For Fashion’s Most-Photographed Stars, What Does Power Dressing Mean Now?

The show-goers and FROW frequenters share their secrets with Natalie Hammond.


by Natalie Hammond |
Updated on

Thanks to Cleopatra's crown and collar, the concept of ‘power dressing’ has existed since Ancient Egypt. It wasn't until the '80s, however, that it really gained momentum, aided by a whole lotta shoulder pads and Margaret Thatcher’s handbag and hairdo. Fast-forward through Michelle Obama’s sleeveless dresses, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez’s trouser suits, Lady Hale’s spider brooch and it’s official - power dressing is as much a state of mind as a wardrobe choice. Get it right and you’ll walk into every breakfast meeting and boardroom feeling confident, commanding and, crucially, like your most impressive self.

Michelle Obama in Versace for the State Dinner with Italian Prime Minster Matteo Renzi, October 2018 ©Getty Images

Of course, power dressing has spread outside political circles. The fashion set’s approach to ‘means-business’ clothing isn’t just boss-lady suits - although they’re a great starting point - but about finding your personal brand of polish.

The front row, obviously, have spent years finessing theirs (the fashion industry can be the most intimidating arena of all). Speaking to the most fashionable women in the field, currently in the midst of fashion shows – that most pressured environment of all - it’s clear that power dressing boils down to how clothes make you feel. ‘It means looking pulled together and feeling your best,’ says photographer Tamu McPherson. For DREST’s fashion director, Candice Fragis, it’s a similar story. ‘How I feel in an outfit always takes precedence over what I think I should be wearing,’ she says. Lydia King, fashion director at Harrods, sums it up as follows: ‘Power [dressing] doesn’t mean exaggerated shoulders or masculine tailoring. It’s about style and comfort.’

Tamu McPherson in a purple Valentino coat ©Getty Images

The Working Girl suit is no longer the only way to look sharp. ‘The definition of work clothes has changed so much. It’s no longer exclusively about structured two-piece tailoring or block colours,’ says Fragis. ‘So many new and emerging brands are creating collections that are "workwear-appropriate" through well thought out design that blends professionalism with personality.’

Net-a-Porter’s global buying director, Elizabeth von der Goltz, includes Saint Laurent, The Row and JW Anderson on her list of go-to’s for punchy workwear pieces. ‘We recently launched Gauchere as part of our Vanguard program and I love what they’re doing for everyday tailoring,’ she adds. King also namechecks Jil Sander - ‘For long-lasting pieces that stand the test of time’ - while McPherson lists Petar Petrov, Joseph, Khaite, Salvatore Ferragamo, Blaze Milano and Rejina Pyo. ‘If you’re ever in doubt, anything from Joseph promises to be a timeless piece and a solid wardrobe investment,’ says Fragis.

Don’t know where to start? ‘My secret weapon for important meetings are the shoes,’ says McPherson. Von der Goltz's approach is equally straightforward. ‘I love to wear a full suit, in a head-to-toe colour or a heritage check, and usually pair it with a polo neck.’

Of course, it’s also about being playful. Browns’ brand engagement director, Tyler Psarras, who dresses predominantly in menswear, says that’s something we shouldn’t lose sight of when getting ready for work. ‘I don’t like to feel too serious. Fashion is about having fun and expressing yourself.’ That last word is the most important. ‘Power dressing means fuck what everyone else thinks,’ she says.

SHOP: Your Fast Ticket To Power Dressing


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