The power suit. Can it give a woman power? I mean, at the end of the day, it’s just clothing. But in the workplace, a sharp matching suit and jacket with a pristine blouse underneath conveys an air of confidence. A power suit can be a suit of armor. But will it stay that way forever?
Do women even need the power suit anymore? Let’s see how the power suit has evolved since its origin and where it’s heading. For Women’s History Month, we thought we would take a look at this significant fashion movement.
What Is a Power Suit, and Why Should You Wear One?
Power Suit is a phrase coined in 1980 to refer to the particular attire designed for American Business Women. Initially, it had exaggerated shoulder pads and skirt suits to reflect their power & confidence at the workplace.
Now the question is, “What was the need for Women Power Suit at that time?”. To understand the answer to this question, you first have to imagine the Male Predominant Era. In that era, women had to stand out to get the same authority, power, and importance as men.
Yes, we know that World has changed so far in Gender Equality. Now women don’t need any particular attire to make them visible in the workplace or feel equal to men. Still, dressing is a crucial language that constructs an image of your personality in public.
The way you dress reflects how confident and professional you are! Evolved over the years, Power Suits are an integral part of Power Dressing. It demonstrates the Sense of Power & Pride in Women. Thus, no matter in which era we live, Power Dressing can never be old or useless. However, it needs to evolve according to the generations!
The History of Power Suits – How Power Dressing Evolved Over Years
The 1920s – Chanel Liberates Women
So, how did it all start? We owe a lot of it to that classy French lady Coco Chanel. She was the one who freed women from those restrictive corsets and gave us some room actually to move and breathe!
The Emerald Street’s original power suit did not involve polyester and shoulder pads. But rather a knitted wool cardigan paired with a matching skirt. This came to be known as the Chanel suit. The suit was usually accessorized with a long string of pearls and was called the “woman’s new uniform.”
Hollywood icon Marlene Dietrich helped popularize the look with her slouchy stylish way of wearing the suit.
1931 – The First Wide-Shouldered Suits
According to Vogue, the house of Rochas introduced the 20th century’s first wide-shouldered suits for women. Marcel Rochas says that his new silhouette is based on the costumes worn by Balinese dancers.
1942 – Kate the Great Shows Us That Suits Are for Girls Too
Katherine Hepburn showed us that a man’s suit could be quite feminine. The slouchier, the better for this gorgeous tomboy. Her film Woman of the Year made the suit iconic and a wardrobe staple for working women.
1966 – The Suit Gets Sexy
This year, Yves Saint Laurent introduced le smoking, the “first male-inspired couture evening suit with pants for women.”
Here is a picture of Bianca Jagger wearing the jacket. Of course, this sexy look wasn’t appropriate for the office.
1977 – Shoulder Pads Enter the Picture
Suits with extreme shoulders became the new fashion rage. The bigger, the better. It was all about power.
The 1980s – Power Dressing
We came into the decade of power clothes in the 80s. Giorgio Armani, Ralph Lauren, and Anne Klein all embraced the power suit in their designs.
The film Working Girl (1988) also capitalized on the fashion of the decade. Melanie Griffith stars as an intelligent but undereducated secretary. Someone who can’t get ahead, partly because of her looks (big hair, big makeup, big fail).
But when she realizes her classy but terrible boss is stealing her ideas, she gets back at her by stealing her wardrobe. All she introduced was classic power suits and a haircut.
It’s a Cinderella story. The fairy godmother is a powerful wardrobe, and the happy ending is a great job (and Harrison Ford).
Donna Karan and other designers started producing “softer suits, “ often paired the power blazer with a skirt instead of pants.
The 1990s – The Softer Side
Madonna’s “Blond Ambition” tour in 1990 featured her wearing a pinstripe suit designed by Jean Paul Gaultier. Pairing the suit with lacy camisoles and that famous cone-shaped bra, she injected pieces of femininity into this masculine ensemble. Her dressing attire ushered in a new, softer era of fashion.
Working women started pairing lacy camisoles and floral silk shells with their pant and skirt suits.
