In our January series How to Get Dressed Again, Who What Wear UK is all about the idea that it’s not about a “brand-new you” but a “best you—full stop.” Emerging out of hibernation and back into normality only to own every room, we’re looking at the methods, ideas, tricks and inspiration that guide you into 2018 in the softest, calmest and kindest-to-yourself ways. Forget fads and racing to the finish line. This is all about one clever step at a time and setting yourself up for an entirely stylish year.
There’s no debating that power dressing for women is a million miles away from the archetypal aesthetic created at its boom in the 1980s: Our working lives have changed to no end (hands up if your home is now also your office), and status and success can be achieved without the need of stilettos to smash through a glass ceiling or severe shoulder-pads to jab co-workers’ eyes out. Casual attire has even filtered into the stuffiest of workplaces—although we are more than aware that many corners of the professional world, such as certain law firms or finance companies, do still enforce traditional dress codes.
Despite the inequality that still exists in many industries (do we even need to mention #TimesUp here?), there’s less of an interest in the concept of “power dressing” as it once existed: Now your outfit is bolstering the power, talent and skills within, and anyone with a love for fashion and its mood-enhancing qualities will vouch for that. So rather than give you a one-formula-fits-all solution for those days where you aren’t quite sure how to walk the line between pulled-together and unleashing your personal style, I spoke to 17 working women to get their most trusted ensembles.
The “power pose” outfits if you will— combinations that make these already-impressive ladies feel even stronger and fully prepped for the days, weeks and months ahead. Keep scrolling to see what doctors, authors, fashion bloggers, poets, digital gurus and more revealed to me.
Instagram-adored Gurls Talk resident Dr. Lauren Hazzouri totally echoed my sentiments about this piece: “My feelings of agency and power never come from what I choose to wear. It’s more vice versa: I choose my outfit depending on how I feel. When I'm feeling ‘on it’—in my power and f*ckin’ ready to take on this day—I wear jeans (always distressed), a T-shirt, blazer, and the highest booties I can find. On my not-so powerful-feeling days, you’ll find me in my comfy workout clothes. The most important note here is that my power NEVER changes, regardless. Some days I feel it, some days I don’t.”
What could be more kick-ass than a Gucci tee with feisty tigers on it? Nothing.
“When it comes to a ‘power outfit,’ the ones that get you through that hectic or intense day without having to worry how you look are usually the simplest ones,” confirms Irina Lakicevic, the dentist turned blogger turned super editor of Mint Journal, whose personal style we always turn to when we’re lacking in inspiration. “I swear by ‘workwear‘ jeans (sleek black or relaxed light blue) paired with a simple crewneck and a good blazer. The winning piece is the blazer, which I always regard as a worthy investment. A good cut will give you the feeling of being a CEO yet imbue your busy self with Kate Moss nonchalance. Joseph and Céline do brilliant cuts, but also a vintage piece from the ’80s can really give value for money.”
“Modern business casual is totally my jam, and I love a good blazer/denim combo. The winter is the perfect time to layer my looks with a turtleneck or hoodie,” moderator and all-around awesome girl, L.A.-based Jennifer Pauline told me. “I wore this outfit (pictured above) for a day filled with meetings, and it was a subtle reminder for everyone who saw me that girls rule. The best part is that for every person who buys this Milly capsule collection hoodie, they donate 20% of the proceeds to Girls Inc. of New York City. Purpose and power dressing? Yes, please.”
I always enjoy hearing writer Polly Vernon’s take on these fundamental fashion issues—she’s a woman with the kind of no-BS smarts I appreciate but also a keen eye for style. Her formula? “I’m rock-bottom on outfit ideas by end of January. Low on inspiration and the confidence to try anything new or daring, plus it’s so damn cold! The only thing I can rely on is a cami top (Sézane or Cami NYC) belted into high-waisted jeans (vintage Levi’s 501s or Re/Done), which crucially have a crop on them so they feel a little sexier, with low-top Nikes or a patent loafer, topped off with mid-length faux fur (I’ve got an incredible petrol blue one—from Sézane again). Tart it up with mega earrings if you’re still feeling glum.”
