By Maheen Khan
Fashion designer, Mayasir
Power dressing is a term that originated predominantly in the early 80's. It is an expression that is popularly used to describe clothing intended to deliver impression. Primarily worn by women it is a conscious statement of confidence, assertiveness and competence. The style is heavily influenced by women leaders and celebrities the world over. Originally it was a homogenised masculine blend interjected with defined shoulder padding on topped jackets meant to display a formidable appearance. Today however it has gone through a metamorphosis of conversions recreated by individual styles of women in power. The role of clothing has always been a principal media for women in power to communicate their ideas and status. Authority is earned and legitimate for most women but grooming and clothing personify a powerful public currency. Their wardrobes are far more diverse, ambiguous and potentially controversial in a sensitive public arena of politics. Women leaders globally are pushing international boundaries with successful styles that work within their political, cultural and personal contexts.
In Bangladesh, as elsewhere, power dressing is clearly about projecting inner strength and a lasting impression. Here are some simple rules to follow:
Simple yet stylish.
You may choose western or eastern formals based on your personal style. Choose power colours. And feel free to bend all rules occasionally.
It is important to note that as a woman you have a wide range of clothing and accessories to choose from but you must learn to draw the line and limit yourself for power dressing.
It a common believe that power dressing is a pure corporate look that involves a western wardrobe. This of course is no longer completely true in a global context. You may stick to western suits with skirts, tailored trousers and ensembles of stylish jackets and clearly it is the safest look to follow. Today however an eclectic broad based fusion look is an all- embracing statement. Especially in our rooted South Asian culture where a sari can be easily topped with a short formal jacket or a shift style kameez may be paired with a fitted drainpipe pair of trousers. It is always important to remember to keep to minimal stream lined cuts and to keep the frills out. The note of caution is to stick to lean fitted lines and to avoid clinging fabrics. You must always remember to enter a situation wanting people to believe that you mean business. You speak like a leader; remember to question yourself whether you look like one. Everyone should have a personal and professional wardrobe. The key is to choose your pieces well as certain items inherently contain greater authority. You need to determine and single out the shapes and accessorise intelligently. The idea is to capture attention for the right reasons to indicate your expertise and prowess.
Colour psychology is an integral element when dressing for a power look. The darker colours are sombre and suggest a more serious appearance. Black, grey and navy are classic standards for power dressing. But to make it more interesting you can add other hues. Dark brown, hunter green, dark plum or deep violet and burgundy impart strength with a sartorial variety. Layering with a darker shade in the same colour group immediately works for a scarf or a jacket and you can use the same principle for sleeveless vests. It is also nice to add a tinge of colour to the sari especially on a narrow border. The same applies on a long blouse but instead of a traditional bottom wear a straight trouser and pair identical matching colours to have continuity. Sometimes you may want to power dress without trying to look too severe. Under such circumstance you can try other colours beige, coral or rust. You can also add pastel colours on your scarf or stole to soften the edges of your ensemble. Try to choose colours based on the occasions. Black, white or grey are appropriate for formal atmospheres. While peaches, dash of pale blue or a hint of red could create an appealing feminine appearance.
In power clothing patterns are important. Wide or stand collared woven shirts or blouses are very authoritative. You could also try collared sari blouses. Straight lines are commanding, it explains why pinstripes are powerful and in addition lengthens gives the impression of a slender figure. They are preferred by both men and women. You can wear a striped scarf with a solid outfit or only wear striped borders on the sari but never a striped sari blouse. It is better to choose self textured patterns for your ensembles and use print or embroidery elements only on the edges or as accents. Woven fabrics in heavier weights increase the perception of clout. Softer drapes give the impression of weaker feeble perception that is wise to avoid in public appearances. Contrasting patterns are finally the best attention seekers. Use it moderately for example on a stole or a shawl if you are wearing westerns the shirt layered under the jacket could get electric.
It is important to keep to bare essentials. Stud earrings in pearl or in matte gold with matching single bracelets look best. Simple or medium-sized statement rings work. Avoid cumbersome jewellery that can be awkward or a point of attention. Single strings of pearl are suitable. Pendants are seemly but in a modest size. Your face and hands should be in the centre of all the attention. Hair should be in a natural colour, without much fuss, tied back or chignon or knotted, but if you must leave it open then please keep it away from the face. Hairline should be clean and accessorized with subtle pieces.
Women leaders across the nations have successfully increased respect, control and visibility. Sheikh Hasina, Khaleda Zia, Sonia Gandhi, Benazir Bhutto, Chandrika Bandernaike, Yingluck Shinawatra, Aung San Suu Kyi, Margaret Thatcher, Hilary Clinton and Angela Merkel are some of the leaders who have presented themselves in independent branding. They have developed a distinct original style purposefully that reflects their cultural origin. It has catalysed their leadership and power stratosphere. Mark Twain once said, “Clothes make the man” well, the mantra does continue to befit women of today in their new manifested statuses.
Photo: Sazzad Ibne Sayed
Wardrobe and Jewellery: Aranya
Makeup and Styling: Farzana Shakil
Location: Bengal Gallery of Fine Arts