Ask Esther…What do you wear when you’re under pressure & IN the spotlight?

Ask Esther

Esther Stanhope is international speaker and communications expert.

A former BBC producer she’s rubbed shoulders with the likes of Madonna, George Clooney, Theresa May and Boris Johnson.

She now helps talented people in business, like you to speak up in meetings and conferences, get their voice heard and radiate charisma, confidence, gravitas and credibity.

If you have any questions for Esther about the way you come across at work, as a leader or when you’re chairing a meeting, fire away. Ask anything.

Email: [email protected]

Dear Esther,

“What Do You Wear When You’re Under Pressure and IN the Spotlight?”

Help, I’ve been asked to take part in a panel interview at a high-profile client conference.

Many of my personal clients and senior colleagues will be there.

I’ve spoken at a conference before and my heels were a little too high and uncomfortable, but low heels don’t feel smart enough.  I also noticed that I had slight sweat patches on my lovely new Hobbs dress and I am terrified that might happen again.

I feel like sticking on a black suit! Any ideas?

Sara, Tax Lawyer, London


Hey don’t worry, you are not alone, we’ve all had a wardrobe malfunction at one time or other.   I too have had sweat patches, like many high-profile speakers!  (Remember Tony Blair’s shirt crisis at the Labour Party conference?)

One of my lovely blue jackets let me down badly once – I had to chuck it out because it showed dark circles around the arm pits – ewe, yes embarrassing when you’re speaking in front of 120 lawyers at a posh hotel!

I reckon stay away from too much black unless you have a really bright colour underneath! Or colourful accessories and shoes, otherwise it might look as if you’re going to a funeral.

Heels can be precarious at the best of times, I have my low mileage heels that I can only stand in for 90 minutes – then I turn into a pumpkin and have to leave the building! Careful not to aim too high!

I find wedges are a good compromise if you want to avoid spiking floors, too much “clip clop” noise or looking too wobbly!

To make sure you NEVER suffer from high-heel-hell or sweat patch nightmares, I asked my fabulous expert stylist guru Natashsa Musson who dresses hundreds of execs every year.  She could dress you too if you like!

Here’s Natasha’s top five – how-to-avoid-wardrobe-malfunction tips

  1. Tailoring and fit – is crucial.

 Avoid any garment that is too tight revealing underwear underneath which could distract your audience.  If your skirt, dress,  trousers or collar feels tight it will affect the way you stand.

You don’t want to adjust your clothes on stage, which will make you look nervous. (And no hands in pockets please!)

Choose an outfit that fits you perfectly, that you have worn before and feel fantastic in.  (You know you look well put together)

Remember the two C’s Comfortable = Confidence

  1. Beware of….
  • A raised stage (avoid short skirts, arrhh, too much thigh IS distracting)
  • Mismatched socks.
  • Make sure your shoes are not too high, practice walking in them
  • Take all the price stickers off the soles! (my pet hate)
  1. Choose your fabric carefully.
  • Go for natural breathable fabrics like cotton and avoid silks and polyester that you are likely to sweat in.
  • Keep the style simple.
  • When trying on your outfit, practice standing up and sitting down in a mirror to double check the fabric doesn’t easily crease.
  1. Inject a splash of colour into your outfit.
  • Avoid boring white shirts/blouses and wear something that shows your character.

For me (Natashsa), that would be red lipstick and some great earrings, for Esther that would be a fabulous necklace and a quirky pair of shoes. This will reveal the ‘real you’ in a subtle way and you’ll be yourself and be more likely to smile.

Thank you Natasha, great advice.

Sara, I do hope this helps. Go for it, add a splash of colour and make life easy for yourself.

If you have a question, like Sara, please do… Ask me anything!

From how to get rid of anxiety and that awful rash to how do I interrupt a man-terrupter?

I would LOVE to hear your confidence, communication and career dilemmas at work.

Please do CONTACT ME [email protected] with your questions about how you come across to your audiences; your boss, clients and colleagues.  Do you captivate your audience in a meeting?  Do you know how to influence the ego? I can help.

Tell me your stories and I’ll give you some game changing free advice and more.

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