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The New Way Women Are Dressing For Work

25 January 2017

From Dress Down Fridays to Dress Down Daily, from high heels and pencil skirts to a roll neck and trainers, the idea of dressing smart for work has dramatically shifted over the last 10 years. We've seen an obvious shift from suits to separates.

Women are no longer expected to turn up to work donning a matching two piece suit. 

I remember personal shopping for my corporate clients and realising that many labels stopped making traditional suits. Finding a good quality suit now is like trying to find a needle in a haystack.

In a survey conducted by a UK retailer, 34 percent of 1000 UK professionals said they never wore a suit unless they are seeing clients or have an important conference. 

Traditional thinking and ways of doing business have and will continue to be challenged. One of these demands is a flexible and more casual way of dressing. We've seen organisations such as JP Morgan and Chase, PwC, Virgin and Deloitte scrap their dress guidelines and opt for taglines such as, "Bring Your Whole Self To Work" or "Dress For Your Day".

Dressing in separates has become the new "POWER DRESSING"

For many of my corporate clients, this has brought a whole new level of frustration in trying to decipher what to wear. The safety of a suit would no longer be.

For my entrepreneurial clients, they embraced this shift swiftly and with enthusiasm. New communal working environments such as "WeWork" are encouraging entrepreneurs to showcase their personal brand. They are redefining the whole approach to getting dressed for work. It’s less about playing by the rules and more about promoting your unique brand.

These days women are juggling so many roles and tasks that go far beyond the office, bringing work home to look at between being partners, flatmates, mothers. Modern life is so busy and we’re being pulled in myriad directions. Why would we do it all in a pencil skirt and heels if we didn’t necessarily have to? The difference is that the new power outfits are more amenable to our real lives, both in the office and out of it.

In the past, for women to wield power in what was historically a man’s world, she had to pretty much dress like a man.


Watch this interview with Theresa May on "power" suits and being yourself.

Women like Sheryl Sandberg, Marissa Mayer and Anna Wintour have adopted a leadership look based around vibrant shift dresses and heels. So where does that leave the woman who wants to convey power and professionalism without a suit?

While these women's styles vary, the focus is the same: their clothes fit perfectly, high-quality fabrics, meticulous grooming, attention to details and shiny hair.

Let's explore ways you can create a leadership look wearing separates.

1. Firstly, be authentic. If you don't look confident in what you're wearing it will show immediately. Find your own style and develop a personal brand that speaks to your values. What are you trying to say in life, business and fashion?

2. Know the answers to these questions. What works for my shape, what's my dressing style personality and which colours work for me. Without these answers, you'll be wondering stores aimlessly getting frustrated. For example, if you have a feminine style, then dresses and skirts will be great for you. If you are natural / sporty then signature ankle grazers and denim should be your choice. Need more inspiration? Click here and see my Pinterest board where I have collated different power styles utilising separates. 

3. Find your signature. Anna Wintour always wears a high placed necklace and you never see her in pants. Former Secretary of State Madeleine K. Albright, who wrote an entire book, “Read My Pins,” strategically used jewellery during her time in Bill Clinton’s cabinet. She says it was part of her personal diplomatic arsenal! For some of my clients, they like to use their glasses as their focal accessory as does Jenna Lyons (creative director for J Crew).

4. How do you plan to demonstrate "Power"? Consider these attributes:

  • Colour: dark colours convey strength such as black, navy, dark charcoal and deep burgundy 
  • Print: The more angular the print the more powerful you will look.
  • Fit: Is what you're wearing loose and floaty or tailored and structured? The more structure, the more powerful you look.
  • Fabric: The smoother the fabric the more tailored and professional you will look. The more textured the piece, the less formal you look.

Here are some examples

Irrespective of your style, you will always be able to look "Powerful" and "Professional" when wearing separates if you follow this process. 

5. Purchase your big ticket pieces in neutral colours so they go the distance. 

6. Be consistent: As with message they say you need to hear it 7 times before it hits home. The same with our Image. Consistency is key. We need to demonstrate our brand over and over again.

Styling Your Success,


P.S If you'd like to learn more about building a CONFIDENT leadership image, click here and learn about our two-day intensive program called, "The Confident Career Woman".