up the authority.) Do you want them to come to you with problems that might not be communicated to the home office otherwise? (Play up the approachability, but keep some authority.) Do you seek to really understand their problems and make friends in the office? (Turn the authority way down.) (As for the “looking younger” part of your question, you may want to look at our older post on the difference between acting young and looking young at the office.)
For my $.02, I would go with what you feel most comfortable in, and modify that (taking into account, obviously, the office culture for where you’re going). If you’re comfortable in: [Read more...]