How important is it to look the part? A long time ago I was in a meeting with a seasoned Investment Banker when a colleague of mine walked into the room, introduced himself and walked back out. Later on in the day, I asked him why he left so suddenly – he had earlier expressed a desire to be introduced to her when the opportunity arose. He said, “Was she the banker you spoke of, she didn’t really look it? So am not sure if I want to introduce her to the client.” Shallow? Absolutely. True? Sadly yes.
The fact is perceptions matter.
Even if you don’t believe in keeping up appearances and prefer to let your work do the talking, the clothes you wear help you exude confidence, which is why fashion is so powerful. Gone are the days when Power Dressing just meant a pant or skirt suit or a boring grey suit and a blue tie. Times are changing. This can puzzle people. Students at our investment banking courses in Mumbai often ask us, “So what exactly is power dressing?” prompting us to write this piece.
Power dressing means clothing or accessorizing that increases your confidence.
The last few years have seen women heading towards a streamlined, tailored look. Accessories have become fashionable and everything is in the details be it a bright pink shoe under grey trousers or a red handbag with a white jacket. We are fortunate to live in a world where anything goes. But there are some rules, and then some popular myths.
Rule – Be Comfortable
A lot of people feel that Indian clothing cannot be powerful and yet feel conscious while wearing a skirt. Wearing a short skirt and a woolen jacket will only have you tugging at your hemlines and sweating at the armpits. Power dressing means impeccable dressing, not uncomfortable dressing. That means structured neat clothing. If you don’t like showing skin, wear trousers or a long pencil skirt. Find the Indian weather too hot for heavy suits, wear linen. It’s breathable and available in a variety of colors.
Myth – Power dressing applies solely to western clothes
Not true. A Nehru collar tunic with a silk scarf over black trousers and a gorgeous cotton sari or a light Kanjivaram, with pleats held together by a simple brooch. When in doubt, check out Chanda Kochar, she’s always well dressed.
- Power dressing is in the details – The opposite of power dressing is sloppy dressing. Men – watch that crease in front; it needs to be as sharp as a blade. Shine your shoes, iron your shirt. The exact same ensemble changes drastically if your collars are neat, the shirt is ironed and the shoes look good
- Be unique, we are not in school anymore – Men, bring out the cufflinks and the interesting pairs of socks. Women now’s the time to accessorize but be careful. Have only one thing stand out. I said pink shoes but not pink shoes and a neon orange top
- Get your hair right – A good hair day can make anything you wear stand out. You can skip a lot of shopping if you invest in a good haircut. And not to be greasy. Greasy hair equals dirty hair. Get rid of the oil. A significant part of the working environment is spent in groups. Imagine being stuck in an air-conditioned room for four hours with the smell of amla hair oil
- Respect the environment – When going for a site visit to Raipur, understand your environment. It’s going to be hot and it’s going to be more conservative. That doesn’t mean you don a potato sack. It means you rethink the heels and try a pair of trousers instead of a skirt
- Be professional – No matter what environment you are in, be professional. That means you make sure your clothes align with what you do
Faculty that deliver our investment banking courses in Mumbai spend substantial time with our students guiding them on these points that will help them both with their placements and future career growth. We encourage students to spend time on what they wear to work. An average person spends 10 hours a day at work, that’s 60 hours a week and essentially most of your waking lifetime. Doesn’t it make more sense to spend time on what you wear to work than to a wedding that you will possibly spend only an hour at?