We can all let out a collective sigh and roll our eyes at the fact that a day in the office just isn't as stylish as an episode of Suits. But we can still take some inspiration from Jessica, Donna and Rachel to create a winning wardrobe for life as a female lawyer.
We all know how important it is to maintain a professional appearance in everything we do. However, in the legal profession our appearance is a critical tool we can use to influence and persuade others on sight.
The most important fact is we are already creating a powerful impression with our visual image. Problems only arise when we're not doing it knowingly or purposefully.
We judge people on sight. It's one of the ways we keep ourselves safe. We can't hide from it, but we can control it. We can use our appearance to prove our point, underline our statement or pound our fist on the table!
We can use our visual image to attract new clients, nurture relationships and even influence outcomes. Getting dressed each morning should be the first strategic move we make.
Every Day is Different
In our busy world, everyday is different. People need different things from us each day and we will have to focus on different results. Dressing for the court room has far different implications than going to a networking event or having a sensitive client meeting.
The way we dress, right down to the style of the garment and even the colour can affect people differently.
Think about what you need to achieve each day and what that would look like in an outfit. I have to admit, it's one of my superpowers, but there's a logic to it that makes sense once you know how.
Here's an example:
If you were going into court today and there is a question around your client involving integrity or honesty, you should wear a structured navy blue dress that goes from neck to just below the knee. Little to no jewellery, hair tied back very neatly and nude heels with nude stockings.
Your appearance will project trust and capability. This is not a day for a chiffon shirt, a-line skirt or red lipstick. All of those images will send the wrong message. Your job is to influence on sight so that confirmation bias can take care of the rest.
Your Wardrobe Is Your Secret Weapon
We view our wardrobes the wrong way. We don't give it the credit it deserves. If we see it a strategic tool with the ability to qualify us on sight, for any and all of our goals, we would probably treat it with more respect.
Each garment should have an integral reason for being there. Whether it's there to force an issue, make an impact on stage, prove a point, nurture sensitivity or create new interest, we should know why it's there so that's it's full impact can be utilised.
Most of us collect useless garments that tend to get in the way of the good ones. The problem here is we can't see what we've got for all the noise.
Remove anything in your wardrobe that doesn't serve a purpose.
Most of us will, at minimum, have a think about what we're wearing tomorrow before turning out the lights and heading to bed.
Our drivers are usually what fits, what's clean and what's on.
When we are dressing 'on purpose' we think about who we are dealing with the next day and what they need from us.
Let's say it's a divorce case and we know the client will be emotional and even scared. They need your comfort as well as your direct guidance. Apply some imediate warmth to the situation with an ivory, chiffon top. It will provide the softness they need and will still be stunningly professional.
Being prepared also means having a wardrobe at work equiped for all occasions.
This doesn't need a lot of items just the right ones. One soft shirt, one structured jacket, a great dress and a couple of shoe options ('desk to date' can fit in here too). Once you start using your wardrobe as a weapon, you'll want to be prepared even more!
Now I didn't go into all the usual 'make sure it fits', 'make sure it's ironed and clean', 'make sure your brain didn't fall out on the way to the shopping mall...' stuff because I'm pretty sure we're beyond that.
So here's how I'll close... When someone has an impression of us they don't go looking for information to prove themselves wrong. They will only look for information that proves themselves right. Our visual image has pursasive power whether we are using it or not.
Most people don't use it to it's full advantage. You should be one of the people who does.