Today we’re excited to kick off our newest partnership with SilkArmour UK, an INpowered women’s fashion site. SilkArmour will also host our newest InPower Women’s forum. Read Dana’s journey to making peace with fashion, Barbie and the trappings of external power below and then join the SilkArmour forum conversation! – InPower Editors
“You’re going to write a women’s blog? You mean more ‘dress for success’ stuff?”
When I launched InPower Women four years ago it was—in part—a reaction to the ‘dress for success stuff’ I saw on so many other blogs targeting women in the workforce. I wanted to create a place where women became informed about, and talked about their complex relationship with power, gender and career satisfaction. I didn’t want another women’s fashion blog. I still don’t.
As you can tell from our name, INpower Women, we like to focus here on an inside-out perspective on power. We chose this focus for two reasons (1) it’s an authentic avenue to feeling genuinely powerful for many women who weren’t raised with that feeling and are looking for it and (2) when you have inner power you tend to be more resilient when it comes to achieving and managing external power. In other words, you’re more likely to survive success in a powerful position or role when you can draw on your inner power resources like mindfulness, emotional intelligence and your personal leadership values.
On its face “dress for success” appears the opposite of inner power. After all if you have inner power, why do you need to dress externally to achieve it?
Isn’t “dressing for success” an attempt to hide the fact that you don’t have any power under those clothes?
And there it is: the reason I used to feel ambivalent about “dress for success.” In an either/or mindset you can have inner OR outer power, but not both.
An INpowered Approach to Fashion
An INpower mindset isn’t either/or, it’s both/and.
What I’ve learned in coaching and supporting hundreds of women in a professional context over the last five years is that the most powerful and impactful people in our world—men and women—experience both inner and outer power. They craft their leadership identities intentionally to express a whole sense of self that not only makes them feel authentic but that expresses their authenticity to others the way they wish to be seen, and this includes how they dress and appear to the world.
The secret inner sauce to expressing your personal brand externally is to “own it.” The way you show the world your ownership is by how you dress, accessorize and style yourself. That’s where “dress for success” really matters to completing the wholeness picture you show the world. When you put on clothes that express your authentic, whole sense of self, you’re showing the world that you “own” who you are, including how you look.
I admit that I had, and still have, another ambivalence when it comes to fashion and style. I was raised with the Barbie vision of the successful woman. My mom viewed my success, and her own, largely through the lens of how thin and beautiful we were. So guess what my earliest vision of female success looked like? Yeah. Barbie. And not the new “curvy” one! To this day I struggle with the fact that Barbie does not appear in any of the mirrors I look into. I squint to find her and just can’t.
This isn’t just my problem. Real women who manage careers, families and a life full of dreams for the future usually look more like me and less like Barbie. And for us the stakes are smaller than those seeking even greater power. Whatever you think of Hillary Clinton as a potential President, she’s forging new territory in what feminine leadership looks like by taking on the double-bind in the most public way possible, including shaping her wardrobe to her objective. The fashion industry is coming around to the dilemmas of real women’s bodies bit by bit (though maybe not on the runway). Fashion is part of the double bind that women face in positions of power (and powerlessness) everywhere.
But the effort to battle Barbie is just part of the challenge of expressing our authentic inner power to the outside world. The other part looks like that puzzled face we make when we face our own closet every morning we have to leave the house.
INpowering Your Quest to Dress for Success
So let’s come back to how we here at InPower women will be playing in the fashion territory in the months to come. I’m proud to announce our newest partner, Silkarmour UK. I first met Sacha Irving, when she interviewed me for Silkarmour’s blog. I was surprised a fashion site wanted to know what I thought about anything (given my ambivalence above), but the more we talked the more I understood that Silkarmour, run by Sacha’s sister Galyna, doesn’t come at the fashion question from the outside-in. Like me, they look to the clothing we wear as expressions of inner strength.
Sacha and I had a fabulous conversation that Galyna and I want to continue, with you! Galyna will be hosting a conversation in our forums about women, leadership, fashion, power and anything this brings up for you. Please join us in welcoming them and join the conversation now!