The clothing a woman chooses to wear doesn't define who she is, what she wants, or what she’s capable of — but it can influence how she feels. When it comes to inner confidence, sometimes the right outfit can work like a suit of armor to give you that extra boost you need to not just look the part, but to feel it too, and carry yourself accordingly. The purpose of putting on a killer outfit is to help you feel your personal best — but what exactly does that mean, and what does power dressing look like in 2019? The answer is more nuanced than ever before.
The definition of power dressing has evolved through the years. In the early decades of 1900s women began easing up on restrictive garments and shortening hemlines. By the 1970s, as women were fighting to enter the corporate world, the dress code for success became more about mimicking men as a means of capturing a little bit of their authority and gaining acceptance into the boys' club. The '80s and '90s saw a shift towards a more fiercely feminine brand of power. The suits stayed, but now they had exaggerated shoulders, nipped-in waists, came in bold colors, and didn't shy away from making a statement. For the modern woman, power dressing isn't defined by one look.
Perhaps you interpret power dressing in a literal sense, opting for styles that exude strength and authority, like a sharp-shouldered suit, a commanding pair of heels, or pieces in a bold color such as red. Or maybe you find assurance in items that hold significant meaning: the blouse you wore when you gave that important presentation, the lucky dress you had on when you aced the interview for your dream job, the accessory given to you by someone you love or admire.
For some real-life inspiration, TZR spoke with 10 stylish, successful women in various fields and professions — designers, entrepreneurs, executives, creatives — about what power dressing means to them, and what they put on when they want to feel invincible and empowered to tackle whatever challenges lie ahead. Read on for the methods and must-haves they revealed.
Anine Bing, Founder And Chief Creative Officer Of ANINE BING
"To me, 'power dressing' plainly means that you are feeling like your most empowered, confident, comfortable self. It means that you have one or two go-to outfits or pieces in your wardrobe that make you feel like the best version of yourself, whether that's for an interview or out with girlfriends on a Friday night. Power dressing is the central theme of our brand. We offer edgy essentials for the modern woman. So for me personally, that entails an amazing pair of denim, a statement boot, and a blazer. I can't live without those three things, and I usually have some version of that on rotation every day, whether it's at the office or at home on the weekends."
Alex Williamson, Chief Brand Officer Of Bumble
"Power dressing means having the confidence to express who you are through the clothes that you wear. It’s less about trying to display authority and dominance but more about being honest and comfortable. It's showcasing your true personality through your sense of style, while looking refined enough to walk into a room and have the focus be on what you’re saying, not wearing.
Statement dresses and bold prints are my absolute favorite when it comes to outfits that make me feel empowered. There’s also one particular piece of Bumble merch that I really love, and it’s Levi’s denim jacket that says “Making Moves” across the back. Wearing Bumble merch gives me a sense of pride and also a more visual way to spread our message of empowerment wherever I go."
Melanie Elturk, CEO Of Haute Hijab
"Power dressing means wearing something that gives you confidence and reminds you of your mission in life. The times I pay most attention to ‘power dressing' is when I'm doing public speaking (on panels, keynote speeches, etc.), Haute Hijab board meetings, pitching to investors, or any other important meeting where image matters.
First and foremost, it has to be something I feel comfortable in. If I'm not comfortable, it'll translate in my body language. It depends on the situation I'm dressing for, but it can be anything from a blazer and silk blouse with a silk hijab, to a printed dress with knee-high boots and matching printed hijab. The outfit I feel the most powerful in is a suit with 4-inch pointy pumps and a crisp collared shirt with my hijab tucked in. (I'm a former attorney, so this was my 'game-day' look)."
"Power dressing means dressing in an outfit so comfortable and so authentically me that I don’t think about it: I’m focused on what’s ahead of me, whether it’s giving a speech, inspiring the team with a big announcement, directing a shoot, or getting in front of the camera to tell the Away story.
I tend to gravitate towards certain silhouettes and fabrics—blousy, silk tops, tailored but looser trousers or black pants, and accessories that have sentimental value, like my Foundrae ring (engraved with my motto 'if not now then when'), and my late father’s vintage watch. Since my look is pared back, it’s easy to dress up or down when I need to by layering on pieces like a simple blazer or vintage leather jacket."
Poppy Jamie, Founder Of Happy Not Perfect, Co-Founder Of Pop & Suki
"I define power dressing as wearing what makes you feel the most confident and relaxed in high-pressure situations. It’s important to find a way for your own unique style to shine through, even if you have to abide by a 'dress code'. I truly believe being true to yourself and wearing what makes you happy, secure and comfortable in your own skin will allow your best qualities to shine through.
I feel most empowered when people can see my creative side through my wardrobe. Even in corporate situations, I try to always add a scarf in my hair, a colorful coat or suit to express myself. As a female entrepreneur and ambassador for my brand, I am often on stage talking to many people, so I’d rather not be thinking about whether my skirt is too short or that the zip is too tight when I’m trying to focus on the audience. I’ve found a positive mindset and inner confidence are as equally important as a polished outfit. So completing a quick confidence meditation on the Happy Not Perfect app before I step out is a great trick! Power dressing is about the inner and outer self!"
Misha Nonoo, Founder And Creative Director Of Misha Nonoo
"To me, power dressing means feeling confident and comfortable enough in what you are wearing to be the best version of yourself in work and in your personal life. A streamlined closet with classic and versatile pieces takes the stress and guesswork out of dressing.
I always want to look pulled together and sophisticated, but with an effortlessness that allows me to go straight from the boardroom to cocktail hour. I feel most empowered in a simple, modern wardrobe, but simplicity doesn’t have to mean boring — a classic black and white outfit pairs perfectly with a touch of red for a more playful look."
Cyndi Ramirez-Fulton, Founder And CEO Of Chillhouse
"Power dressing means exactly what it sounds like: dressing to become your most powerful, smart, and confident self. It’s almost like my armor — it keeps me strong and makes me feel like I can take on any question, any obstacle, and any situation at hand.
I switch it up, always, but I’ll never go on a panel without some sort of power pumps or heels — at least three inches (I’m a shorty). I also love wearing some sort of trench or jacket over a form fitting top and pant. Mixing sexy and conservative goes a long way."
"Power dressing is all about feeling confident and my best self so I can take on life’s challenges. For this, my go-to look is definitely a blazer with shoulder pads and heels."
Jaclyn Johnson, Founder And CEO Of Create & Cultivate, Author Of WorkParty
"Power dressing to me is all about what you are comfortable in, but also what makes you confident. There is nothing better than walking into a room feeling invincible, whether that’s in heels or sneakers, lip gloss or a bold lip. For me, I love the color red — it evokes authority and is always eye-catching. I have been living in my SocialEras short sleeve sweater in bright bold red, paired with a relaxed jean and a high heel, I feel powerful."
TyLynn Nguyen, Lingerie Designer And Creative Entrepreneur
"Power dressing is wearing pieces that inspire me to get work done. Items that evoke poise and the energy of prosperity. I love wearing suits in all tones that are a little oversized, big shoulders, and cinched at the waist."