Bad news, ladies: You might have to trash the Manolos and the Jil Sander ensemble. Instead, break out the sensible Ferragamo pumps and head to the nearest Talbots for some royal blue suits. And while you're at it, stock up on the extra-hold hairspray.
If you want credibility in the workplace, there's only one tried-and-true style model. "Put down the self-help books and rush out to see The Iron Lady this weekend," advises More magazine. "That Margaret Thatcher—she's the one you want to emulate."
On both sides of the Atlantic, Maggie Thatcher is being hailed as the originator of the power look for women. (British Vogue even provides an item-by-item diagram of her clothes and accessories.)
This is how OxfordStudent analyzes Thatcher's sartorial arsenal:
She was a woman who throughout her career managed to turn her clothes and accessories into clever mediums of communicating power. . . her signature pearls, shoulder pads, handbags, and lurid blue suits stand out as a medium of control. . . . Her style was always precise and impeccable. It was a regal uniformed [sic], highly groomed and sharp. She opted for tailored suits so that she could stand quite literally ‘shoulder to shoulder’ with men.
One golden rule about the Thatcher power look: Don't wear pants! Suzy Menkes in Harper's Bazaar writes that "Mrs. T certainly dressed to please men, [so] perhaps the skirt or dress seemed a better choice." (Did Hillary Clinton and Nancy Pelosi falter because they favor pant suits?)
A study by the University of Hertfodshire supports Thatcher's choice, finding that says skirts deliver a "better first impression." Reports today.msnbc.com about the U.K. study:
In the study, 300 participants (males and females aged from 14 to 67) were asked to provide snap judgments of images featuring women in various office outfits—skirts and pantsuits made in the same exact fabric and color—with the faces blurred. They then gave feedback based on five factors: confidence, success, trustworthiness, salary, and flexibility. In just three seconds, they were able to determine they far preferred the more feminine options.
So it comes down to this: Walk softly and carry a big stick—but do so in a skirt. The idea that women are taken more seriously if they look ladylike and are a tad dowdy (e.g., neutered, sexually unavailable)—was something I thought we'd outgrown.
It's disturbingly retro, but I fear there might be some truth to all this. What do you think? Is donning Thatcher's armor the logical choice for women who want to get ahead?
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