Guest blog: Can your wardrobe impact performance at work? - By Katherine Anstey, writing on behalf of Next UK

The smart vs. casual debate

The smart vs. casual debate is by no means a new one, but it is one that’s becoming ever more prominent for workers around the UK. With daily questions including “how causal is too casual?” or “is it acceptable to wear denim to work?” – it’s a topic on the tip of everyone’s tongue.

A YouGov survey last year asked the public what they would ideally like to wear for work, and revealed that over half (57%) would want a smart causal dress code, with interestingly only 18% opting for formal wear if they had the choice. But should the question really be: “What should we wear to help boost our performance at work?”

With that in mind, Fashion retailer Next wanted to delve deeper into the concept of female workwear psychology as part of Work Wise Week 2018. So we interviewed Dr Paillard, a Senior lecturer and course leader for BSc Psychology of Fashion at the London College of Fashion, to find out more about the psychology behind how what we wear can impact how we perform at work. Next also spoke to TV presenter and style icon Emma Willis, to find out what she wears to feel most powerful and confident, as well as helping to give some style inspiration next time you’re looking to ooze confidence at work. 

Power dressing can boost your confidence levels   

Multiple studies show that confidence and performance are interlinked – so how can you feel confident in what you wear? The answer is looking smart and embracing power-dressing.

Next carried out a poll which showed that 70% of people say that dressing smart made them feel more confident at work. Dr Paillard’s research supports this, revealing that when it comes to power dressing:

“It is proven that if you wear such clothes, or for example red lipstick, you will perform better and you will feel happier.”

Next ambassador Emma – known for her signature suit – tells us that if she’s looking for a power dressing go-to, then she turns to tailoring. Channeling a suit makes Emma feel fabulous, and she explains:

“I think a suit gives me the most power – I mean, I don’t know if it actually does, but wearing one makes me feel comfortable and confident.”

But don’t sacrifice comfort… 

However Dr Paillard warns us that your power dressing wardrobe shouldn’t be detrimental to your comfort, and reveals that in fact:

“Your wellbeing will be higher if you’re wearing clothes you’re comfortable with and show who you are.”

This means that if you feel uncomfortable or you’re wearing something that isn’t truly you, it’s likely you’ll look uncomfortable too – so find what personally makes you feel great, so you can focus on work with no distractions.

As someone who is often under pressure at work, Emma agrees that power dressing doesn’t necessarily mean you need to go out of your comfort zone:

“I think there’s a lot of pressure to be individual and different… It’s not important to me to feel individual but more to trust my gut and to feel like me in it.”

Looking for some power-dressing wardrobe inspo? 

Looking back to the 80s, power dressing was all about the oversized shoulder pads and the bold accessories. But power dressing for today can be a little more on the subtle side.

When it comes to power dressing coupled with comfort, donning a suit seems like an all-round winner. You could go for a bold colour or pick an ivory two-piece, for a super on-trend look this summer. From slim or taper trousers that skim at the angles, through to slouch trousers with a wider leg which can help to elongate your legs – find a pair which compliment your figure.

You can couple your suit jacket with a crisp, classic shirt, or opt for a cami top instead, for a stylish look which will also keep you cool (inside and out) when things heat up at work. Lastly, if you’re most comfortable in flats, stick to them – a loafer or a smart sandal is perfect. Remember that comfort is key! However, if you feel more confident with a boost of height, slip into a pair of heels to finish off your outfit and guarantee to make heads turn in the workplace.


Your wardrobe can impact your performance

The answer is yes. Our research shows that what you wear can affect your frame of mind and ultimately your performance at work. So, whether you’ve got an important meeting coming up, you’re part of a life changing pitch, or you have an interview for a dream job – wear something that makes you feel confident (but comfortable) to help you perform your best.

Power dressing could be the answer to any wardrobe woes, so find a suit that hugs you in all the right places, accessorise like a pro, and you’ll feel ready to take on the day ahead.


Emma Willis & Next interview

Next poll carried out in March 2018. Survey Monkey of 100 respondents.