The season of power dressing is upon us yet again. While it’s easy to pull off with classic pieces which are readily available in one’s closet, we often forget how it’s survived decades of trends and fads. Power dressing evolves with every era and takes on a new form as societal perceptions of fashion shift accordingly, and now the 2023 rendition has arrived with a sexier, gender-neutral twist. Ahead, BAZAAR breaks down just how power dressing in this day and age came to be, how it has grown and how to rock its latest incarnation with ease.
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The Origins Of Power Dressing
Although the term power dressing was first coined in the late ‘70s and slowly gained traction over the next two decades, legendary designer Coco Chanel made the very first move with the creation of the power suit – Chanel’s iconic tweed two-piece – in the 1920s.
Chanel was a fashion rebel and wanted to free women of restrictive corsets and long skirts that were considered the standard for women at that time. Inspired by menswear and sportswear, she used a material that was considered unglamorous to create the beloved outfit, which featured a masculine cut and a midi skirt – perfect for a post-war world. Since then, the Chanel tweed suit has remained a signature of the house, favoured by the likes of Audrey Hepburn and Princess Diana.
The concept of power dressing boils down to two words: gender equality. Power dressing was built on the shoulders of those who fought for equal rights and weren’t afraid of causing a scandal – one of whom was Yves Saint Laurent.
Back in 1967, the critically-acclaimed designer debuted ‘Le Smoking’, a straight-legged pantsuit with a white ruffled organza top, bow tie and tailored jacket. Fashion editors at the time were less than thrilled by Laurent’s bold statement due to the gender confusion caused by the look. But Laurent had the backing of some of the most influential celebrities during that period, like Bianca Jagger and Catherine Deneuve, who championed the style and solidified the pantsuit’s place in fashion.
Pantsuits have now become a uniform for chic businesswomen around the world, including mom-ager Kris Jenner, who has rocked the fierce look since the beginning of the 21st century.
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The New Normal
As we began to put the pandemic behind us, power dressing as we knew it changed yet again. Straight-legged pants turned to wide-legged variants and tailored blazers were set aside for boxy and oversized counterparts.
But things have further evolved a year later. Take Valentino’s recent FW23 collection for example, celebrating the black tie; the entire lineup didn’t rely solely on broad-shouldered jackets and the said accessory, as expected from the overarching theme. The Maison decided to bare skin for both men and women with an array of shorts, sheer fabrics and strategic cut-outs. Some looks were structured while others featured a flowing silhouette. Patterns, textures and saturated colours were also used to signal how powerful and universal clothing can be without sticking to traditional tailoring associated with gender.
And to absolutely no one’s surprise, designers this past season reflected more androgynous codes of style with women sporting structured coats and ties while men wore skirts and shorts. Fashion, after all, is always in a state of flux. Of course, we would never leave anyone hanging without a guide on how to achieve some of the best power dressing looks – check out our recommendations below.