Power Dressing

Authenticity in the workplace: what has fashion got to do with “just be yourself”

When Bozoma Saint Johns stood to present at the 2016 Apple Worldwide Developers Conference, Twitter went abuzz, people listened. She presented as only she could, played Ghanaian music because that was her heritage, and embraced femininity on a stage where women, let alone black women, were a rare sight. Bozoma thinks that people listened because of her delivery, but also because of how she looked.

And how did she look? She had on a pink dress, a figure-hugging one, and matching louboutins. She had her hair loose in a curly fro and wore pink lipstick.  She was a masterpiece in power dressing.She had embraced authenticity in the workplace.


What is power dressing?

And that is what power dressing means. At least in our definition. It means to dress impactfully, to dress to communicate your message, to leave an impression. Modern power dressing, we believe, is a long long way far ahead of where it was in the 80s, when suited tailoring and shoulder pads modeled to not deviate from men’s fashion supposedly allowed women to project authority in the workplace.

Modern power dressing defies a uniform characterization, and escapes into ambiguity or nuance, depending on how you look at it. Writing about the spring fashion season for the New York Times, Vanessa Friedman observes that different fashion houses used the term power dressing to describe varied looks that included big shoulders, pinstripes, combat boots, culottes, and even cardigans. Gone are the days of easy conforming. And here are the days of self definition, of individual expression, of being who we are or want to be and of dressing the part.


Does authenticity in the workplace pay?

Do our individual expressions work? The jury is still out. Authenticity too is another term that escapes definition. Where proponents consider bringing your whole self to work a surefire way to getting ahead, opponents argue that the costs of authenticity could outdo the benefits in the working place. But opponents also seem to conflate authenticity with a severe lack of self awareness in which one refuses to identify and address weaknesses under the pretext that those weaknesses are who one is. 

We contend that the benefits far outweigh the costs for those of us who approach personal growth intentionally, who believe that who we are is an evolving set of strengths, weaknesses, and lessons. There is nothing inauthentic about framing negative feedback constructively because experience has demonstrated that such an approach works. 

Additionally, behavior is just one layer of the complex self that comes to work. For women, LGBTQ+ professionals, and black professionals and other people of color, not being oneself at work might require that one aspires to an impossible identity unnecessarily, mostly detrimentally. For how is one who is not to “become” a white straight male. 

No black hoodie could have disguised Bozoma’s color or gender. She could have attempted to blend in, to half-arse a presentation similar in presence and tone to that of a Silicon Valley tech-bro. She chose to be herself. It was the right decision.


Authentic dressing is the new power dressing

Some may find the term power dressing offensive for its gendered use. No one ever asked men to power dress, no one ever hailed Obama or Trudeau for power dressing in the same way they did Michelle Obama, Theresa May or Hillary Clinton. It’s an unfair standard. One that might have a century left in its lifespan. 

For as long as this standard is here, we can make it work for us, instead of against us. In the hypercompetitive modern workplace, in which personal branding and visibility count, blending in does not do you any favors. Doing yourself well does. Find that personal style that is you, and make it an accomplice in all the spaces you are about to claim.


Power Dressing

How to style the modern power suit: power dressing lessons from Michelle Obama’s book tour were straightforward and effective

“You think I don’t know what rouge can do for bone structure?” Priscilla Garrick, a civil servant in 1940s Britain is questioning her underling, Feef Symonds, for attracting the wrong kind of attention — the kind that distracts men and destroys potential. With her pinned-up hair and unflattering grey power suit, she is determined to be twice as good as the men are. It’s the only way to survive in a traitorous world that is recovering from a war and heading into another.

A lot has changed since 1945. So much has still remained the same. Women still need to be twice as good. In many roles, their choices about their personal lives and their wardrobes are scrutinized and judged as incompatible with their aspirations. In an increasing number of roles, thankfully, they get to make those choices authentically. Michelle Obama has experienced both worlds. She did great under scrutiny, but we are more excited about what she gets to do without it. And we learnt a thing of two about power dressing. It’s unapologetically bold, authentically individual, and at once consistent and dynamic

1. Unapologetically bold

The modern power suit need not be grey, unflattering, or structurally rigid. Michelle Obama’s interpretation is rich in bold and jewel tones. The cuts are deliberate, sometimes structured, other times light and draping, yet always capable of projecting both authority and femininity.



2. Authentically individual

They are just suits, but when she wears them, they become Her suits. From pairing her tall frame with monochromatic styling and strappy heels, to accessorizing lightly with brooches and beautiful earrings, Michelle Obama’s suits are elevated beyond their suitedness, to her individual style.


