Using Style to Advance Your Career - Alterre

Using Style to Advance Your Career

Contributor: Harmony Richards

Have you ever observed public female figures and wondered why they choose particular colors and silhouettes? Well, there's actually a science to it. Here are some key ways in which color and silhouette can assist you in strategically asking for that promotion or nailing your next TED talk.

While it might seem superficial, there is extensive research on how the clothing you wear influences first impressions, performance, and whether others take you seriously.

Leadership – Black

Black is a classic choice for projecting power and assertiveness. It conveys control, elegance, and composure. To soften the intimidating effect, consider pairing it with some color or texture. Note, we generally recommend black for individuals with darker hair. If you have blonde or lighter brown hair, think about deep muted green or dark greige (brown and grey) instead.

Teamwork/Collaboration – Blue

Blue is often associated with openness and friendliness, making it a perfect choice for symbolizing teamwork and collaboration. Bright navy can convey confidence and energy, while classic navy is ideal for interviews, projecting professionalism and stability without appearing rigid or dull. 

Logic – Gray

Gray can be a bit tricky because it comes in both warm and cool tones. Select a shade of gray that complements your skin tone for a sense of order. Charcoal gray can make you appear more experienced and mature, indicating a detailed approach. When presenting to a team of engineers, for instance, it's a strategic way to signal your attention to detail. Lighter gray, on the other hand, appears youthful and refreshing while maintaining a sense of order, suitable for conservative networking settings.

Reliability – Brown

Brown is an excellent choice for individuals with lower contrast tones. It conveys trust and reliability, making it perfect for those seeking a job promotion or looking to persuade others to take a chance on them. Kate Middleton, known for her skillful use of color, exudes old-world heritage and trust in monochromatic shades of brown, or lighter tan and nude colors for a classic and reliable appearance. 

Attractive & Assertive - Red

Red is the color of the season and can make women appear more attractive, especially when paired with a conservative outfit. It can evoke emotions and assertiveness, making it a strategic choice for emotionally persuasive conversations. Amal Clooney, a human rights activist and lawyer specialized in international law, successfully incorporates red into her work-friendly outfits. This color choice reinforces her persuasive abilities.


Formal business attire typically signifies competence and leadership, while more casual outfits suggest approachability and friendliness. Both strategies can be useful at different times. For instance, when leading a brainstorming session involving multiple teams, a professional jumpsuit can convey both authority and friendliness, deviating from the traditional pencil skirt or trousers commonly associated with leadership roles. 

For conference opportunities, it's more appropriate to wear formal attire in a color that suits you. Consider Hillary Clinton's 2016 presidential campaign outfits, carefully selected to project authority without being perceived as "angry" or "too emotional." Fortunately, most of us are not scrutinized to the same extent, but there are valuable style tactics to learn from her choices. She typically wore aesthetically neutral, professional outfits that allowed her to stand out for her achievements without appearing rigid.


Testing Theories

Experiment and Evaluate: The definition of "traditional" has evolved due to the work-from-home culture post-pandemic, making it more common for women to opt for combinations like a clean white t-shirt under a blazer, breaking away from traditional norms. After trying a new color or silhouette at work, assess how it made you feel and whether it influenced people's behavior or your own. Consider your workplace's culture and whether bold colors are appropriate.  My general rule of thumb is that the bolder the color, the more traditional the silhouette needs to be. The same goes for vice versa.

The Power of Comfortable Shoes

In many workplaces, traditional pumps have given way to more unconventional options. Bold choices like our glittery v-slides can command respect and signify non-conformity. For a less flashy alternative consider some animal print shoes like our new python pointed loafers or ballet pumps.  

Authenticity is a Powerful Message

Above all, feeling good leads to better performance. As gen-z and millennials (aka zilennials) enter the workforce, they seek leaders who embrace authenticity. If all of this feels daunting, we encourage you to wear what makes you feel your best. Research shows that people are more productive when they wear something that boosts their confidence. Forbes wrote a pretty compelling article about wearing what you feel the best in here.


Leave a comment

All blog comments are checked prior to publishing