Testifying Before the Senate: What to Wear
If you find yourself in the position of having to testify before the Senate Judiciary Committee, you probably have a lot on your mind. First and foremost, what to say, how to say it, how to stay calm in the vortex of probing questions. But at the back of your mind, you also know you have to dress for the occasion. And that what you wear will have an impact on how you will be received. You will be — your words and your look — immortalized, together.
Now, most of us will never find ourselves in this position, thankfully. But we all have our important occasions to think about, the ones where we have to perform or deliver important information and we all want to be taken seriously. The following advice is for you, for Dr. Ford, for all of us.
Let’s start with color.
Colors are important. Each one means something. Wearing color is a way to communicate without speaking. Even those who cannot articulate this critical design message feel it. They see a color and they know, they perceive.
So, let’s consider some colors. Red represents fire and energy on the one hand and danger, ferocity and power on the other. Be conscious that when you wear red, your energy might be misconstrued for aggression. Blue is the color of the sky and the sea. It can instill calm and convey loyalty, trust, stability, wisdom, intelligence and truth. Hmmm. Purple combines the stability of blue and the energy of red. So this is also a good option.White symbolizes goodness, purity and light and can also be bold. Black is an all time favorite of mine, denoting a formal sense of power, but it can be misperceived as a sign of darkness. I picture day one in a vivid cobalt blue. A vision of strength, steadiness and femininity that is not to be trifled with.
Next, let’s talk form. A form that suits the function.
Power suit dressing is back. Unlike the 80s version of this trend, we are no longer expected to dress like a man in a pantsuit. Now, pantsuits are more reflective of the times where we are lauded for being both feminine and strong. The jacket will look good belted and the pants could even have a slight bell shape for flow. A power suit is also comfortable. You will look good walking in and you will be able to sit for hours on end to accomplish what you came for. Wear a strong black heel that’s comfortable.Keep it simple and elegant.
A bold power suit in a strong color can be broken up with a floral blouse or a crisp white shirt, preferably the latter. You can also go without the shirt and button the jacket high and tight. Both versions show respect for the chamber but also evoke femininity, control and trustworthiness at the same time.
Now, bring it all together.
Most importantly, you need to feel like yourself. You must be comfortable and look like you. For accessories, just stick to your personal jewelry… wedding rings, simple earrings, your own watch. Keep your hair simple too. I feel best with my hair down and blown out, but you could also go with a low bun or a simple sleek ponytail if you prefer your hair out of your way. Your makeup should be simple and clean with a nude lip. Flawless. Not showy.
What about Day 2 and 3?
After your debut, you can encore in a long sleeved sheath dress to the knee or the mid-calf. I suggest it be fitted and in another vibrant color such as purple. A white shirt dress would also make a good second round and you could complement that with a belt and a blazer.
Feeling like you need some inspiration?
Of course, I am happy to find you just the right ensemble for any day that you need to testify, make an argument or meet the Queen. But here’s some food for thought.
Alexander McQueen is the literal king of the strong and elegant shoulder. Carolina Herrera can nail elegance in her sleep. Take a look at Akris and Theory. Being in the public eye is not easy to get used to. Certainly not overnight. But wearing the right thing can help. It can help you deliver your message comfortably and it can help others embrace the message you want them to hear. Looking your absolute best makes you feel good and confident even when the pressure is on.
Breathe deeply. Steel yourself. Tell the truth. You will be fine. You are strong. And remember, what has been engrained in our culture since time immemorial: Speak now or forever hold your peace.