I was recently asked by the BBC to comment on the debate over the suggestion that Jo Swinson would generate more votes for her party if she wore low-cut tops, by an ill-advised member of the the general public (thank goodness it wasn’t someone from within her team). To be honest I find it utterly ridiculous and very sad that we are even having this conversation – it’s 2019 folks – nearly 2020 and the beginning of a new decade. But here we are with inequality in pay an enormous issue and less than 7% of women in senior roles in the UK and the increase worldwide for women in Senior Managements roles is still shockingly low being only 3% over the last five years. However there are some BIG topics in this first paragraph and this isn’t a political commentary – I am going to focus on this one issue – style in senior, public facing roles for women.
It’s an interesting topic as you could argue that no-one is talking about Jeremy Corbyn, apart from his wonky glasses and geography teacher comparisons and Boris Johnson’s hairstyle (or lack of!) and these observations on their attire are often done in an affable, almost endearing way as if it somehow makes them seem slightly more cuddly and approachable. Yet get this fashion/style thing wrong as a woman and the language and terminology is a whole different ball game, take Angela Merkel’s style which is often described as ‘frumpy’ and ‘austere’ and I can’t help but think with a male counterpart these words might be ‘straightforward’ and ‘powerful’.
However sadly, as a woman I think you expect this sort of scrutiny more so than a male counterpart rightly or wrongly, especially when you’re in the public eye. Jo Swinson is also the least experienced and youngest MP running for Prime Minister (at the time of this blog) so I would expect people want to know who she is and what her background is more so than perhaps the other two main contenders, though how you’d get to know someone more with a low-cut top I’m not sure!
Obviously what is most important are her beliefs and policies and how she intends to manage the country should she be successful – though as we all know we are driven by first impressions and we makes these very quickly (less than seven seconds) so it’s vital that we make these moments count when we want to create a lasting and impactful impression.
There are several aspects to dressing successfully;
1. Dressing for your body shape – understanding your own unique shape will enhance what you buy and how you wear certain styles as well as pieces to avoid which will not flatter your shape
2. Embracing the right colours for your skin tone – colours are hugely powerful in addressing how we feel and the way others react to us.
3. Confidence – when you look great you will carry yourself with poise and stand that bit taller, commanding respect and ensuring people listen to what you have to say
Jo Swinson being given advice on ‘wearing low cut tops’ from a random member of the public is tedious and simply has no place in modern day society in this country and worlwide, please god the same person doesn’t suggest Boris starts wearing shorts!
Her body shape would benefit from v-necked tops but they don’t need to be low cut to achieve this look and there are also other effective ways of creating this shape without getting her cleavage out – see the Grazia shoot below.
I would suggest Jo Swinson wears colours well and often the right ones for her skin tone, she looks fantastic in reds, blues, teals and purples. As a Personal Stylist, my professional opinion is she could look more polished overall although it may be that she is finding a style and a look which works for her role now she is in the spotlight more. Style is an evolution and changes with the client’s lifestyle and career. That is why a Personal Stylist can be so instrumental in helping a client evolve and change style direction – Jo Swinson is a political leader not a fashion guru. In the Grazia feature above, I see a woman who is ambitious, has a clear sense of purpose and direction and looks professional, in control and elegant – and it is no co-incidence that this is a styled shoot!
Unfortunately women in the spotlight will be under scrutiny for what they are wearing, much more so it appears than men still in 2019, despite what they have to say. That doesn’t mean that we can’t use style to advance, get our message across and fire us up with confidence to be brilliant at whatever role we choose to focus on.
Humans make extremely quick decisions about the type of person you are within seconds – it is in our nature – so rightly or wrongly judgements are made in less than 7 seconds and it is totally in our power to control this to our advantage. It doesn’t detract from who you are and what you have to say – your personal style should enhance your personality and that is why it can be enormously powerful.