The Power Dressing Controversy

This may be the rambling of a feminist student who has a lot of Simone de Beauvoir reading to do, but the issue of ‘power dressing’ needs to be discussed. I love clothes. I really do. I’m that stereotypical girl who can never find clothes to wear and yet I have had to buy suitcases just to make more room in my wardrobe. My biggest wish in life should be world peace but it is in fact the outfit-coordinating machine that Cher in Clueless has. And yet, when I was told that I needed to invest in suits that eluded power, I first thought of pencil skirts and peplum blazers, cashmere scarves topped with the finest leather gloves, patent court shoes and a killer bag. However, power dressing is in the simplest of terms, ‘dressing like a man’. Since power resides within or with money, it is ironic that whatever I choose to wear which makes me feel powerful is not considered power dressing. It is unsurprising that, with the cemented patriarchal social structures, power dressing is whatever the city man wears.

Professionalism is dark colours and hard cuts. This is not only seen in the city, (although, I can say that this is beginning to change drastically), we see it everyday in politics where a woman will get more interest in her latest suits than her actual policy ideas. At style, we acknowledge that clothes define you. They are an illustration of your culture, ideas, feelings and thought. They are art. And yet, this is not respected enough to deem feminine clothes powerful. Female leaders have embraced men’s clothes as a way to communicate power way before the 80s piloted the term “power dressing.” The inherent problem being, why should they?

This idea is however, slowly changing, Margaret Thatcher for example used to wear pussy-bow blouses with her suits and her iconic Ferragamo bag was a staple piece she never went without. We finally have exceptional television that showcases powerful women such as Olivia Pope in Scandal and Jessica Pearson in Suits, who all have killer taste and are not judged like Elle Woods in Legally Blonde. Whilst work dressing is far more monitored in professional jobs for women than men, it is something that is gradually getting better. It is of paramount importance that the definition of power dressing. In the end it is not the fabric that exhibits power, it is the person behind the garment. So it is somewhat baffling when clothes that elude femininity are classed as second class, even though female fashion is by far the most popular selling merchandise. Make up your mind capitalism. Exploit all of us not just the women. In the end, you are more powerful in what you are confident in wearing. So what if it is those flats or those over priced gloves? Nothing should stop you. Rejoice in that power, be it in pink, floral or aztec.

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