by Gemma O’Sullivan
It’s been difficult in recent months to ignore the presence of power dressing in the political sphere, with women like Theresa May, Hillary Clinton, and Angela Merkel constantly being scrutinised for what they wear.
Theresa May has been especially confident about her interest in fashion, as shown by her bold choice of shoes, including leopard-print kitten heels and lipstick-print ballet pumps. Intentionally or not, May’s fashion sets a precedent of women using clothes to express their individuality, showing women that they can incorporate elements of their own style, and be intelligent and authoritative professionals as well. Such use of fashion in politics harks back to the power dressing of the Thatcher era. Margaret Thatcher was supremely aware of her image and used her clothes to convey a sense of power and dominance. She embraced the power-dressing style of the 1980s career woman, combining practicality with femininity. Think structured suits, dark Conservative blue, and her famous pearls.
Women today are in a position where they can show both their femininity and authority. Embracing fashion in the workplace doesn’t equate to weakness, and dressing in a more androgynous way isn’t (completely) frowned upon.
The ‘80s were the decade of power dressing for business women; images of outrageously large shoulder pads, leather pumps, and ornate buttons spring to mind. As more women joined the work force with the intention of moving up the office hierarchy, business-minded women started dressing in a more masculine way with the knowledge that if they were to be taken seriously they needed the right outfit. To increase their professional prowess, women created masculine silhouettes by wearing double-breasted jackets and large shoulder pads to minimise their femininity, as well as an array of dark coloured or pinstripe suits, crisp white shirts, and below-the-knee skirts.
Except for Giorgio Armani, who had already began designing and cutting suits to appear more fluid and graceful, few brands were bearing in mind the feminine or fashionable sides of working women. But as women made headway in the world of business so did their wardrobes, and although structured jackets continued to be in vogue, the ‘90s brought with it the power of grunge and the era of effortless style which mixed masculine and feminine images. The suit now represented the pinnacle of chic; power dressing spread beyond the office and was followed by women in all spheres, leading to suits becoming a staple in most women’s wardrobes.
Women were also wearing boxy and androgynous tailoring on the red carpet. Women first started wearing suits on the red carpet in the late ‘60s and ‘70s. Barbara Streisand wore a sparkling jumpsuit to the 1969 Oscars, followed by Jane Fonda wearing a Yves Saint Laurent suit three years later, and Julia Roberts in a men’s Armani suit at the 1990 Golden Globes. More recently at the Cannes Film Festival, while dresses continued to dominate, women such as Sara Sampaio and Aymeline Valade rocked jumpsuits and fitted suits.
Women today are in a position where they can show both their femininity and authority. Embracing fashion in the workplace doesn’t equate to weakness, and dressing in a more androgynous way isn’t (completely) frowned upon. Because of this, designers have been looking back and reworking ‘80s power dressing in innovative, imaginative, and feminine ways. For Spring 2017, Céline featured a suit draped over an elegant skirt, Prada celebrated fur-lined pencil skirts, and Balenciaga included a pinstriped blazer with classic ‘80s shoulder pads worn with spandex trouser-boots. While the power dressing of the last century may have been somewhat bland and neutral, in 2017 it is all-embracing, innovative, and doesn’t have to mean dressing like a man. Power dressing today can empower women to establish their professional or political prowess in traditionally male-dominated environments, without sacrificing their femininity.
To help you master power dressing, we’ve put together some of our favourite high street picks:
1. The Tailored Jacket
This tailored jacket is a modern take on a classic power dressing trend. Pair with matching suit trousers, or wear over a midi dress for a sophisticated twist.
2. The Pastel Suit
Perfect for summer, head-to-toe colour is an easy way to make an impression. Wear with white accessories to keep it simple yet chic.
3. The Coloured Heel
Add a pop of colour to your look with a fun and stylish twist on the classic court shoe. We’ve gone for orange, but these heels come in a whole range of colours.
4. The Cigarette Trousers
Versatile, effortless, stylish. Team these slim fit cigarette trousers with a blazer and a crisp white shirt for a classic monochrome look.
5. The Coat
Wear with a simple black heel and matching bag for a sophisticated and effortlessly chic look. We’ve gone for nude pink, but this coat also comes in navy blue.
Cover photo: https://uk.pinterest.com/pin/111675265732121433/