When we hear the term ‘power dressing’, the images that first come to mind are often 80s women in dark trouser suits, padded shoulders, and garishly bright lipsticks; in our modern, professional era, when women feel less like they have to appear masculine to be considered strong, power dressing has never been more diverse, varied, and – dare we say it – accessible.
A huge variety of colours, fabrics, cuts, and body types have reinvented and modernised the style, making it applicable to many different industries and aspects of our lives that exist beyond the workplace. The ideals behind it – courage, strength, and determination – can be applied even in casual settings when we feel a particular need for a styling that packs a little more punch. Thanks to the increasingly diverse designers, stylists, and professional women reinventing classic looks, the number of styles we can use to channel ‘warrior’ energy has never been broader. Elements of traditional styles remain popular but have been transformed to meet the needs and tastes of modern women, meaning there’s truly a powerful look for everyone.
The Suit Jacket and Blazer
Ever the classic, and increasingly fashionable in a variety of settings, these favourites have grown with us since their widespread popularisation for women in the 80s. Although their histories are really quite distinct, suit jackets and blazers have become somewhat synonymous in women’s fashion; blazers are still blazers, but suit jackets have also become known as ‘blazers’ to many of us. Whatever you choose to call this staple item, the seemingly endless variety of cuts, styles, and fabrics available mean there really is an adaptation for every person, purpose, and occasion. I even own a ‘pyjama blazer’, and honestly, I now refuse to believe that lazy Sundays are complete without one.
Though there’s been a return, on the one hand, to more traditionalist styles and fabrics, such as tweeds, wool blends, and synthetics, more modern takes often favour less conventional textures and materials, like linen, velvet, silk, and corduroy. Though velvet and corduroy have historically been popular in men’s tailoring, their increasing popularity in women’s tailoring has made the trusty blazer an item with an appeal to a much wider range of tastes and individual styles. Far from the uniform feel of the 80s, blazers are now individualistic items much more capable of reflecting the personality of the wearer. Experiment with sleeve and body lengths (cropped body blazers are wonderfully feminine), and cuff and collar details, to find the look that makes you feel most yourself; this is where your warrior is her most powerful. The blazer and pencil skirt combo is an icon of power dressing, but why not experiment with longer and looser styles? A bright red blazer with a black maxi skirt and black boots really does defy convention and can bring a punky edge to your power-dressed look. If skirts aren’t your thing, then you’re probably going to want to opt for…
The Trouser Suit
Trouser suits have followed much the same trajectory as their subsidiary suit jackets. Though traditional, straight leg trousers remain strong favourites, recent years have ushered in many less conventional cuts, all of which can be styled to look equally professional and ‘urban-warrioresque’. Think flares, prints, wide legs, extra skinny legs, shorts, culottes, and 7/8ths. Monochrome is always chic, particularly when combined with bright, statement colours and adventurous prints. A co-ordinated bright red flared trouser/suit jacket combo is certainly going to help you attain fierce warrior energy, whilst experimenting with contrasting colours is a great way to play with palettes and bring a more fun, ornamental energy to your look. Try going one step further in your monochromatic adventures by wearing a co-ordinated roll neck long-sleeved top or jumper underneath your blazer (seasonally dependent, obviously).
The Shirt and Trousers
Now that you’re versed in the world of various trouser styles, how about mixing up your look with some blazerless trouser-and-shirt-only days? We love all kinds of decorative, feminine shirts: ruffles, embroidered details, and luxurious fabrics all grab attention and convey confident creativity whilst retaining that all-important professional edge. Puffed sleeves can be as subtle or eye-catching as you’d like, are very flattering, and bring dimension to straighter looks when paired with straight-legged or tight trousers. Untucked longline shirts are great for increasing comfort without compromising on chic; up-level this item by pairing it with well-tailored trousers and statement heels. Some days we feel our most powerful in tight, structured garments; other days we feel most powerful in something a little looser. Knowing how to style looser items can really be the difference between a great and mediocre day; be comfortable but stylish, and always honour how you feel about different looks on different days. Power dressing is about feeling strong, but also – perhaps even more importantly – confident.
The Professional Dress
Where to begin with the office-appropriate dress? The concept of power-dressing, at its inception, encouraged a move away from the more girlish dresses that were prevalent at the time. Perhaps the most ambiguous option on this list, it’s easy to instinctively opt for a timeless and safe, dark, minimal style. How does the dress work as a power dressing item? As of late, the answer seems to be in terms of colour: the darker the better. Dark generally signals seriousness, and whilst the fitted LBD (or LND: Little Navy Dress) will always have a designated place in our wardrobes, the scope for portraying individuality is expanded exponentially when we widen our colour and style options. How about swapping a dark dress for a well-fitted – perhaps long or ¾ sleeved – brighter equivalent? From soft lilac to statement orange, every colour has power-dressing potential. Experimenting with unconventional necklines – like the turtleneck, square neck, and boat neck – is a great way to bring individuality to your professional look. A way of making you stand out whilst also making you feel more in tune with yourself, it will likely make you feel more confident, too. Whatever look you assemble, no powerful outfit is truly complete without an ambitious attitude to match, so believe and achieve!