IS POWER DRESSING OVER?

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Today’s media coverage of the upcoming Women Fashion Power exhibition at the Design Museum in London gives me the perfect excuse to look at how fashion has changed in the world of the PR pro.

According to the co-curator, Donna Loveday, the exhibition “provides an opportunity to explore how women in positions of power and influence use fashion to define their place in the world.” Featuring 25 women – from Naomi Campbell and Dame Vivienne Westwood to Anne Hidalgo (Mayor of Paris) and Genevieve Bell (vice president of Intel Labs) – it explores how women’s choice of fashion in the workplace has changed since the power dressing 80s.

Long gone are the days of women in power donning a feminised version of the classic male suit to exert their authority – thank goodness. Even women in politics (Theresa May is the oft used example du jour) dare to wear –  red top speak, not mine – leopard print heels, short skirts and knee high boots (bravo, Catherine Atkinson) at conferences and in parliament. It proves that expressing one’s femininity is OK in 2014. About time, too.

One of my favourite parts of my job is getting to meet women in business. Over the ten years I’ve been doing it, I’ve sat in meetings with those dressed in almost everything – power suits, jeans, sportswear, miniskirts, what they had on the night before… you name it!

While there’s more freedom nowadays, it doesn’t mean there aren’t any rules. There are unofficial new industry dress codes that we seem to be abiding by. Creatives gravitate towards jeans, checked shirts and Converse or Nike Airs; entrepreneurs go for latest season dresses; while PRs adore a blazer, skinny jean, ankle boot and IT bag combo.

Women’s new way of dressing for work allows freedom of expression and demonstrates that we feel comfortable enough in our roles to wear something other than traditional office attire. While it should go without saying that certain items are a workplace no-go, I’m thrilled that the power dressing days are over.

I can’t deny I secretly enjoy donning my smartest blazer and dress for a formal meeting as I do think clothes can affect the way you portray yourself, but I’m glad that the sight of Brits drearily marching into offices in a sea of grey and black suits is no longer the norm.

The reviews of Women Fashion Power are yet to be heard, but The Times’ closing statement on the subject sums up what I’m saying perfectly.

“For both sexes, business attire takes an investment of time as well as expense. It is rational to blur its boundaries with casual wear. Doing so signals not indifference but seriousness about the job at hand. For both sexes, it’s fashion sense.”