I wrote a piece for BA BusinessLife this month with a series of 12 confidence tips for business and travel. In case you didn’t see it, here are the tips. And even if you did, this is an extended version with a lucky 13th tip.
- Dress for your next job
Always dress for a job that is one position higher than the one you currently hold if that’s your ambition. How we dress has a profound effect not only on the people who will make decisions about our future, but also on how we feel about ourselves. Knowing that you look the part will help you confidently grow into that next job. It will also give your bosses the message that you’re serious about it.
- No logo
Don’t wear obvious brands or logos – this shows a sense of insecurity in your choices; it can also be unnecessarily expensive. Make sure that you are paying for quality fabric and a fabulous, modern, edgy cut that really fits you, not for brand marketing budgets
- Less is more – use my Capsule Wardrobe approach
Quality over quantity – use my Capsule Wardrobe approach to get the best out of your budget. Buy fewer, better quality clothes you’ll wear more often – you’ll spend less in the end. A well constructed capsule wardrobe will give you endless combinations, a great base from which to accessorize different looks, easy packing for business travel and the luxury of a consistent, confident personal style.
- The hand-luggage Capsule
We all like to avoid having to check in baggage on short trips if we can. Here’s how to pack a mini-capsule into a small space. Choose an outfit that can be split up, like a trouser suit with a jacket that can be put with a skirt or a dress the next day. Scarves can also alter the look from one day to the next. And keep to one or two colours so that you can manage with one pair of shoes or boots. Use a dark coloured make up bag as an evening bag if you’re going out for a business dinner and don’t want to use a big work bag. Take a more dressy top and extra jewellery for evening to dress up your day outfit. If you have long hair, tie it back to also give a different look. If it’s short, add some interesting earrings. Always make sure you have t-shirts that can be rolled into small spaces and can double up as a top under the jacket. For women one of the biggest problems is packing a cosmetic bag. My solution is to use the small samples given with cosmetic purchases and to decant personal favourites into small containers.
- Jackets are a must
To my mind, the jacket has to be the basis of every busy woman’s wardrobe. Research has shown that women are taken far more seriously when they’re working if they wear jackets. Cardigans are all very well, but they don’t have the same gravitas. So always wear a jacket unless you’re wearing a dress with sleeves. As this is, in my opinion, the most important garment, it must fit well and be able to be done up. If you are bigger on your bottom half, you must buy to that size and have the top adjusted. It is always obvious when a jacket doesn’t fit and that makes you appear bigger.
- Pain in the feet shows in the face
Always bear in mind comfort as well as chic when choosing shoes – bad posture or teetering on high heels doesn’t help credibility. However, there are many wedge heeled shoes in the shops now that give height with comfort and still look very smart – and of course in winter we can dive into our boots and feel comfortable and smart too
- Wear natural make up
Always wear a natural looking make up, but never go without any. These days, mineral powders look natural, and give good coverage without being too heavy. As with everything, err on the less is more and at the very least make sure you’re wearing lipstick.
- Wear tights even in the summer
Always wear tights if wearing dresses or skirts (even in summer – there are very sheer ones) after all, men don’t go sockless.
- Groom yourself for success
Good hairstyling and grooming are very important – don’t forget your nails, they’re always on view – and well-cut hair is your best accessory. Remember that your hair gets exposed to as much pollution as your face and has very little protection. Contrary to popular belief, washing your hair every day with a good shampoo is very important for maintaining healthy hair.
- Don’t overload on jewellery
Don’t wear too much jewellery – a good watch and earrings are important but they shouldn’t be too dangly. Think about your jewellery as part of your outfit, it should complement it. Proportions are very important here. Larger jewellery needs very simple clothing; and small jewellery looks out of proportion with heavier fabrics
- Look right on the outside
Don’t forget that when you arrive somewhere an immediate decision is made about you, so buy a good outdoor coat or raincoat depending on your budget and spend as much as you can on your bag and shoes. Stick to neutral colours if you are on a tight budget or travel a lot.
- Don’t crease up
Polythene is your friend. Use polythene packaging such as from laundry and dry cleaning when you fold clothes for packing to stop them creasing. For example if packing a pair of trousers, lay them out, put the polythene on top and then fold, so the polythene is inside the fold. Stuffing polythene up jacket sleeves avoids creasing too. No matter how well you pack there will be a certain amount of creasing which if you are lucky will fall out if you hang it in the bathroom as you take a shower. I also find that a hairdryer held not too near the garment will often do the job of a steam iron.
- Don’t blindly follow tips
Tips like these can be useful, but you should not blindly follow published advice. You should develop your own individual, confident style. That will need to take account of your personality, your professional role and the culture of your organisation and industry. Your style, like your clothes needs to be tailored to you. Finding a experienced professional friend/stylist in a shop you admire is very important.