This comes in so many different colours—stock up if you feel the same way as Polly.
Becoming a spokesperson for mental health, Roxie Nafousi is aware of just how important looking after yourself—in a grooming and fashion capacity—can be one of the many factors that contribute to feeling ready for the world each day. Here’s what she’s relying on 2018: “At the moment, I love knee-high boots; they are demure, chic, powerful, sexy and feminine all at once. For the daytime, I love to pair them with high-waisted denim jeans and an oversized T-shirt or roll-neck jumper. And for the evening, I put them under a short wrap or floaty midi dress. They literally transform my confidence when I put them on!”
Uterqüe shoes are made to the highest quality—they’re some of the best you’ll find on the virtual high street.
“Nothing beats a pantsuit when it comes to power dressing. I love that the options now extend well beyond the traditional corporate styles that instantly spring to mind,” explains Naomi Mdudu, the London-based founder of The Lifestyle Edit and a mentor to creative female entrepreneurs. “I have a blood-red suit from British workwear brand The Fold London that I swear by for those moments where I need to put my best foot forward and feel most confident. Most days, I turn to a boxy menswear-inspired blazer. I have a grey one from Stella McCartney that instantly transforms a jeans-and-sweater combo into something that feels more pulled together. I wear mine with J Brand’s Alana high-rise skinny jeans and an oversized cashmere knit.”
Stella McCartney’s beautiful blazers really can last a lifetime—be sure to dry-clean them and treat yours well.
Surfer and model Laura Crane feels at her strongest in some well-chosen top-quality athleisure gear—and we can’t blame her. “Varley helps me feel at my most confident. When I’m not in a wetsuit, I'm usually in gym gear. If I’m lacking any sort of motivation, this brand is so comfortable but also looks great, so it boosts me to work hard and keep up with my training regimen. I suppose you could look at it like a uniform, and I’m very lucky that this is mine!”
“A great pair of shoes really pull an outfit together for me,” says the super-chic consultant dermatologist Alexis Granite, MD. “I’m on my feet most of the day seeing patients, so it’s important my shoes be comfortable but also easy to transition into a night out if needed. I like to pair sneakers with trousers, and wedge or chunky heeled boots with dresses. This season, I can’t get enough of velvet: I’m crushing on my Dries Van Noten blue-velvet boots (bought on sale—even better!), and I also have a pair of hot pink Balenciaga velvet booties that add a little bit of fun, especially to a black dress.”
Work shoes don’t have to be serious shoes.
“I’d probably describe my personal style as an eclectic play on ‘classic’ rather than traditionally feminine,” says the interior architecture guru Tara Bernerd. She went on to explain the importance of investment pieces: “At work, I tend to mix and match, so I’m often drawn to great trousers and a statement piece. Céline and Chloé are often on my radar for trousers and great shirts, whilst Fendi is also a go-to. My collection of original Tom Ford for Gucci and Alexander McQueen jackets also come out a lot as I still use them so often.”
Pussy-bow styles are still trending.
“I’d definitely say my power outfit is a fitted midi skirt and trainers in the day—comfortable chic. I am not about being comfortable in life and attitude, but in the day, running around doing a million and one things, it is important,” says Chloé Watts, a highly regarded source of digital knowledge across the world, and the founder and CEO of Chloé Digital, the über-impressive multidisciplinary agency. “I like to be able to transition my look from day to night, so switching out the trainers for a nice block heel. You will usually find me wearing my leather jacket draped over my shoulders. Every year, I buy a new one; it never goes out of style for me and always makes me feel super chic.”
