A LESSON IN POWER DRESSING
With the passing of Her Majesty, Queen Elizabeth, there’s been much to reflect upon, from how she lived her life in public to how she wielded her power.
Watching all the pomp and pageantry this past week, there was one remark in particular that I couldn’t get out of my mind: “I have to be seen to be believed.”
In other words, The Queen was brilliant when it came to “branding”. Her life was a masterclass in royal image-making. She understood the importance of clothes and of colour. Women in business today could learn a lot from her.
How was it, being only 5 feet 3 inches tall, she was always unmissable in a crowd? It wasn’t by wearing a dark trouser suit. The message she sent was one of feminine strength, never intimidated by meetings with senior dignitaries or falling victim to needing to dress to 'keep up with the boys.' She not only made a statement — she demanded to be seen — and, in doing so, owned whatever room she was in.
And how could I not admire a woman who once said, “She doesn’t feel dressed without a bag.”
From the moment she ascended to the throne in 1952 a major part of her role, as leader of The Commonwealth, was to deliver a message of reliability, stability, and steadfastness to her audience. And just like her, we too are unique entities that stand for something and make a “promise”, and we live our lives to deliver upon it, be it in our work life or personal life.
So if you don’t think of yourself as a brand it’s time you should. Brands are important corporate assets that can burnish a company’s profile and meaningfully differentiate it from other businesses. Your personal brand is no different.
And one of the most effective ways of presenting your brand is through fashion. A well-curated look puts you in control of what people see when they first meet you and conveys what makes you stand out from the rest.
Women, regardless of age, often believe their efforts, education, or performance are enough to outcompete colleagues and secure advancement opportunities. Sadly, many overlook (or simply are not taught) the value of building a personal brand.
Being a strong performer is often not enough to get noticed. In high-performing organizations, at certain levels, everyone is exceptional. To clearly differentiate your value and what you bring to the table, you need to do more than have a good reputation. You need to have an outstanding personal brand.
MY BEST ADVICE
Just like in the commercial world, a brand can’t succeed if no one is aware of it. If you fail to showcase your brand to a broad audience — especially key decision-makers — you’re unlikely to land those bigger and better opportunities.
My suggestion is to identify the influencers in your organization and strategize on ways to connect with them, both formally and informally.
Many of us would rather stick a pencil in our eye than stick out, but don’t fret if it doesn’t come naturally. Start by reaching out to your boss, a senior colleague, or a teammate who’s worked in the organization for a while to help you make a few introductions.
When you connect with them, see if they would be willing to meet for a quick (virtual) coffee or lunch. You can frame your ask around seeking their advice on a topic within their area of expertise, or maybe even call out some similarity within your backgrounds — a shared hobby, aspiration, or alumni affiliation.
The point of all this is to make yourself visible. In the words of The Queen, “You have to be seen to be believed”.
THE PROPER NAME FOR “SENIOR WOMEN”: QUEEN-AGERS
For those of us who have reached middle age? Well, take heart in knowing that this is when The Queen really hit her stride with her role. The Monarch dressed with more zest than ever thanks to a closet full of brighter colors and more flattering fits.
Elizabeth Holmes, the author of HRH: So Many Thoughts on Royal Style, “She recognized the need to keep her presence interesting.”
For so long the narrative around women in their 60s and onwards was 'why worry about clothes at this age?' Why be relevant? It was wonderful to witness The Queen welcoming the dawn of her nonagenarian years in a neon-green two-piece in wool crepe and silk. A suit so bright, it got its own hashtag: #neonat90.
"This was a brilliant look that said, 'Yes, I might be 90, but I'm still the head of my family, still the Queen the world has known and loved for decades, and I'm going nowhere soon," says Holmes.
So don’t be afraid to use your clothes and style to build your personal brand. Use your style as a tool to stand out and be noticed and reinforce yourself as a professional woman. Clothing gives an idea of your character and even boosts your confidence if you feel good about what you wear.
According to psychologist Dr. Jennifer Baumgartner, author of ‘The Psychology of Dress’, you can use your wardrobe to change how other people perceive you, and even more importantly – how you see yourself.
“Your brand is what other people say about you when you are not in the room.”
Jeff Bezos, Founder of Amazon