casual and formal wardrobe
Vanessa Friedman wrote a fabulous NY times article about "Mark Zuckerberg's sorry suit", commenting on what he wore to his congressional hearing. Vanessa analyses Mark's dress philosophy, the easy-going combo of t-shirt and jeans ( although not the cheapest as apparently his t'shirts are Bruno Cucinelli at $300 a pop). She explains that he chose his practical, multi-purpose signature style so he would 'never' need to think about clothes again. Ms Friedman reminds us that any approach cemented in stone with the word 'never' might fail us because we all need to be ready for both casual and formal professional occasions.
Mark Zuckerberg is seriously involved in visual communication at Facebook. And his suit was chosen to communicate I am sorry. He donned a suit on his congressional hearing day to make it very clear " I am deeply concerned and I care." And we all have situations where " I am concerned and care deeply" is what we want to express." Mr Zuckerberg chose a suit, to align his visual appearance with everyone else in the room and emphasise his respect for their values. And on occasion we too need our wardrobe to do that. If you are a leader, your employees need you to role model such a wardrobe. You want them to grow, takes risks and and be able to dress to face new challenges: volunteer for the tough presentation, be ready for crucial Q and A's, convincingly describe their portfolio and design concept. If you are on a team, you need those in senior positions, whether it be an art professor or a marketing manager, to to role model clear, authentic, creative and impactful visual and verbal communication. Let's delve into this more....
THE 'FREMDKÖRPER' PROBLEM
Clients whose daily outfit is a casual combo of jeans and a t-shirt often struggle when they put on a suit for a meeting. Like Mr. Zuckerburg, people start commenting "Wow...is something big happening today." "Hey, why are you all dressed up...what's the big deal." If there is something big going on that they are nervous about, they won't feel empowered wearing a "Fremdkörper" . Fremdkorper is a very useful German word, Fremd means strange and korper means body. Strange body. If you wear jeans and t-shirt every day then once a month don a suit, clearly people will react as though something strange is happening on your body. If you wear a Fremdkörper outfit on THE BIG DAY you'll end up feeling like you're dressed for a costume party. The opposite of confident, authentic and empowered. Your ‘Fremdkörper’ could be a suit if you normally wear is jeans. A cocktail dress if you usually wear trousers. Or a t-shirt and jeans if you normally only dress formally. Or....whatever is the opposite of what you wear 95% of the time. What to do when you have a big event and need to show 'this is important and I really care'? And stay true to yourself? And not wear a Fremdkörper....
THE WORKPLACE ARCHETYPE
The secret to staying true to yourself both casually and formally is understanding the familiar influencer archetype in your environment. Because if you know the rules you can break them successfully. I am thinking of a client who worked for a company where she was surrounded by Ruler archetype men. She was a smart, experienced, educated introvert whose style archetype expressed The Artist and The Natural. She was struggling to get listened to because The Artist archetype wasn’t understood or recognised by the men she worked with. Her confidence was low as a result of this inability to communicate impactfully. The Ruler men would have 'got' her had she dressed like the Queen Boss archetype. But she didn't want to succumb to Queen Boss clothing because she felt it would meaning giving up her values, strengths and personality. How could she successfully rememdy this situation?
STAYING TRUE TO YOUR VISION
To stay true to herself AND have impact and influence, she needed a clearly defined vision. Why? My client gave monthly presentations to men in a conservative company where The Ruler archetype was the commonly understood imagery. Dressing in a way that was perceived as the poor artist type on a daily basis, then once a month showing up in a suit was confusing her colleagues. Which was the real her...the person in the suit or the poor starving artist. And since she hated the suit she wore once a month, she clearly couldn't feel authentic in it. A problem because true influence can only come from a place of authenticity. To her surprise when we we edited her style vision her primary archetype was The Artist and secondary was The Queen Boss. She came to understand that her inspiration images expressed 80% flowing artist and 20% classic structure and high quality from the Queen boss. Which resulted in the "Valuable Queen Artist". This happened in three steps
1. UNDERSTAND THE DOMINANT STYLE ARCHETYPE IN YOUR WORKPLACE
Each of the women in the photos here communicates an archetype we get. If we work for them their archetype sets the tone. We don't have to dress like them but we certainly want our power understood by them. Knowing their unwritten power dress code allows us to intentionally choose to follow or break it. Identifying the Ruler as the dominant archetype in her workplace and knowing she wanted to project the Artist was empowering for my client.
2. TRANSITION FROM CASUAL TO FORMAL EASILY
Knowing how to dress and stay true to herself became easier for my client because she finally understood how to align her visual expression with her expertise, education and desired outcome. By bringing in The Queen Boss structural and quality elements, her target group got her intentional creative expression. She looked no longer like a poor starving artist but like an impactful creative woman consciously choosing to express her artistic side. The transition from daily business to formal presentation became child's play with her Style Vision nailed down. She knew how to look valuable and influential in jeans but also in her version of the suit.
3. INCREASE YOUR CONFIDENCE WITH AUTHENTICITY
My client's impact and influence increased because her confidence did. Her style vision acted as a compass, keeping her on track and making dressing straightforward and joyful. She was able to dress as a confident artistic woman for daily business. And on THE BIG DAY where her message was 'I care and am deeply and am very concerned about this'. Always staying true to herself. No longer needing a Fremdkorper suit. Giving a presentation was no longer a Mark Zuckerberg moment but a smooth natural confident transition.
What is the dominant archetype in power where you work? Is it easy for you to stay true to yourself in this environment?
Don't forget to check out Vanessa Friedman's article: https://www.nytimes.com/2018/04/10/fashion/mark-zuckerberg-suit-congress.html