This post is dedicated to all the womenfolk out there, age no bar. Power Dressing is a topic that my sister and I have been discussing since we were teenage girls. It studies how fashion operates in the relationship between the social system and the negotiation of power. It is one of my favourite topics to talk about. Power dressing discourse was significant in building a new type of working woman appearing in the society starting in the second half of the 1970s, and it was further developed in the 1980s.
What is Power Dressing?
By definition described in history: [Source: Wikipedia]
Power dressing is a fashion style that enables women to establish their authority in a professional and political environment traditionally dominated by men.
The notion of a career woman stepped into contemporary society as women reached high powered job positions, which previously were intended to men. With the help of an empowering self-presentation such as power suits, women were trying to break through the so-called glass ceiling. The development of power dressing was pivotal in bringing to public visibility women in executive or business position. It served as a way to construct their image and to make them recognizable in public society's eyes. Women saw this new clothing style as a way to detach from the classical feminine meaning of fashion, mainly associated with aesthetics and frivolity.
Chanel - one of the most iconic luxury brands in the world - came up with “Power Dressing Suits” in the 1970s. The Chanel suit was composed of a tight skirt and a wool, collarless button-up jacket, usually with braid trim, metallic buttons, and fitted sleeves. This was with the sole purpose of enabling women to look modern and feminine while feeling comfortable. It included traditionally masculine elements which gave women a very authoritative appearance, but at the same time, it left space for a refined and sophisticated look.
This suit represented a turning point in the way women dressed. In fact, it was the very first professional suit that was created ground up for women. Now, this Chanel suit was said to be the most important innovation for women, because after World War I women were slowly entering male-dominated work environments. This suit encouraged women to try to reach their professional goals giving them comfort and mobility to fit with their independent and active lifestyles. According to the costume historian Harold Koda, the Chanel suit allowed women of the time to de-sex their feminine look and to have a more masculine appearance in order to be accepted as equals in the professional sphere.
Well, even after so many decades, we still face similar issues and are continuing our fight for equal pay and breaking the glass ceiling. Now, if you are thinking: here goes another feminist being ungrateful and privileged, let me clear something for you. I agree times have changed and we have evolved but these issues are still deeply rooted. We certainly have learned a new way of dealing with it, but it does exist and in most places that are not cities - issues like these are brushed aside as nothing. Unfortunately, these less-privileged cities have a maximum concentration of women who are gullible. We all can Google the depressing statistics of women-related concerns currently prevailing our society and get a better understanding of the present scenario. Despite that, here I am talking about something inconsequential in the bigger scheme of things. Therefore, this isn’t about privilege or being a feminist, this is about fighting the smaller battles too. No battle is inconsequential at The Small Wonder.
My dressing style has consistently evolved and has seen different phases ever since I started working 9 years ago. Sometimes I have dressed to be a part of the crowd and to blend in, sometimes to stand out, sometimes to impress, and sometimes to express. Like everyone, I have dressed for a purpose at some point but most of the time - and regularly - I’ve dressed to be myself. I’ve ensured that I dressed up to suit my personality, my vibe, and of course, my pocket. Over a period of time, our dressing sense becomes our identity and that was true for me as well.
That identity in itself becomes your own version of Power Dressing!
I feel that Power Dressing is not only about dressing but it also extends to your style, confidence, and your body language. Plus, the way you carry yourself matters equally. Surely, your clothing is not an indicator of your intelligence but it does act as the ideal confidence and morale booster. I can tell from my personal experience that you ooze a certain charm and suave that is definite and extraordinary by practising Power Dressing.
If you take a look at my career trajectory, it is mostly focussed around the creative industry. The creative space isn’t bound by rules of dressing formally. I wasn’t compelled to wear a suit or formal workwear of any sort. I could wear casual clothes or even drape a saree, without worry. Dressing up was a casual, no-nonsense affair.
However, all that changed recently when I moved to Delhi NCR after marriage and changed jobs. Currently, I work in a job where most employees are only wearing suits and ties. It’s like everyone is walking straight out of the sets of the new season of Suits. In fact, during my introduction meeting with the management, I was the only one to walk in wearing a cotton dress. 20 odd people in the room were dressed up like corporate suits in the conference room. I started feeling awkward and unwanted thanks to the subtle stares coming in my direction indicating that I wasn’t dressed appropriately. In that pressure, I couldn’t even finish my coffee. And, you guys know by now, I can't leave the coffee in my cup!
To save myself from that very awkwardness, I wore formal clothes for the first few days. However, I kept contemplating on how to find a middle ground because wearing suits every day to work is not my thing. It makes me feel claustrophobic…like we are all trapped inside a box. And, being a marketer, how is feeling like this supposed to help me think out-of-the-box?
Obviously, I wasn’t going to let this get to me. I started caring less and wearing clothes that made me feel comfortable, without feeling like a joker in the room. I let my work turn those subtle stares into direct stares. Twist in the tale: they were staring at my work and not my room. For the first time, I wasn’t worried about the stares and in fact, welcomed them. Recently, I wore a lovely Kalamkari saree — gifted by my mother-in-law who knows my taste really well — to work. And, lo and behold, I started getting compliments and people started appreciating me for my unique preferences and choices in dressing. That is the day I realised that over a period of time we all just blend in with our personalities and our clothes have very little to do with it.
We must learn to accept our true identities and then own it with pride. Which means, now, “owning your identity” is your own version of power dressing for today’s time! Don’t let the budget or brands inspire your identity. Just go with what goes with your vibe. We are living in evolved times, and certainly, don’t need brands and ads to tell us or remind us what suits us better. We live in the times where fashion blogging is at its peak, which also tells us that there are many out there who are building their own style - either to stand out or blend in. All things said and done, you do you and nothing else really matters.
So, pick the outfit that screams your vibe and lets you be the REAL you. Own your dressing sense and make it your version of Power Dressing!
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