The Evolution of Power Dressing and ‘Business Class’: a key trend this season

In the ever-evolving world of fashion, trends come and go. One such trend is power dressing – or ‘Business Class’ as it is known this particular season. But what is the history of power dressing, origins and evolution? And who are the key individuals who have served as inspiration for the trend?

The Birth of Power Dressing

The most iconic images of power dressing that we picture nowadays and the trends that emerged in the late 1970s and early 1980s when women where historically trying to make herself feel more powerful? It was thought that traditionally male-dominated pieces of clothing could be what every powerful, modern woman needed to showcase her true power and character. 

Women were increasingly entering the corporate workforce and striving to make their presence known in many male-dominated sectors. This new wave of feminism was reflected in fashion, with women seeking attire that exuded confidence, authority, and sophistication. But power dressing extended far beyond the boardroom. Dynasty was the hugely popular 1980s television soap that promoted fashions which shocked and stunned and with 250 million viewers worldwide, it naturally drifted into mainstream fashion.

One of the pioneers of power dressing was the late British designer Dame Vivienne Westwood, who sadly died at the end of 2022. Her punk-inspired designs, featuring structured blazers and tailored trousers, challenged traditional gender norms and paved the way for women to assert themselves by defying traditions. Her iconic creations embodied a fusion of rebellion and refinement, and they resonated with women worldwide. You’ll see that many of her designs have influenced the trends that are filtering into the high street this season and have in a small way influenced the Autumn/Winter photoshoot for b.kinda.

Iconic Inspirations

Coco Chanel: While power dressing as we know it today may have taken shape in the late 20th century, its roots can be traced back to the early 20th century when Coco Chanel revolutionised women’s fashion. In this article, journalist Theano Dimopoulou says: “While Chanel might remind people of a cool traditional femininity and the signature pink perfume bottle, the designer was the first that took masculine designs and transformed them for women. Women were required to wear corsets, and Coco gave women air, by presenting a set with jacket and a skirt, using comfortable materials allowing them to breathe.” Chanel’s timeless designs, including the little black dress and tailored blazers, emphasised comfort and simplicity. These garments allowed women to move freely while exuding an air of sophistication and independence, setting the stage for future power dressing trends.

Katharine Hepburn: Hollywood legend Katharine Hepburn challenged conventional gender roles both on and off the screen. With her penchant for wide-legged trousers, crisp shirts, and blazers, she exuded a sense of authority and self-assuredness that was unconventional for women of her time. Hepburn’s iconic style has continued to inspire power dressers, showcasing the allure of androgynous fashion. Her lasting influence is the fact that her public image communicated the possibility that women could wear what they wanted when they wanted. When asked why she took to wearing trousers Hepburn said: “I like to move fast, and wearing high heels was tough, and low heels with a skirt is unattractive. So trousers took over.” She looked powerful in trousers. When asked about her approach to fashion, she said “I wear my sort of clothes to save me the trouble of deciding which clothes to wear.” She wanted to be comfortable and she was being herself.

Margaret Thatcher: Often referred to as the “Iron Lady,” former Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher was known for her no-nonsense approach to politics and her impeccable wardrobe. Thatcher’s iconic pearls, structured blazers, and coordinated suits communicated authority and leadership, cementing her status as a power-dressing icon. Grazia’s Fashion Editor, Laura Antonia Jordan, said: “The pairing of strict suiting and soft shirting highlighted the paradox of her premiership: she wasn’t just in the top job, she was a woman in the top job (something that was not necessarily welcome by her Conservative colleagues).”

The Power Suit: A Timeless Symbol

For women, a suit with its sharp tailoring and commanding silhouette, remains the quintessential piece of power dressing. It is a testament to the enduring appeal of this trend. Over the years, fashion designers have continued to reinterpret and reimagine the power suit, ensuring its relevance in contemporary wardrobes and it’s a look that can be simply created with pre-loved – and of course vintage finds.

In recent years, we’ve seen a resurgence of power dressing on the runways and in everyday fashion. Modern interpretations include sleek, minimalist power suits in neutral tones, as well as vibrant, patterned versions that add a touch of flair. The versatility of the power suit is evident as it can be styled for both formal and casual occasions, making it a wardrobe staple for those who want to radiate confidence and authority.

The Influence of Power Dressing Today

While power dressing’s evolution has seen its fair share of variations and reinterpretations, its core message remains unchanged: empowerment through clothing. Today, individuals across the gender spectrum embrace power dressing as a means of self-expression, projecting strength and confidence in a world where the lines between traditional gender roles have blurred.

How to create the look today with pre-loved clothing:

Creating a Business Class look with pre-loved clothing is not only sustainable but also allows you to curate a unique and budget-friendly style. Here are five key tips to help you achieve that confident and authoritative power dressing look:

Invest in Quality Basics: Start your power dressing wardrobe with high-quality, timeless basics that can serve as the foundation for various outfits. Look for well-fitted blazers, tailored trousers, and classic button-down shirts. These pieces can often be found in excellent condition.

Tailoring is Key: A well-fitted outfit is essential for power dressing. Don’t hesitate to invest a bit in tailoring to ensure that your pre-loved finds fit you perfectly. Tailoring or up-cycling clothes with some tucks and stitches can transform an inexpensive item into a polished and sophisticated piece that exudes confidence.

Mix and Match: Power dressing doesn’t have to be limited to matching suits. Experiment by mixing and matching different pieces from your pre-loved collection. For example, pair a vintage blazer with modern trousers or style a classic skirt with a contemporary blouse.

Accessorise Strategically: Accessories play a crucial role. Incorporate statement pieces like a bold belt, a structured handbag, or a statement necklace to add a touch of personality and flair to your ensemble. These accessories can often be found secondhand, adding character to your outfit without breaking the bank.

Choose Timeless Colours and Patterns: Stick to timeless colours and patterns that are synonymous with power dressing. Neutral tones like black, navy, grey, and white are versatile and exude professionalism. Additionally, classic pinstripes, houndstooth, herringbone and subtle tartan are patterns that can elevate your power dressing look.

Remember, if you’re on the lookout for this key trend and items associated with it, you can always add notes to your order, and we’ll do our best to search the stock for something suitable. We can’t promise – but we’ll always try!