Can This Lipstick Make You Powerful?

There's something to power dressing - sharp suits, red lips, kick-butt shoes. But there's also something to empowered dressing. Read on...

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Bette Midler famously said, ‘Give a girl the right pair of shoes, and she can conquer the world.’

There might just be something to that.

In my work as an Image Coach, I’m privy to seeing how many of us attribute superpowers to what we wear: shoes that make us feel invincible, a power-lippy, or an outfit that makes us feel like catnip to the opposite sex.

Science calls this phenomenon Enclothed Cognition, which suggests that our psychological processes are affected by what we wear. The way we approach and interact with others can be influenced by associations we attribute to certain garments.

So a pair of shoes you wore to a successful meeting can take on those associations with power and success in your mind, effectively putting you into that headspace when you wear them again.

Dr. Galinsky, one of the lead researchers in the Enclothed Cognition study, says “clothing affects how other people perceive us as well as how we think about ourselves.”

I have a client who attributes the success of her dream-job interview to the red dress she wears for important occasions. Every time she wears it, her day unfolds like a power anthem - Eye of the Tiger, anyone?

Another client, who says her blue patent LK Bennett shoes give her 'super-powers' in meetings to stand tall and feel powerful. "They never let me down," she assures me.

Yet another client claims that wearing red lippy - Russian Red, by Mac, to be precise - is like flicking her power switch on. Read my entire piece here on whether red lipstick can make you braver.

As someone who thinks about clothes a disturbing amount of the time, I get how a garment (or certain makeup) can make us feel more powerful. My fleet of sleek, dark power suits from my investment banking days are fondly referred to as my "ninja wear" by my son, Max. I wear them when I need to kick butt.

I tried the black power suit plus the red lips once, hoping to feel bullet-proof. But it had the opposite effect. I felt like a back singer in a Robert Palmer video.

Still, there IS something to enclothed cognition. I get that.

But there's also something about clothes that make us feel powerful because they enhance our best inner attributes - our creativity, our sense of passion, fun and inspiration.

Power can be - and is, in my opinion - about compassion, collaboration, about going for it, even if we're afraid. Power is about our appetite for risk, because our trembling desire for something outweighs our fear of not succeeding.

Power, too, is about daring to stand out, to be an individual.

Clothes, as a form of self-care, self-understanding and ultimately, as self-expression, can be a form of empowerment. Dear World, this is me. My day is worth making the effort for. I'm worth making the effort for.

One of my most empowering outfits is a peony-pink cashmere jumper with a marbled Carven skirt in Easter egg colours. There's not a razor-sharp shoulder in sight. I feel feminine and soft and totally at home in a colour palette I'd have previously snubbed. I'm armour-less, yet powerful.

More and more, I'm coming to the conclusion that there are power garments, and there are empowering garments. They can co-exist comfortably in our wardrobe, and be chosen as and when we need them.

I've noticed I choose my power suits when I need to feel in control.

I've notice I don't choose those power suits when I'm meditating, writing my book, spending time with loved ones or doing any creative activity.

Instead, I choose garments that empower me in different ways - bright colours, mixed textures, or (like today) just jeans and a navy cashmere jumper. Sometimes 'empowered' means not worrying about clothes for the day. And that's ok too.

What do you notice about how what you wear empowers you? Please share.

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Dr. Mandy Lehto

Coach, Presence Expert, Courage-Builder, Possibilitarian,

Hey gorgeous! Have we met? I'm Dr. Mandy Lehto, speaker, coach and writer who helps amazing people get out of their own way already. Nearly ten years ago, I waved adios to my senior investment banking job in London to help as many people as possible start living their un-lived lives. Nowadays, I spend a disturbing amount of time thinking about overcoming fear and the obstacles we place in our own way (we are bizarre creatures, aren't we?). If being braver, a bit more bonkers, and living on purpose is your thing too (squeal!), lets hang out here, and come for green tea over at mine on


Go to the profile of Christine Livingston
over 7 years ago
I love the idea of empowered dressing, Mandy. I've been giving some thought myself to what "power" really means to me and, while at one point in life I thought it was all about what went on outside, these days I see it as being a much more internally generated quality. That said, I do think that dressing in a way that's congruent with that can actually amp the feeling up. I love the sound of that Easter-egg coloured skirt and cashmere sweater combo. Sounds gorgeous and evokes a real sense of a woman who's comfortable - and indeed powerful - in her own skin! Thanks for a great post.
Go to the profile of Dr. Mandy Lehto
over 7 years ago
Thanks Christine - that's what it's all about (for me, anyway - and the beauty of this is, it's so personal). It's about feeling comfortable in your own skin first, and next, in your fabulous clothes. Thanks for stopping in and commenting!