With Casual Fridays introduced into offices, Vogue declares it the end of the power-dressing era. This is because long flowy dressings and leggings have become fashionable. Chanel designer Karl Lagerfeld says, “There is not only a change in fashion going on but a change of mind.”
The 2000s – The Skirt of the Issue
In the second half of the 1990s, we were introduced to Ally McBeal’s television character (played by Calista Flockhart). A neurotic but successful lawyer wore the power suit blazer with a tiny skirt on the bottom.
The length of her skirt drew so much attention that Time magazine famously ran a cover featuring Flockhart’s face and asking, “Is Feminism Dead?”.
Power dressing may have been declared over, but people still pay attention to what women’s clothing says. And some women still look at a pants suit as a source of power.
Think of Hillary Clinton—the poster child for the power suit. In 2007 she told David Letterman, “In my White House, we all know who wears the pantsuits.”
2012 – The Death of the Power Suit
According to The Wall Street Journal, the old-fashioned power suit look for professional women is over. The new power look for women includes a soft color (like pink), beading, prints, patterns, and very feminine tailoring. Everything which was once considered a fashion sin in the workplace.
Women are sporting this fashion movement at the executive level. Now they have the confidence to embrace a more integrated and diverse look.
We are seeing this trend because there are just more women in these top positions who determine an appropriate office look.
There has been a shift in what is considered appropriate for women in the workplace. It has moved away from women trying to fit into the stiff, male-influenced power suit.
Christina Binkley of The Wall Street Journal writes, “The matched crimson suit—once deemed essential for a female executive—reflected an era when women tried, often clumsily, to fit into male molds.
There was also a militant element to that office apparel.” She wrote of her days at Procter & Gamble in the 1980s. There, she mentioned how her boss declared that only the “secretaries” wore dresses.
The power suit “has had a total demise,” says Bridget Brennan, chief executive of Female Factor. A Chicago-based consulting firm that advises clients on marketing to women.
Brennan thinks this is happening because women are more comfortable in their skin and are owning how they dress.
2013 – Present: The Future of Power Dressing
Power Dressing can never be dead as it is a way for women to feel confident about their personalities. Yes, indeed, women don’t need any Power Suit to feel equal to men. But they indeed need a Good outfit that reflects their confident personality to the World.
And Power Suits can efficiently do that. As the trends change with every generation, Power Suits have also evolved these days. Now, you can customize them the way you want to feel comfortable and look confident.
Power suits are still in trend, and I think they always will be! Only the purpose has been changed. Initially, it was introduced to make women feel equal to men. But now, it has become the style statement or classic attire.
Nowadays, Power suits come in various colors and patterns. You can tailor and carry them as per your comfort and design requirements.
Women can wear pink, not just powerful red, in the office. They can wear florals and lace. They can wear leopard print shoes and flats. That’s right. Flats are now considered just as fierce as heels.
Brinkley writes, “Long stuck in the purgatory of casual wear, flats are suddenly being promoted for polished occasions. Flats sleek enough to be dress shoes were paired with tailored suits and even with eveningwear on the spring runways from Marc Jacobs to Giorgio Armani.”
In a recent issue of The Hollywood Reporter, female executives in Hollywood talked about the evolution of power dressing. It used to be all about the power suit. But now, more fashionable and feminine items are added to them as powerful elements.
“When I got to town in 1989,” says Blair Kohan, now a fashionably dressed partner at UTA, “everybody was wearing these suits. I had one from Ann Taylor. You didn’t get Armani until you got to the top. I see more expressiveness. Women no longer have to look tough because we are tough.”
How To Make Sure Your Power Suit Fits Correctly?
Whether you choose the Power suit of the 80s decade or the current Classic ones, the right fit is crucial to look both stylish and professional.
To make sure your power suit fits perfectly, you must have to take care of a few things, like:
1) Skin Tone
Depending upon your skin tone, you must go for the shades that look vibrant and stylish on you. There are various color shades available in the market.
We will tell you about some trending color shades for Power suits you can opt from later in this article. But skin tone is something you should never neglect while buying the perfect power suit.