“I feel at my most versatile and at ease in an all-in-one,” Jane tells me. And, of course, the perfect jumpsuit is something she has been able to create via her Kate Middleton–approved line, Goat. The understated perfect-fit pieces you’ll find in the brand lend themselves well to a modern kind of subtle power dressing. “A jumpsuit literally takes me anywhere and allows me to feel understated yet stylish simultaneously,” she explains.
This also comes in white, which is a great alternative wedding jumpsuit option.
“My day-to-day power outfits for work, be it meetings or seeing clients, must be comfortable yet stylish, polished and well put together. My go-to key piece is always a well-fitting black pencil skirt paired with a tucked in blouse, either in cream, a bright colour or pattern," says Michelle Braude, BSc, the trusted founder of The Food Effect (a website and book about tailor-made nutrition). “I’m super petite, so well-fitting clothes are a must for me—and ALWAYS a killer pair of heels!”
“I tend to go for trousers if I want/need to feel particularly powerful. Perhaps it’s because I think they’ll offer me a dash of Katharine Hepburn’s grit, wit and steely insouciance,” Rosalind Jana, a wonderful writer and poet, tells me—which seems rather in keeping with the wonderfully vintage style she shares on her Instagram account. “I have a particular wide-legged pair in navy velvet that have seen me through many a long day. In them, I’m ever so slightly more invincible.”
Statement enough to feel special, classic enough to get lots of wear.
Life coach Giada Del Drago offers up a more holistic approach to power dressing: “My favourite item to wear when teaching yoga, coaching or doing any sort of healing and empowerment work is an angel-winged kimono by Warriors of the Divine. They are beautiful luxury kimonos that work well for slouching around the house or for cosmic work, and they’re also glamorous enough to throw over a maxi dress for a boho red carpet or beach party look. For a power-lunch look, I often wear pieces inherited from Edmonde Charles-Roux (editor of French Vogue in the ’50s and ’60s). She was a strong, powerful and inspiring woman, and I am lucky to fit into some of her one-off pieces by great designers. My favourite is this red Yves Saint Laurent raw-silk shirt (pictured above) with gold buttons and bell sleeves. I always add a slick of red lipstick to go with it.”
Who says power dressing has to be sharp or severe?
“Wearing a soft dress with comfortable sneakers and socks makes me feel womanly strong, empowered and myself,” says influencer and digital guru Xenia Tchoumi. “It’s my favourite type of outfit for a day out, a day of meetings or to dance all evening in. It’s also perfect with a blazer for business environments.”
Pip Edwards’s incredibly cool activewear line has made P.E Nation the go-to for fashion-conscious girls who like to work out (or simply grab a chic legging-clad brunch on a Saturday). But what does the mastermind wear when she’s in need of a powerful pick-me-up? “A slouchy man-style suit worn back with killer designer trainers never fails. Comfort and strength all in one.”
Topshop’s leading the charge for slouchy suits right now.
“I personally think feeling powerful is greatly influenced by your current state of mind and confidence in that particular moment, but dressing for the occasion most certainly helps,” explains Janie, the founder of Knickerbox who recently brought the Italian brand Fiorucci back to life. “Something that always makes me feel more confident is having a beautiful pair of shoes on. When wearing the perfect heels, I carry myself differently and certainly feel more prepared for the event, whatever that may be. My current favourite shoes are my Aquazzura Dylan mules in a perfect shade of teal.”
Aquazzura’s vertiginous heels also just so happen to be really easy to walk in.
“I’m a sheath-dress-and-stilettos power-outfit kind of girl. The heels give me height (which I need) and a well-cut sheath is chic and sophisticated. My go-to dress brands are The Fold and Black Halo, and I am recently into Reiss,” says California-based ophthalmologist Jesse Berry. "But no matter what, finding an amazing tailor is paramount—even an inexpensive dress will look spectacular if the fit is flattering.”
The Fold’s creations are impeccably well-tailored and yet comfortable—many city women rely upon this niche brand.