Developing Executive Presence Through Your Wardrobe

April 26, 2024

Developing executive presence doesn’t happen overnight. For one, you have to make it to that C-suite level. You’ve worked hard, put in the hours, and sacrificed to get to the top of your career. You’ve carefully planned your trajectory and adapted to the unexpected.


But that’s not all that goes into being a leader. To walk into a room and inspire others to respect and trust you, you also have to look the part. How you speak, what you say, and your work is only part of the puzzle.

The other component isn’t talked about as much. But it can be the difference between carrying the CEO title and actually feeling and looking the part.

So what is that last slice of the pie you’re missing? Executive style. 

Why Building Executive Presence is Important

Building an executive presence is important because that presence is how others perceive you. If they perceive you as someone confident, smart, trustworthy, and strong, they’re more likely to want to work with you.

After all, it only takes seven seconds to make a first impression. In those seven seconds when someone first meets you, they’ll make judgments about you that could last a lifetime.

If their first impression of you is that you’re sloppy, uncertain, and careless, they’ll take their business elsewhere.

In short: You are your business card

When you reach certain levels of success, the small things become big. Others start to notice tiny details about you that they didn’t before– and your style is one of them.

How you dress should align with your personal brand. That way, when people meet you, they see exactly what you’re about and associate that with your work.

That’s why building an executive presence through style is so important. It can convey intentionality, confidence, trust, and so much more. 

Another thing that happens when you reach the top of your professional game? Your time becomes even more valuable. And you tend to have less of it. So you need someone to help you be more efficient.

Think about fitness, for example. 

It’s a waste for you to spend weeks trying to cobble together a workout routine that might not even work. But if you hire a personal trainer, they’ll take care of everything. That leaves you and your mind free to excel in your career.

The same goes for style.

You don’t have time to guess what clothing will fit your brand or spend days at a shopping center. You want to get it right the first time around. The best way to do that is with advice from an Executive Stylist.

How To Develop Executive Presence Through Your Style in 6 Steps

Wondering how to develop executive presence? We’ve got you. We asked our Executive styling team for their top tips on boosting your presence and here’s what they said:

  1. Make it easy for yourself.
  2. Organize your closet.
  3. Look at your calendar.
  4. Invest in high-quality pieces.
  5. Get the perfect fit for your body today.
  6. Use easy-to-remember formulas.

What do these steps mean? Let’s take a closer look at each one.

1. Make It Easy for Yourself!

You’re a busy professional who can’t (and doesn’t want to) waste your time figuring out what to wear each morning.

That means you need to protect your energy. 

When you open your closet each morning, you shouldn’t feel rushed, panicked, or frustrated. You should feel relaxed and confident knowing you have exactly what you need right in front of you.

So how do you do this? 

By systemizing your wardrobe. You should have style systems in place BEFORE you even get ready.

We always work with systems. The first (and most important) one we start with? 

The Next Level Wardrobe Style System:

  1. Focus on Core Colors.
  2. Invest in Essential Pieces.
  3. Prioritize the Perfect Fit.

Use these guidelines as your north star and the process of getting dressed won’t seem so overwhelming.

2. Organize Your Closet

Have you ever been ready to make dinner but you walked into the kitchen and didn’t have the necessary ingredients?

Not a good feeling, right? And worst of all, you’re left hungry and annoyed.

Well, the same principle applies to wanting to dress with a strong executive presence. You can’t have a great CEO style if your closet doesn’t have the right pieces in it.

Our advice to combat closet letdown syndrome?

Clean out your closet. Take everything out and decide what you’re keeping and what you’re donating.

This is the time to be ruthless. Be honest with yourself: if you haven’t worn that top you bought on a whim in a year, you’re never going to. Donate it.

Not sure if something still fits? Try it on. 

Once you’ve gotten rid of the pieces you don’t need, you can put your pieces back into your closet. Then, you’ll see what gaps in your wardrobe and you can use that information to buy the right pieces.

We recommend conducting a closet edit twice a year, ideally when the weather shifts from cold to warm and vice versa. That way, you keep yourself from falling into the same bad habits and keep your wardrobe seasonal.

3. Look at Your Calendar

With a clean closet and a clean slate, it’s time to go shopping, right?

Not quite yet. 

Before you can start buying new pieces for your executive presence makeover, you need a game plan. 

Sit down with a pencil and paper (or your Notes App) and write out the use cases for your outfits.

What does that mean? It means looking at your calendar, identifying what events you have coming up, and what outfits you’ll need.

Here are some examples to consider:

  • Do you have speaking engagements coming up?
  • Any big meetings that you’re leading? 
  • Will you be working virtually for a while? 
  • What does your life look like outside of work? 
  • Any special events, galas, etc that you’d need a special look for?

