Why a growing faction of women prefer strong, tailored ‘power dresses’ for the office, rather than the expected blazers.
From The Wall Street Journal 9/1/2019
By: By Katharine K. Zarrella
POWER DRESSING at the workplace has mercifully evolved since 1988’s “Working Girl,” in which Sigourney Weaver weathered Wall Street in heinous, shoulder-padded blazers. Back then, female office-wear mimicked masculine codes in an effort to level the professional playing field, but today women enjoy more flexibility. And lately, female trailblazers—both real and fictional—have been forgoing suits in favor of form-fitting, no-nonsense dresses. Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg wears them to Davos; Laura Dern stalks around in them in HBO’s hit “Big Little Lies” as tech exec Renata Klein; and politicians on both sides of the aisle, including House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Congresswoman Elise Stefanik, have adopted them as their Capitol Hill uniform.
The power dress—as seen on this fall’s runways from brands as varied as Acne Studios, Brandon Maxwell and Prada—shares little DNA with the Little House on the Prairie-ish, fanciful frocks you’ve been spotting by the beach all summer. Rather, it’s a streamlined shift that projects self-assuredness. “The typical power dress is something that has coverage and is relatively fitted…something that is really smart-looking [in which] you come across as professional,” said Elizabeth von der Goltz, the London-based global buying director for e-tailer Net-a-Porter.
|Working Girl (1988)|
For those in the know, the term immediately conjures Roland Mouret’s Galaxy dress, a prototypical power piece whose popularity has held strong since its fall 2005 debut. With a figure-hugging silhouette and pronounced cap sleeve, the Galaxy is lined with sculpted “power-mesh” fabric which, Mr. Mouret says, “supports you from the inside and makes you feel really at ease.” The Galaxy is crafted from wool felt—a traditionally masculine material—to add weight to its hourglass shape.
“A power dress has a sense of poise to it. It can go from day to night, makes you feel confident, and allows you to take ownership of your femininity,” said Zac Posen. “It needs to have a fabric that holds your body and makes it feel secure,” continued the New York-based designer, who contends that his boardroom-ready sheaths are “leading the numbers” for both his eponymous line and the Brooks Brothers collection he designs. It’s that buttressing sense of security, perhaps, that makes women feel strong in these garments—there’s something to be said for wearing a dress that envelops you sleekly and completely. Unlike a suit or other multi-piece outfit, there’s no pulling or adjusting.
... (read the whole article)
The "power dress" is gaining ground, although some feel its moniker should be left behind with perms and blue eye shadow. “I really understand now it’s not power dressing; it’s equal dressing,” said Mr. Mouret. “It’s women showing that they can be equal to men but they don’t need to wear suits.” The public relations executive Ms. Patrick is particularly averse to the phrase. “I think it’s similar to my least favorite term, which is ‘girl boss.’ There’s this implication that the dress is lacking power, so you need to add the word ‘power’ to it. It’s just a dress, right? What’s powerful is the woman in it.”