Power Dressing for Women: 3 Outfit Combinations to Consider When You Mean Business

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It’s been nearly a hundred years since women were integrated as part of the workforce. However, there was still a clear divide in appearances between men and women at the office, since men’s suits gave the appearance of greater stature. To address this, women learned to take what made suits emulate power and incorporated them into women’s clothing. 

Hence, power dressing rose to fashion as a way for women to assert authority and to express themselves confidently  through their outfits at work. What began with suits and skirts paired with the right sheer to waist hosiery had developed further as women made their way into more industries in the professional world.

Nowadays, the time spent at home during the pandemic has brought to question what happens to power dressing when the world settles into a new normal. Whether it’s dressing for a return to the office or preparing a wardrobe for the next online conference, here are some fashionably powerful outfits, styles, and other things to consider for the working woman.

History of Women’s Clothes in the Workplace

Power dressing actually began in the 1930s as a simple idea of women exuding confidence through their outfits. At the time, the ideal for women was to be slim and modest in appearance while men were the ones to present themselves in more commandeering fashion, especially with the prominence of suits.

The status quo was soon challenged when feminist revolutionaries Nancy Cunard and Elsa Schiaparelli donned broad-shouldered apparel which were supposedly reserved for men. They sought freedom from standards imposed upon the female appearance, and their example would inspire a long line of fashion trends that presented women in greater stature.

However, it remained only an idea, subdued for a few more decades until it finally debuted on catwalks in the 1980s. Eventually, power shoulders made their way into the mainstream when celebrities like Oprah and Michael Jackson embraced the style a few years later. The fad has been sustained up until recent years with the likes of Lady Gaga strutting in a broad suit by Marc Jacobs.

While hardline tailoring remains a fad in the present, the range of apparel that defines a power dresser has since expanded to more styles and different occasions. These days, such outfits can incorporate softer silhouettes, and even colors can factor into more powerful expressions.

Clothes to Make a Statement at Work

Fashion for the working woman has since evolved into more than just assimilating the stature of outfits originally tailored for men. There are more ways than ever for a woman to dress with power and pride, and now, she can do so with more options to best express her own identity. And so, here are four styles for today’s women to show they mean business:

The Traditional Office Look

Turning the masculine silhouette into a tool for women’s fashion hasn’t yet faded, so this first outfit keeps up the traditional office look. The main piece for this is a suit jacket with broad or even accented shoulders, which can go well with a normal shirt, although a button-down piece may best fit the office look. This broadness can extend to the bottoms with flare or straight pants, but it can be adapted to other occasions with a dress or a pencil skirt instead.

This outfit is for those who want to look strong, sharp, and professional with an overall air of maturity. It’s a go-to for many since the hardlines and fixed shoulders make it suitable for anyone, no matter the body type.

The Modern Working Woman

This attire has a more contemporary take on the traditional look by opposing the stiffness with a softer silhouette and generally doing away with the padding. Instead of the more masculine shape of the suit, it favors more casual blazers that embrace the slender shoulders and form of the female figure. This can go well with flare bottoms, but even denim would match for the fully relaxed look.

Even if this style maintains the formality, it aims for versatility through an outfit that works both in the office and for casual events. It emanates a more comfortable, refreshing vibe that has women looking laid back but still at the helm of the workplace.

Young and Bright

While this isn’t a specific outfit per se, it’s a style that focuses on how tops and bottoms are matched by colors. Work doesn’t have to be a drab place in between bland walls and corners, so when choosing colors, using brighter colors like red, sky blue, pink, and yellow can likewise brighten up the mood and the rest of the workplace. For a touch of chic, maybe choose contrasting hues for the tops and bottoms, or you can opt to pair a brighter top with a more neutral bottom.

The power in this style comes from the loudness being conveyed by an appearance that demands an audience. Women who take this style express their choice to go against the fold of typical adulthood while still looking geared for success.

Basic Tips for Building a Professional Wardrobe

With more than one way to present yourself with professional stature, it wouldn’t be right simply to go for the most popular or to side only with what specific brands offer. Before anything else, women have the power to choose, so to make the best decision, here are some tips to keep in mind:

Know Yourself First

This goes more in a physical sense of how you look. This isn’t to say that some styles just won’t work with certain people, but perhaps there are combinations that better maximize your own beauty.

Your body comes before the clothes, so it’s best to understand how your physical attributes can complement your clothing. You may want to see how different blazers and coats can alter your silhouette, given your body type. Likewise, you can choose color combinations for your tops, bottoms, and accessories that go well with your eyes and your skin tone.

Think About What You Want to Be

Most people may find it convenient to wear the same attire to work everyday, but it can be a drag to think that you’re wearing a uniform rather than expressing your best self through your clothes. It’s best to know who you want to be as that translates into how you want others to see you. You can be loud yet youthful, laid back but mature, or any combination of your choice.

The workplace is a space for encounters with other people, so how you choose to work can say a lot about who you are. When you’re giving your best, you’ll also want to look your best.

Where Will You Be and When?

While the traditional suit or blazer is good for any occasion, you may want to consider the occasion and how you can better suit yourself to the event. For example, you may be used to wearing padded shoulders for the office, but when work calls you to a dinner meeting, you may opt for the casual blazer to feel and look more comfortable in front of the table and everyone around you. In other cases, it may be worth thinking about what colors will suit you best in the daylight versus in the evening. 

At the end of the day, there’s no better style of power dressing than the one that you choose. This also means that you shouldn’t be afraid to try out different outfits, colors, styles, and combinations, even if you’ve settled on one or the other in the past. There’s no problem with trying on something new since the most important part of fashion is being yourself.

Jackie LaMar

Beach lover. SoCal dweller. Life is never over unless you surrender. Keep going, the prize IS out there.