2) Body Shape
From Sleek Chic to the Oversized Blazer, it is crucial to pick the right fit of suit according to your body shape. Not every suit type goes well with your body shape. Thus you must choose the right suit shape that flatters your figure.
Different Power Suit Style Suggestions for Different Body Shapes
1) For Straight Body Types
If your Waist, Bust, and Hips are all aligned equally (thin waist), you have a straight body type. For such body types, Suits with Longer-Line Blazers work best.
You can wear an open longer-line blazer with the high-rise or low-rise trousers of your choice. The longer-line blazer suits don’t emphasize your thin waist to make you look more stylish.
2) For Pear Body Shape
In a Pear Body Type, a person usually has a thin waist and small shoulders with wider hips. For such body shape, short or cropped blazer-type suits work best.
You can match the stylish cropped jacket with high-waist, wide-leg trousers. This combination will perfectly flatter your figure and give you the right fit you were looking for.
3) For Apple Body Type
In an apple body shape, a person has a broader shoulder and bust with a thin waist & smaller hips. You must choose a V-shape or Statement lapel blazer for such a body type that cuts at the hips to give you the perfect fit.
You can also consider longer-line duster jacket suits for an apple-shaped body. It will give you the perfect fit at your most flattering points. Pair it with high-waist trousers to ace the meeting.
4) For Hourglass Body Type
Hourglass body type is the most desirable body shape in which a person has an equal bust and hips with a smaller waist.
If you have an hourglass body shape, you should go for Suit styles that reflect your figure. You can go for Wrap-Style Jacket Suits to carry with high-waist trousers.
Or a regular blazer jacket with high-waist trousers and a fantastic waist belt will do the work. Just don’t go for a cropped blazer with high-waist trousers as it won’t compliment your body shape.
Irrespective of your body shape type, always pay attention to the shoulder and waist fitting. If your blazer shape fits nicely on the shoulders and waist, everything will follow. Make sure that blazer fitting doesn’t look Boxy on you.
Tips for Wearing the Perfect Power Suit
Only the right fit of Suit is not enough to carry it elegantly and look stylish. You also need the right accessories and other tips to enhance your professional look.
Here are some must-have tips for wearing your power suit in the most perfect way possible:
1) Choose the Right Shoes
A famous saying is, “Give a Girl the right shoes, and she will conquer the World”. Similarly, to ace any meeting or event with your power suit, you need a perfect pair of shoes or heels.
When it comes to looking bossy and stylish with the Power suit, pointed-toe pump heels work the best. You can pair them with any kind of trousers, be it a high waist or low waist.
But if heels are not your type, then do not worry! You can lace up classic brogues or simple canvas shoes to add a comfy element to your suit. After all, comfort is what you need at the workplace, without compromising the style!
2) Let Your Suit Shine with an Elegant Piece of Jewelry
An elegant pair of jewelry always adds class to your suit, but you have to choose wisely. It should not be too flashy and must be according to the event you are going to attend.
For example, a classic yet minimal pair of earrings will work with your power suit for a business meeting. However, if it is a casual event, you can even go for an elegant necklace or chain to pair with it.
3) Balance with the Right Bag Type
A classy yet not-too-flashy bag is a must-have thing to compliment your power suit look for any event. You need a structured bag that goes perfectly with your suit structure. Oversized bags or a slouchy backpack is a big no to pair with power suits.
Try to come with something classy and elegant, like a sleek clutch or a top-handle tote bag. Don’t go for something too vibrant or shiny. Choose something minimal or striped that compliments your suit color and look. Leather is also a great option to go for if you want a classy statement.
4) Play with Layers
Depending upon your suit type and occasion, you can play with layers to customize your look. If you are dressing for a business meeting, you can add layers to your power suit by pairing it with a collared shirt. Roll up the sleeves according to your blazer length to let your shirt color pop up.
Or, if you don’t want many layers, try to pair your suit with a solid or basic tee that compliments your suit’s color. This Contemporary look will keep your neckline high and professional.
Sheer tops and blouses also go well with suits, but only for casual events and meetings. For business meetings, sheers are a big No!
