Monthly Parenting Magazine

Emma Willis on the psychology of style

Emma Willis on the psychology of style


Power dressing for summer: the psychology of style with Emma Willis

Words Helen Baron

For obvious reasons, summer style tends to revolve around bikinis, straw hats and all things scanty – but not this year. Spring-summer 2018 has seen the surprising resurgence of one trend all women can get behind: power dressing.

The new focus on clothes that mean business – both literally and metaphorically – is perfectly embodied in high-street giant Next’s latest collaboration with broadcaster Emma Willis, the mama-of-three best known for presenting TV’s Big Brother, Celebrity Big Brother, The Voice UK and her own radio show on London’s Heart FM. Willis is married to ex-Busted band member Matt Willis, and her social media profile (over 1 million Instagram followers at time of writing) has made her something of a style icon for working women across the UK.

“I think there’s a lot of pressure to be individual and look different,” Willis says of her approach to dressing. “It’s not important to me to feel individual but more to trust my gut and to feel like me in [what I’m wearing].”

So what’s her ultimate power outfit?

“I think a suit gives me the most power – I mean, I don’t know if it actually does, but wearing one makes me feel comfortable and confident. A suit makes me feel fabulous.”

Unsurprisingly, tailoring features heavily in Willis’ edit for Next, with trouser suits in softly flowing fabrics that combine ease of wear and sharp silhouettes.

It’s long been known that what you wear can impact your performance and emotions. In the words of Dr Aurora Paillard, Senior Lecturer in Psychology of Fashion at the London College of Fashion: “When it comes to power dressing, it’s proven that if you wear such clothes, or for example red lipstick, you will perform better and you will feel happier.”

Of course, the transformative power of clothes extends far beyond suits, and power dressing isn’t all about tailoring. Willis’ edit also features beachwear and casual pieces for sunny days in the city – but all the pieces share the same emphasis: these are clothes made for women, with women’s needs in mind.

From evening dresses and printed beach shirts to the perfect day-to-evening espadrilles, hers is a vision of summer dressing that puts confidence and comfort front and centre. So says Dr Paillard: “Your wellbeing will be higher if you’re wearing clothes you’re comfortable with and which show who you are.”

A new, more flexible and inclusive take on power dressing, then; one that eschews rules and embraces adaptability. We think this is one trend that could run and run.


Make Maternity Style Work for You
Personal stylist Lauren Manville has a wealth of experience when it comes to helping women find power through style. And she knows how hard it can be to adapt your wardrobe to the fluctuating feelings (and forms) of pregnancy – which is why she’s founded her own maternity brand, Mother Rose. Here are her top tips for curating a peerless pregnancy wardrobe…

Don’t depend on jersey
It’s comfy and easy but also unforgiving. Also, be careful of prints on jersey – they can look cheap.

Think about your neckline
Showing décolletage can feel sexy, especially with a growing cleavage. Be bold and try a couple of different necklines to find out which complements your growing frame. From V-neck to round-neck, from square to cowl to wrap to diamond – there’s a winner for us all.

Opt for colour
I appreciate that you might not fancy all-over neon pink, but do embrace colour. Everyone shines in their right colour. Hiding in a dark-coloured tent-like piece will do nothing for your confidence and outlook. Whether bright or subtle, do take the plunge and buy colour.

Wear woven
Woven pieces will flatter your figure and feel more chic.


Layer up
A nice way to break up the bump is to layer – this could be using a bomber jacket, a tank top or a shirt. I’m always layered up as I think it makes your eye dance around the frame and is aesthetically pleasing. If even the thought of layering up makes you feel claustrophobic or constricted, you can always cheat by wearing a top with in-built layers.

Invest in some good swimsuits
These don’t need to break the bank. Thankfully, there’s been a swimwear revolution of late, so there are lots of great pieces to select from.

Wear print
I think print can look gorgeous on pregnant women – checks, polka dots, leopard – they all work, it doesn’t always have to be stripes; although I’m aware this is what’s mostly on offer. A print can make clothes feel like an outfit, so don’t shy away.

Wear your confidence
When a body changes in such a dramatic way, although beautiful and brilliant, it can leave you feeling a little disconnected from not only your body but your image, sense of self and self-confidence. Your body is doing the most incredible thing, creating a human, so please feel smug and respect it! I know not everyone is lucky enough to have that pregnancy glow, so make sure to accentuate the bits that give you the most confidence. If it’s your legs that look great, wear a short skirt or dress; if it’s your boobs, wear a deep V-neck. If your arms are the winners, opt for a sleeveless or tight-fitting top. Wear what brings you confidence.