Confidence. It's an elusive je ne sais quoi that most of us have grappled with. The question is: can it be amped up by what you wear?
There's no denying power dressing has evolved since the days of relying on shoulder-pads and pinstripes for a little chutzpah. We no longer need a flashy outfit to communicate confidence, but anyone with a love for fashion will tell you it can help boost the spirit, talent and skills within.
H&M's new Fall Collection is here to do just that. Inspired by uber femme women, you'll find a mix of mood-enhancing tailoring and unapologetic brights. These pieces are designed to make you feel even stronger, whether you choose the metallic mini dress, thigh-high red boots or sharp power suit.
Of course, there's no one-size-fits-all formula when it comes to finding your perfect power outfit so we asked a roster of successful and stylish women to reveal their methods, ideas and tricks as way of inspiration...
Find your outfit enhancers
For me, sartorial confidence comes from key accessories: a wide belt, a pair of cocktail earrings, some statement shoes (current favourites are yellow pointed mules à la Carrie) and a scraped back smooth hairstyle, typically a low middle-part bun. As I get older, my clothes get easier to wear and arguably less flamboyant and my confidence comes from fail-safe 'enhancers'.
For someone else, that might be a crisp mans shirt worn with skinny trousers to give a strong silhouette; or a high necked, long sleeved long dress that reveals nothing but fits like a glove and is somehow the sexiest thing of all. In truth, both of those are good! But nothing, for me, beats a scraped back bun and a pair of brightly hued earrings. It shows the world you're hiding from nothing — and no-one!
— Pandora Sykes is a journalist and co-host of The High Low podcast
Shop the look: Boots, £59.99; Dress, £17.99; Soft tie belt, £13.99 - all from H&M
Let your personality shine through
I think empowerment is all about confidence and fashion is an amazing tool to reflect that. For me, it's about having a highly personal aesthetic—that could be about prints, colour, proportion or having the confidence to pair unusual pieces together.
When I first went freelance, my confidence was shot and I spent a few weeks moping about in sweatpants. Buying a new pair of jeans that I couldn't really afford helped me find my way back to the positive, mood enhancing benefits that fashion can provide. Otherwise, you can't go wrong with a great printed dress with a nipped in waist and feminine details.
— Katherine Ormerod is a Content Consultant and Founder of WorkWorkWork.co
Shop the look: Blouse £12.99; Boots £49.99; Bag £29.99; Trousers £29.99 - all from H&M
Dress like a superhero
To pick an outfit, I always ask myself: "which Freddie gets some air time today?". There are several of us so it's all about which one manifests herself in the morning. I like my outfit to translate my mood and it often has to look crazy!
I love bold shapes and textures, and pieces that hold a strong shape, as if it was a superhero costume. There's nothing better than a good colour clash and a nice faux-fur for an uplifting boost. If you mash everything together, that's pretty much my perfect outfit.
— Frédérique Harrel is a blogger and entrepreneur
Shop the look: Orange puffer, £39.99; Jumper, £17.99 - all from H&M
Make your own rules
Fashion is an incredibly powerful tool when it comes to making me feel confident. There are no rules for me, but I almost always opt for flat shoes in order to feel comfortable and self-assured. Nothing can knock your confidence like tired, achy feet. Whether for a first date or business meeting, I'm much more confident with my feet firmly on the ground.
I usually wear flats with a pair of high-waisted trousers to elongate my legs. They look so classic teamed with a crisp white shirt or a navy turtleneck. Overall it's quite a paired back look, but one that usually puts more focus on my personality, which for me is what I always try to highlight.
— Roberta Benteler is a fashion entrepreneur
Shop the look: Pinstripe trousers, £24.99; Black top, £24.99; Blue Shirt, £17.99 - all from H&M
Discover your signature style
Allocating time to discover what suits you is so important when it comes to feeling confident through fashion. I've put in the effort to find what works for me and which pieces make me feel great without the worry of rushing to get ready in the morning then regretting my choice later.
Once you've found your mojo, I'm all for repeating outfits that make you feel good. Lately my go-to look has been a wrap jumpsuit with bold statement tassel earrings because I know that it's a look that I personally feel confident in. If it works for you and makes you feel good, then make it your signature and rock it.
— Callie Thorpe is a plus size model and blogger
Shop the look: Earrings, £8.99; Dress, £24.99; Top, £8.99 - all from H&M
Find your ideal length
I feel most confident when I'm in an outfit that I truly love and feel comfortable in. I'm a big fan of jumpsuits and slightly longer-length items. The last thing I want to worry about is having to adjust my dress before sitting down or accidentally flashing my bum on the way out.
If I'm off to a swanky event, I always go floor-length. My mother used to say: "It's hard to make knees look elegant", and although I thought she was being ridiculous at the time, I am beginning to agree.
— Poppy Jamie is founder of Happy Not Perfect
Shop the look: Black jacket, £39.99; Skirt, £24.99 - all from H&M
Make fashion your expression
To me, fashion is my language and it speaks for itself. Think about how powerful using that theory is, enabling me to speak to everyone through my clothing without uttering a single word.
One day I may feel quiet, but confidently calm. The next I might be feeling feisty, so I'll reach for a badass accessory or statement shoe to make sure I'm heard when I walk. When I dress in a way that reflects my emotions, I feel in control of my day. Having that, as well as vocal expression, is what gives me my confidence.
— Dina Torkia is a stylist and YouTuber
Shop the look: Velvet top, £17.99; Trousers, £29.99 - all from H&M
Be bold with colours
If I need a wardrobe boost, I turn to all things colourful. Rich, vibrant colours inspire my work every day—they lift my mood and make me feel powerful. I am Brazilian, after all!
When I need to make an entrance, my favourite thing to do is put on a bright statement accessory. Whether it's oversized earrings or a bold bag, accessories can take your outfit from average to fabulous, and that always makes me feel good.
— Paula Cademartori is a bag designer
Shop the look: Blue puffer, £59.99; Red boots, £59.99; Metallic puffer, £39.99 - all from H&M
Step out of your comfort zone
I find it empowering to try something new and make it your own. I was always wary of the 'lady in red' cliché and I didn't think the colour would suit me, despite other people telling me otherwise. Then last year, I happened to use a friend's red lipstick for a night out and I haven't looked back! It took 45 years for me to be convinced. Now I'm a red convert.
— Paola Di Lanzo is the founder of Paola's BodyBarre