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What is Power Dressing really?

Power dressing is the outfit and silhouette that enables you to own the space and feel empowered. It says I am here, hear me speak, without a word.

Power dressing is the outfit and silhouette that enables you to own the space and feel empowered. It says I am here, hear me speak, without saying a word.

It communicates professionalism, knowledge, confidence. It extends from the body to elevate the frame even when reclined. The term originated in the 1970s as more European and American women were entering corporate structures and government positions. It was explained as “a fashion style that enables women to establish their authority in a professional and political environment traditionally dominated by men”. Through the careful curation of a head-to-toe look, it creates the space in which to stand up in and hold a position of professional excellence. In the Global North it is most commonly associated with the wide vertical shoulder, padded, to broaden the feminine female frame, hair, and make-up styled in a distinct fashion.

For men, it’s always been the suit, never black and never shabby, and the most desirable of them all, the “Saville Row” tailored suit, accompanied by a classic taper ‘businessman’ haircut. It demands respect and authority and instills trust. But times have changed, and the suit has taken a tumble, remember Mark Zuckerbergs’ “I’m sorry suit”, coined in the New York Times, as he sweats his way through a barrage of questions in court. It appears that the only time we see suits these days is when someone is in trouble, on any occasion, or not in control. The narrative has changed.

Power dressing has come a long way, and in the Zoom era, we are at a new frontier. Schiaparelli, Cunard, Thatcher, Chisholm, and most recently, US Inaugural Poet Amanda Gorman’s blazing yellow blazer has demonstrated the power of dress. Here women have excelled in aligning their wit, skill, and professional excellence with their appearance. Men, on the other hand, are at a crossroads, as the rigid boundaries that came with industrialization, reducing western men’s choices to 2 colors, 3 at a push, with a defined space between the legs, is changing. The only place men could show personality was with their socks and that’s no good on Zoom.

As our social and professional life increasingly move online, global communities merge and our focus shifts toward health and well-being, what will this look like post-pandemic when we return to our physical work environments?

Will our global Zoom communities become more homogeneous or heterogeneous?

If power dressing is a mark of professional excellence, what should it look like on Zoom, and how does that differ from a physical space?

Please share your thoughts down below.


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Power Dressing in the Zoom Era

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