Knowing when, where, and why you’ll be wearing your new looks will help you plan what to buy. That in turn, will make it way easier to end up with outfits you actually love and use.

Don’t have time to list out all the different use cases on your calendar? Hand your schedule over to a stylist. They’ll make sure you’re covered no matter what you’ve got planned.

4. Invest in High-Quality Pieces

At this point, you probably aren’t doing much shopping. Or at least, you shouldn’t be.

Like we said before, you need to shift your mindset and understand that your time is valuable. You can’t be running out to the store or hunting down online orders every couple of months.

A way to save yourself time, energy, and stress is to invest in high-quality pieces.

Again, with the mindset shift that your time is valuable- you need to be spending it on high-value items. 

That means no fast fashion and no manufacturing shortcuts. You’re buying pieces that are constructed well so that they won’t fall apart in a month. 

In addition to quality fabrication, we also recommend buying these investment pieces in core colors. 

That way you’re stretching your investment further with an item that’s easy to mix, match, and dress up and down. No more staring at your closet feeling like you have nothing to wear and no more decision fatigue.

You’ve simplified your wardrobe and heightened its quality.

5. Get the Perfect Fit for Your Body Today

One of the most common things we see holding people back from developing an executive wardrobe is body changes. People often don’t know how to dress for body changes.

Folks tell themselves they can’t have the wardrobe of their dreams until X thing changes about their body. They’re stuck in the past, avoiding updating their wardrobe because they’re holding on to old items that don’t fit.

Say this with us: Bodies change! And that’s okay!

(In fact, losing or gaining weight can teach you a lot about style.)

Don’t be the one holding yourself back because you can’t embrace the body you have today. Instead, show that you care about yourself and your future by caring about your style.

One of the worst things you can do in terms of dressing professionally is to wear ill-fitting clothes. Wearing something that’s too big or too tight makes you look disheveled.

But the moment you kiss those clothes goodbye and change into items that actually fit, you’ll instantly look put together.

When you’re ready to go shopping, forget about the size printed on clothing tags and just focus on fit. It doesn’t matter if you’re a size 4 or a size 24. All that matters is that it fits and it looks and feels good.

Having trouble finding something that fits every part of you perfectly straight off the rack?

You’re not alone. Just about everyone needs some sort of tailoring. The most common alterations are hemming pants and adjusting sleeves.

That’s where a skilled tailor comes in. Do your research (or ask your stylist for recommendations) and find someone who can adjust an item to be just right.

It may feel like an extra step right now, but it’s worth it to have clothes that feel just right.

6. Use Easy-To-Remember Outfit Formulas

Now that you have an organized closet filled with all the right ingredients, it’s time to build outfits.

Thankfully, the legwork you did means you can whip up hundreds of outfits in 60 seconds or less and look polished.

How? With outfit formulas.

These are quick, easy-to-remember- systems for putting together outfits. 

Here are a few of our favorite full-proof outfit formulas:

  1. The Color Formula: Just wear core colors from head to toe. Black, grey, white, and navy blue always go together and look polished year-round.
  2. The 1-2-3 Formula: Wear a top in one core color, a bottom in another, and then add a layering piece either in a core color or an accent print or color.
  3. The One and Done Formula: Choose one color and wear it from head to toe. Personalize this monochromatic ensemble with different shades or textures in the same color.

Use these formulas with the items in your closet, and you’ll never be at a loss for what to wear.

Establish Your Presence in the Executive World

Developing executive presence through your wardrobe doesn’t have to be difficult or confusing. If you’re ready to start dressing for success, apply for Next Level Wardrobe’s Executive Image Consulting Services. Our stylists will take care of each of the steps we’ve listed here and so much more.

About the Author - Cassandra Sethi
About the Author - Cassandra Sethi

Personal Stylist & Image Consultant

Cassandra Sethi is a Personal Stylist and Founder of Next Level Wardrobe, a luxury Personal Styling and Shopping Service that helps successful professionals of all ages and sizes. After working in the fashion industry for over 25 years, she used her expert knowledge to create a proprietary styling system called ‘The Next Level Wardrobe Style System' which guarantees clients more outfits with less items in their closet. NLW has been featured in The Wall Street Journal, The Tamron Hall Show, NY Mag, Huffington Post and more.

*Disclosure: Next Level Wardrobe only recommends products that we’d suggest to our clients or personally wear ourselves. All opinions expressed here are our own. This post may contain affiliate links that at no additional cost to you, Next Level Wardrobe may earn a small commission. Read the full privacy policy here.

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Cassandra Sethi

is a NYC Personal Stylist and Image Consultant. She is the Founder of Next Level Wardrobe and 'The NLW Style System' that guarantees clients more outfits with less items.

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