Women in Financial Services Blog

Olga Anderson on ‘Clothing: altering your performance at work’

Olga Anderson on ‘Clothing: altering your performance at work’

Mark.Freed / 11 Apr 2019

“The way you look directly affects the way you think, feel, and act . . . When you dress down, you sit down - the couch potato trend. Manners break down, you begin to feel down, and you’re not as effective.” (Kaplan-Leiserson, 2000, p. 39). Psychology for Business Success [4 volumes], Volume 1 By Michele A. Paludi

Psychology and clothing are more closely linked than you might realise. In the morning (or the night before if you’re organised), not only should you be thinking about what’s appropriate to wear to work but also, what clothing might boost your performance. 

In the ever increasing world of dressing down for work, if you and a colleague dressed in completely different dress-down-styles to each other one day, say one smart casual and one very much dressing down, what would be the impact on you and others around you? 


You can both do the job capably, but one of you may be trusted with bigger, more complex tasks over the other, or may be spoken to differently - perhaps only initially, but nevertheless, based purely on your clothing.

Being judged on what you wear is a great example of unconscious bias – one of you seemingly looking more professional than the other and so being given more responsibility. It goes without saying that you can manipulate the way you wish to be perceived with your clothing. But did you know that the way you dress for work can also impact your productivity? 

You and your performance

In 2012, the Journal of Experimental Social Psychology published a study entitled Enclothed Cognition.The journal, which explores the psychology process behind the clothing that we wear, highlights an experiment which has since become more widely known.

The controlled experiment explored the effects of wearing, and not wearing a white lab coat. The results? In a nutshell, those wearing the lab coat had an increase in selective attention. In addition, when described as a doctor’s coat, the wearer was found to have increased sustained attention in comparison to those who were told it was a painter's coat. This research suggests that the symbolic meaning behind clothing, is just as important as the physical aesthetic and experience of wearing it.  

This is just one example which begins to explain how our clothing can have an adverse or favourable effect on our performance and ultimately, our careers. Again, a little bit of unconscious bias at play but this time coming from us.

Let’s consider the term “power dressing” – this term was first used in the 1970s and, is defined as a style enabling women to establish authority in professional and political environments that were traditionally dominated by men. What style of dress do you associate with the term “power dressing”? Is it an androgynous clothing? A suit? A way of pattern cutting, colour or lack of embellishment?

Well, what I would like you to do is define your own style of power dressing.

Influencing your career through your clothing involves a whole host of factors: colour, texture, and as explored in Enclothed Cognition, symbolic meaning. But for me, the most important thing to consider is what style of dress makes you feel good. What style of dress makes you feel ready for work? What style of dress makes you feel confident? And this is where our own psychology and clothing are closely linked: our confidence levels fluctuate depending on what we wear and how we feel about ourselves, our self-esteem and so our performance levels at work will peak and trough accordingly.

We know that people gain confidence from clothes in a variety of ways and every woman is different - there isn’t a ‘one size fits all’ approach to power dressing. Everyone needs to abide by their employer’s dress code but within that code, power dressing can be interpreted in a myriad of ways.

As long as you’re towing the party line when it comes to workplace dress, wear what makes you feel comfortable and gives you confidence. You’ll feel happier and will naturally be more productive – take the stress out of the working wardrobe and wear what makes you happy.

Bespoke prices in London can seem rather prohibitive. And high prices don’t always equate to good quality; but it doesn’t always have to be that way. Here at Olga Anderson, we aim to provide both impeccable quality and tailoring within a good price margin every time.

'Olga Anderson' is a bespoke and ready-to-wear womenswear designer. She specialises in clothing designed to empower her clients, and as of 2019, became a ‘Women Appreciating Women’ (WAW) Honorary Award winner. She runs her brand with the belief that “fashion and design should empower women”; working meticulously to encourage and celebrate women’s  individuality, accomplishments and passion, both in and outside of their careers. 


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