This is a collaborative post.
The term “power dressing” entered the public lexicon in the 1970s and 1980s. In its earliest iteration, it proposed the idea that women in positions of power had to dress similarly to men in order to command the same respect and authority as men did.
Some features of power dressing in its early days included a preference for conservative-looking wear and an avoidance of floral and pastel fabrics. At the time, these were seen as too “soft” and “feminine” to be considered professional-looking.
Since then, lots of things have changed with regard to women’s fashion, gender stereotypes, and traditional power dynamics in modern offices. But one thing that remains true is the power of fashion to impress something important about someone’s character. When choosing outfits for work, remember that your personal style can act as a medium for your professional values and the kind of character that you want to bring into your office.
If you work in a sector where someone’s visual impression of you matters a lot, like tech or real estate, it’s never a bad time to look up fresh information on upping your power dressing game. The question is how you can do so while maintaining your individuality and remaining confident in your professional abilities.
Below are five tips that should prove useful for the summer season. Here’s how you can adapt your seasonal workwear wardrobe and dress to impress the people around you:
Find Comfy Clothes That Fit You Perfectly
First things first: go for tailored fabrics that flatter your body shape and that are neither too loose nor too tight. Power dressing involves more than your choice of individual garments. Rather, it’s also about paying attention to how good those clothes look on you. You actually don’t need overly extravagant clothing to communicate your professionalism; clean, well-pressed, and smartly fitting clothes will do enough to show others that you mean business.
In anticipation of the summer months, you’ll also want to choose clothes that fit you comfortably and that will allow your skin to breathe. Doing the opposite can make you look ill at ease and, in turn, affect the way you comport yourself while you’re at work.
Pay Attention to Your Underlayers
Second, choose underlayers that are appropriate for the type of garment you’re wearing and that won’t bring unwanted attention your way. If you’re wearing a skirt or dress, pair it with seamless hosiery to avoid the fashion faux pas of a VPL, or a visible panty line. In case you don’t have seamless hosiery yet, you can easily shop hosiery in your preferred colors and deniers online.
The same goes for your choice of bra and any additional layers that you may still choose to wear during the summer, like a tank top or undershirt. Choose the kinds that are streamlined so that neither the hems nor the straps jut out through your blouse. Power dressing is also about paying attention to the littlest details, so make sure you’ve got these covered before you head to the office.
Avoid Clothes That Crease or Stain Easily
Unless the air conditioning is very cold in your office, you can expect to sweat a lot during hot summer days. If you’re extra conscious about sweaty spots showing up or even staining your clothes, ditch conspicuous colors like gray and synthetic or heavy fabrics like polyester, rayon, and thick denim. You’ll look breezy and elegant—and therefore more confident about your work ensemble—if you opt for light and absorbent fabrics like cotton and silk.
You’ll also want to watch out for creases or folds in your clothing, as these might keep you from looking neat and put together in front of your colleagues and clients. Avoid wrinkle and crease-prone fabrics like linen or cotton-linen blends, and stick to either natural fabrics or fabrics that are treated to be wrinkle-resistant.
Experiment with Fresh Colors and Patterns
One of the most popular power dressing strategies for women is to stick to a limited color palette of one or two colors, and then finish the outfit with a distinctive accent. This approach will still work during the summer, but remember that you can go beyond power dressing staple colors like black, white, beige, and navy and opt for more sumptuous colors like rosewood, burgundy, or emerald green.
The same applies to the patterns that you can incorporate in your outfits. There are no longer any hard and fast rules about bold patterns in power dressing, as these can still bring out memorable facets of a woman’s professional character. Don’t be afraid to experiment with patterns that showcase a summery vibe, like florals, leaf prints, nautical prints, or paisley.
Change Up Your Outfit to Set the Tone for Other People
Lastly, keep in mind that you’re under no obligation to subscribe to a power dressing “uniform.” While you can set aside workwear basics to use often during the summer, feel free to mix and match items in your ensemble according to what you hope to accomplish for the day.
For example, you can make an otherwise simple belted dress look more elegant with gold or rose gold accessories if you’re meeting a VIP client for an alfresco lunch. Doing so will create the impression that you’ve put a lot of thought into the meeting, and that the client’s time is valuable to you.
On the flip side, you can choose to wear a slightly more casual but still professional-looking polo dress for your next post-work social event. Finish your outfit with buckled ballet flats and a scarf or light jacket. This kind of look will allow your colleagues to relax in your presence while reminding them of your professional identity.
If there’s one takeaway that you should have about modern power dressing practices, it’s that they aren’t necessarily about the power of each specific garment. Rather, it’s about how well a garment communicates an aspect of your personality that you want to highlight in your professional life. In essence, that’s where the “power” in power dressing comes from.
Summer is one of the best times in the year to “boss up” your outfits in refreshing new ways. Try any of the tips above to elevate your power dressing game!