Leading the way - couturier Niall Tyrrell's latest collection
People's first impressions are made of what they see. For women who are executives, leaders of industries, companies and countries, dressing is a challenge for them that men rarely have to face. Females are perceived as sexual and romantic objects first, males are perceived as leaders. So preconceived perceptions of females always get in the way of us as leaders, whereas perceptions of men are in keeping with authority.
So how to change the way we are perceived? Our behaviour is the key. But how we dress is the first impression as to who and what we are.
Women in authority and leadership are not the same as women in middle management. Middle management is a place where competition is rife and looking different can backfire. But when one gets to leadership, one needs to wield power and personality, subtly.
A masterclass on this subject is the 1980s film Working Girl. I watched it again just for this article and it is still on point, as well as being a great movie. Sigourney Weaver's character is our lady in leadership; her assistant, played by Melanie Griffith, is the one who needs to learn the language of power to get to the top. And stay.
Another masterclass on the subject is a visit to Dublin-based couturier Niall Tyrrell, who began his career 25 years ago catering to just this market: women leaders. When I met with Niall to discuss his latest collection, he told me that now more than ever, women are finding it challenging to find clothes with the right tone.
"There are women who do want a black suit. But most women today who are CEOs and leaders want something different," he explains. "Women are more confident than they used to be. Up to five years ago, it was a very suit-y look. Nowadays CEOs are dressing up.
"Versatility, adaptability, is the key for these women's lives," Niall continues. "They tell me - 'I am jumping on a plane. I have to go to a meeting. Then I am going straight out to a dinner. I need clothes to perform for all that.'"
Niall creates a full collection each season in his unique buy of French, Italian, Spanish and English fabrics. His prices are based on a full bespoke service of private fittings, during which an ensemble is adapted to suit client needs. 'Off the rails' pieces cost 30pc less.
Niall's clients give him feedback as to what fabrics and styles 'travel well'. "Your clothes are like my best friends. I can always rely on them, they never let me down and they make me feel great," one client told him recently.
"This is the greatest compliment," says Niall. "That's what good clothes should be."
Photography by Lorna Fitzsimons
Fashion edited by Constance Harris
Sunday Indo Life Magazine