What is the first image that pops into your mind at the mention of the phrase “I wear the pants in this house”? This is just one bit of evidence as to how fashion and imagery have a profound impact on our perception, beliefs, as well as our judgment. For decades, the image of a man wearing a well-tailored suit represented authority, power, and strength. A few fashion revolutions and creative minds later starting with Coco Chanel’s suit for women, the once men-only item has become a staple of feminine success.
Some may see it as a corporate, constricting, dull manner of dressing, yet it represents freedom and empowerment for which women fought very hard. Despite this inherent dichotomy of the suit, this simple, but powerful combination of garments has once again seen a new wave of appreciation by some of the most popular brands in the world. It has brought on new fashion questions, and a new direction of the suit’s fast-advancing evolution.
The Power of Perception
No matter how much we like to think highly of ourselves when it comes to understanding our fellow humans, we still do judge the book by its cover. Studies have shown that even the slightest difference in office attire can lead to a wide spectrum of conclusions, from one extreme to another – a single undone button can suddenly make a woman seem provocative rather than professional. The same effect can be achieved with a skirt that is just below, or just above the knees.
This seems especially true for ladies who hold more powerful, management positions, as they come with greater expectations and responsibility, associated with more conservative attire. This image alone, or how a woman’s dress code can make or break the key impression she leaves on her potential client or employer, leads us to make more subdued, modest-looking clothes.
The Perception of Power
On the flip side of the power game, we ourselves are deeply shaped by our clothing decisions. It may sound absurd to those who are unfamiliar with the concept, but it’s not just our confidence that is shaped by our clothes. Wearing a suit actually puts your brain in a different gear, so to speak.
As professor of psychology Abraham Rutchick explained, the feeling of power that comes with formal clothes is the driving force of our changing thinking patterns. Simply put, wearing a suit can actually push your mind into more abstract, big-picture thinking processes. So, ladies, if you wish to have an added advantage over your everyday mindset, by all means, put on that pantsuit – it’s good for business.
Brands to suit you (up)
Ever since women started taking positions of power and thus introduced their own, creative touch to the traditional suit, brands have started to be much more playful with the trend. As a timeless one, much like the little black dress or the classy black pump, suits will never go out of style – they only tend to be shapeshifters in order to survive the constant need for diversity.
From the classic black suit as seen on Dakota Johnson, all the way to the velvet blue beauty worn by Cara Delevingne, the need for suits has grown rapidly over the past few years. Think: from the classics such as Versace with a more colorful twist, all the way to quirky cuts made by Gabriele Colangelo, exquisite for the office as well as the cocktail party with the clients.
The Changing Tides
Once upon a time, the classic suit was considered the only appropriate office attire. Now that we have women in positions of power around the globe, from Angelina Jolie to Hilary Clinton, they are the ones making and mending the rules. This staple of style is no longer a symbol of exclusively male power, but the one of feminine victory.
Perhaps we cannot erase decades of inequality and how what we wear affects the judgment of others, but we can certainly try our best to be the embodiment of the change that was long overdue – and the power suit is a good place to start.