Boss Lady

5 rules for the new power dressing


While power dressing hit its stride in the 1980s, it was born in the late 70s. It came out of necessity – women needed to establish their authority in a workplace traditionally dominated by men, and they used fashion and style to do it.

Power dressing was once synonymous with a conservative, male wardrobe. Think tailored suits and jackets with padded shoulders (to mimic the broad shoulders of men). Nothing screams classic power suit more than Sigourney Weaver rocking Wall Street as Katherine Parker in Working Girl. Yet by the mid 80s the rules were already changing. Once women began to establish their authority in the corporate landscape, they no longer needed to simply try and fit in by adhering to a masculine uniform. Instead of camouflaging themselves, the power suit was a way to stand out and regain their femininity.

Over 40 years later, and power dressing still reigns supreme. Yet it has evolved with the times. It still serves the same purpose – to ensure women dress with confidence and increase their visibility in the workplace – but the rules have definitely changed.

Here are our 5 top tips to nail power dressing in 2017.

1. Mixing and matching

Where power dressing was once about matching jackets and skirts to mimic a traditional masculine suit, today’s version is all about mixing it up. Be open to mixing different textures and fabrics. Nothing demands attention more than a consciously clashing look worn with confidence and grace.

2. Invest in key staple pieces

While contrast may be key, that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t still invest in really well made, quality pieces. Use these as your staple wardrobe and mix and match where you can. Decide what message you want to convey and choose core pieces that represent this. Is it vital that you’re approachable? Stylish? Creative? Strong? This is the message that can be received from something as simple as a pair of amazing black heels. Most importantly, these key pieces need to be practical. If you’re an executive working a 14-hour day, you need to make sure your key staple pieces fit properly and are comfortable.

3. Soften a typically masculine look with a pop of femininity

Think the old staple of a blazer with a patterned top, rocked out with skinny jeans and heels. Classic trousers, paired with silky blouses. A muted, classic suit with an amazing accessory. Work what you’ve got! Power is no longer about being cold or harsh or stereo typically masculine. Tap into the best of both worlds for the ultimate power look.

4. It’s all about confidence

There’s no point following any style advice unless you feel 100% comfortable. The most powerful thing in a power suit is you! Find a way to let your personality shine through and your authority will be instantly recognised. You want to have an individual look, and that means tapping in to your own individuality and owning it.

5. Know your audience

While it is essential that you dress for your personality in order to make your presence felt, it’s also essential that you dress appropriately for the right situation. Yes, work environments are far more relaxed than they used to be, but professionalism is always key and the first impression of this is how you dress. I wear different clothes when I’m presenting to a large law firm than when I’m consulting one on one with a client. If you have a varied role that involves different elements – for example client facing, boardroom meetings, lots of travel – ensure you have a flexible wardrobe that you can mix and match that doesn’t lose the essence of who you are and the message you want to convey.

Gone are the days of one-size-fits-all power dressing. It’s about tapping into your power and expressing this through your style. It’s about being fearless and owning who you are and what you can achieve. Where power dressing was once about throwing on the uniform of a male-dominated workforce so as not to be noticed, today’s power dressing demands the opposite. It’s about standing out for all the right reasons and reflecting your authority through your individuality.The new rules of power dressing? It’s all about breaking the rules.

Like you, I understand the pressure of being an ambitious and busy, professional woman. I am passionate about working with real women to achieve greater confidence, presence and influence. In my workshops and 1:1 private sessions, I learn about your goals and provide you with the tools and techniques to maximise your strengths, differentiate yourself, and elevate your professional presence for even greater success. If you’re ready to be empowered and take that next big step in your development, I’d love to work with you. For a no-obligation chat, call 0405 440 366 or visit

About Melissa Lewis

Melissa Lewis, founder of Style Confidante, is one of Australia’s leading personal brand, image and empowerment specialists. Her 1:1 sessions, corporate workshops and networking events empower professional women to elevate their confidence, visibility, influence and style. For more information, call 0405 440 366 or visit

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