The Best Color of Power Suits for Women
Remember earlier we told you that you must pick the right shade of your suit according to your skin tone? Well, now we will explain how you can go for some all-time trending colors in Power Suits that will look gorgeous on you!
Black is always a Classy and most Most-Popular Shade for Power Suits irrespective of your skin tone. Black is something that looks gorgeous on everyone! Also, you can carry this color for any event, be it formal or casual.
The best thing about this shade is that it looks professional and formal in all kinds of work environments. But you have to be a little creative to carry Black suits as you have to choose the complementary accessories to pair with them to stand out. Otherwise, the look will be too plain or dull.
2) Pastel Colors
Pastel Colors are the new trend that everyone is trying out! From pastel green to blue to pink, Pastels have become a new style statement. Because of their minimal tone and elegant look, you can carry Pastels without any second thought as Office Wear.
There is a vast range of color patterns available to choose from in pastels. Just go for the premium quality fabric to attain the best office look!
Red is a bold and powerful shade that can make you a Center of attraction for the next board meeting. However, it is a more stylish shade than the Formal one. So, you have to choose it according to the event type.
The red color goes well with all skin tones but looks exceptionally gorgeous on fair skin tones. So if your work environment is not too strict, you can consider this shade to stand out.
4) Jewel Tones
If Black is not your color, then Dark jewel tones are also an excellent option for Formal Dressing. From Dark burgundy to Dark blue, you can choose your favorite one to look stylish and professional without being too Flashy!
5) Classic White
White is always a classy statement that gives you a sense of pride and royalty. Try to pair a crisp white suit with a dark blue or any dark-shade tee/shirt to grab all eyeballs.
Power Suit Etiquette – What Not To Do in a Business Meeting While Wearing a Power Suit?
There is some general Power Dressing Etiquette that everyone must follow in their work environment:
Tops & Shirts: When choosing the upper wear to pair with a formal blazer or jacket, try to keep its format and elegant. For a blouse or top, you can go for patterned or striped ones.
For shirt material, Pure Cotton or Chiffon is best. Long sleeve shirts look more professional than short sleeves, especially if you want to pair them with a blazer or jacket.
Bottoms: Structured wool trousers or Chinos of a matching Jacket color enhance your professional look. Always choose the trouser type complimenting your body shape. It must be comfortable to carry the whole day, especially if you plan to wear them for long business meetings.
Skirts: Usually, dark shades work best for a professional environment in dresses. According to your comfort & style requirements, you can go for the A-line or plated ones.
It is good to have a modest-length skirt. Not too long or too short for the work environment. The size you are opting for must be appropriate for walking, climbing stairs, and sitting in meetings.
Accessories / Jewelry: Try to keep accessories modest and minimal for business meetings. Don’t go for dangling earrings or a shiny necklace for meetings, as it will be too loud. A minimalistic look will work best with 1 or 2 rings in hand.
Shoes: If you are going for heels, don’t go for too much height. A decent 4-inch will be both comfortable and professional for the work environment. Otherwise, you can go for some classy brogues or shoes if not in the mood to carry heels.
Why Do You Need To Be Confident When Wearing a Power Suit?
Confidence is an integral element of any dressing type, especially if you are going for a Power Suit. No matter what you wear, if you wear it with Confidence, it will indeed look best on you.
There is no debate that our clothes significantly impact how we feel about ourselves on a particular occasion. If you dress nicely for a meeting or an event, you automatically start feeling powerful and confident. But, sitting on your couch in your favorite pajamas and T-shirt will make you feel lethargic.
Anything that you wear with confidence gives you the ultimate sense of pride. The same thing goes for Power Dressing. In this high-pressure work environment, the only thing to keep your spirit high is Power Dressing with Confidence.
When you wear a Sleek chic or bold Power Suit, you feel confident about yourself. Power dressing reflects the inner confidence and power you have. No matter how excellent your suit fitting or fabric, unless you wear your inner spirit with it. Thus you must feel confident while wearing the Power suit to ace the challenges.
Confidence and Pride at the workplace not only come from Power Dressing but also depend upon your mindset. A positive attitude can conquer the World with a cheerful smile. So, don’t forget to carry it with your Power Suit to your next business meeting!