Power dressing


What's the meaning of the phrase 'Power dressing'?

A stylish and expensive clothing style, intended to convey the impression of assertiveness and competence and predominantly worn by women.

What's the origin of the phrase 'Power dressing'?

This term has been used since the late 1970s and reflected the clothing styles favoured in business and politics in the US and UK throughout the 1980s. The style was heavily influenced by influential women who were in the news at the time, for example, the cast of the television shows Dynasty and Dallas, the UK Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher and the Princess of Wales. Men also had form of ‘power dressing’ too but this was less distinctive and innovative and often manifested itself in little more than an unusually expensive business suit.

The term ‘power dressing’ is first recorded in the New York paper The Post-Standard, September 1979:

“The accent has shifted to glamour and power dressing for the city rather than the casual look of past seasons.”

The style itself leaned towards a somewhat masculine shape and frequently included a tailored jacket, almost always complete with shoulder pads. The clothes were often made from silk or other expensive materials and their high cost emphasized the elite status of the women wearing them.

See other phrases that were coined in the USA.

Trend of power dressing in printed material over time

Gary Martin is a writer and researcher on the origins of phrases and the creator of the Phrase Finder website. Over the past 26 years more than 700 million of his pages have been downloaded by readers. He is one of the most popular and trusted sources of information on phrases and idioms.

Gary Martin

Writer and researcher on the origins of phrases and the creator of the Phrase Finder website. Over the past 26 years more than 700 million of his pages have been downloaded by readers. He is one of the most popular and trusted sources of information on phrases and idioms.