Gov. David A. Paterson, Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton,
Senator-designate Kirsten E. Gillibrand and
Senator Charles E. Schumer at lunch at the Waldorf-Astoria Hotel.
‘Communicate Success and Reliability’
Ever since humankind slipped into the first animal pelt, rafia skirt or toga, clothing has been used as a powerful communication tool. Whether it’s pips on a General’s epaulet, ermine on a Lord’s robes or stripes on an old Etonian’s tie, clothing is ubiquitously used to denote background, status and power.
Nowhere is this form of communication more evident and more important than at today’s power lunch. Along with the ‘breakfast meeting’, the business ‘power lunch’ has become a highly valuable asset within the corporate toolbox. It is estimated that more deals are closed over lunch now than are closed in the board room. The power lunch is used to signify a more personal and ‘up close’ way of doing business. It is more informal than a board room meeting and says to the client or business partner that you want to make the effort to take time out of your otherwise busy day to invest in them.
But underneath the veneer of informality lies a raging etiquette and as much psychological warfare as in any other business encounter and, of course, designer clothing is right up there, front and centre stage in the whole performance.
At its most basic, the dress code for the power lunch is very simple; formal business attire, just as in all other aspects of corporate life. The setting and feel of the encounter may be more informal than the boardroom but this doesn’t mean the dress code necessarily becomes more informal. In the restaurant you will be visible to other ‘power lunchers’ so it is important that you perform well as an ambassador for the firm and ‘look the part’. Some power lunches may be informal dress but this would be the exception and would probably be clarified in advance. So, if in doubt, default to the standard which, for men, is the dark suit, white shirt and tie and for women a dark skirtsuit with very subtle jewellery and make-up.
But in practice, the dress code communication is more complex than this. In business, it is important to communicate two things: ‘I’m doing well’ and ‘you can trust me’. In other words, you want, through your power lunch dress code, to communicate success and reliability.
Let’s look the latter first. Reliability and trustworthiness are communicated through somber colours and well-cut clothing. A navy suit would be a good choice here to communicate solidity and maturity. It’s important the suit fits well and isn’t straining or pulling anywhere. A classic line to the suit that isn’t chasing the leading edge of fashion will give an air of stability and self-confidence. These tips work equally for men and women.
Communicating success in business is important because people want to associate with those who are on the up. Rather than colour, success can be communicated with the choice of good-quality fabrics, by wearing designer clothing, and through the subtle use of accessories such as a splash of colour in the tie, double-cuffed shirt with a pair of cuff links and good quality belt and shoes. Women have more scope here and can make good use of a sharply-styled handbag, killer shoes and a good-quality, single piece of jewellery.
Of course, breaking the communication of the power lunch dress code down into its constituent parts begins to look a bit formulaic and twee. Suffice to say, the desired overall image for the power lunch is one of confidence and gravitas with sprinkle of flair. Understated success every time. Now go and close that deal!
About the Author
Phil writes for fashion websites.
“Communicating success in business is important because people want to associate with those who are on the up. Rather than color, success can be communicated with the choice of good-quality fabrics, by wearing designer clothing, and through the subtle use of accessories such as a splash of colour in the tie, double-cuffed shirt with a pair of cuff links and good quality belt and shoes. Women have more scope here and can make good use of a sharply-styled handbag, killer shoes and a good-quality, single piece of jewellery.”