3. Consistent yet dynamic

A possibility exists for complacency once one has developed a personal style that feels authentic and comfortable. The trick is to balance personal style with novel cuts and ensembles — the glittering balenciaga boots that added an element of sensation to her usual monochromatic power silhouettes, the off-shoulder jumpsuit cuts that switched up the power suit, the cropped blazer that made the usual power suits just a little bit more fashion-forward. . .



Power Dressing What To Wear

Seductive. Powerful. Here’s What To Wear On A Date If You’re A Bold Type

We really hate to add to the hype, because let’s face it, we all want to be cool, but not like everybody else. But when it comes to loving the Bold Type, well, we’re ok being every Tom, Dick and Harry that counts down to Tuesday nights of decadent TV. And two or so episodes back, we added to our fashion arsenal more tips on what to wear on a date night. Who better to learn from than a bold-type woman defining success on her own terms and redefining feminism to include both jacket trends, sex toys and politics?

So courtesy of Jacqueline Carlyle, what tips did we add to our date night arsenal?

1. Skirt suits can be sexy

Skirt suits can be sexy! We bet you only wear yours to the office? We do too.

And they can be worn on a date. Just cinch the waist a little, and show off some skin in a trendy silhouette.

2. Gold looks great on black

You already knew this! But since black will fit in with every color in your accessories wardrobe, this tip is for the the next time you feel a little conflicted.

3. Statement pieces should run the show

That gorgeous cuff Jacqueline has on totally steals the show, though by default because there is no other competing piece of jewelry. That’s how elegance oughta be done.

what to wear on a date night if you're a bold type

what to wear on a date night to look seductively powerful

Power Dressing

Run the World, Look The Part. Your Work Capsule Wardrobe Is Incomplete Without These

Dressing for the weekend is easy – you get to show off your personality and personal style with fun, trendy clothing. Dressing for the office? Not so simple. We show you how to create that perfect work capsule wardrobe that will keep you at once power dressed and fashion forward.

1.The Little Black Dress

Trust us – this one will save you from what-do-I-wear mornings more often than you think. There’s a reason the LBD has become a perennial classic – it’s timeless, versatile and, best of all, it needs little more than a few simple accessories to create a winning work outfit. For a stylish day at the office, simply pair your trusty LBD with a string of pearls and pointy Christian Louboutin Pigalle pumps and you’re good to go.

2. The White Button-Down Shirt

Did you know that Carolina Herrera lists her white button-down shirt as her all-time favorite item of clothing? We can see why – with its simple, tailored design, a chic white shirt strikes the perfect balance between structured masculinity and sexy, feminine style.

Plus, the styling options are endless: think Rachel Zane in Suits and pair your white shirt with a high-waisted pencil skirt and sleek stilettos. And if you work in a more modern environment, you can’t go wrong with a preppy pinstriped oxford shirt matched with cool white skinny jeans, or with a deconstructed white shirt with edgy frills in the form of asymmetry, pussy bows, and voluminous sleeves.

3. Basic Black Pants

See this one as an investment. A pair of high quality black pants will carry you through many seasons so be prepared to shop around and pay a little more too. Look for pants with no obvious detailing like zippers, buttons or pockets. Then comes the style. This is highly dependent on your figure and personal style but tailored pants with a slight bootcut hem looks great on just about every body type. Cigarette or skinny pants are a modern choice that adds an edgy, androgynous feel to your wardrobe.

4. The Fitted Blazer

To round off your power dressing ensemble, go for an elegant fitted blazer. This classic, tailored style will round off everything from a basic LBD to a structured shirt-and-pants combo.

If you can, go a step further and invest in two fitted blazers – one in solid black and another in a lighter shade like pure white. They make the perfect add-on to a work outfit when you’re in a rush.

Power Dressing What To Wear

Heels Alternatives: Some Lucca Quinn Tricks For Turning Heads And Walking on Sunshine

I don’t know about your reasons for wearing heels, but I personally love the I’m-on-top-of-the-world spring I get. And if you’re a seasoned heel lover, you also know that ting of mild annoyance you feel about misplaced “will you be able to walk in those” concerns. You have, over time, figured out what type of heels work for what occasions. You have also found out that mixing up your heels’ thicknesses and lengths is a handy survival tactic. This summer, the heels alternatives to try are inspired by one Lucca Quinn, and they are fantastic. If you haven’t already run into her watching the first season of the Good Fight, you probably shouldn’t because you’re probably already watching too much TV!

But here goes. . .

Pointed-toe kittens with lace-ups/ankle straps

Always go for the pointed toe if you want a serious crisp look. Ankle straps add a subtle stylish touch, but definitely go for more elaborate lace-ups for a bolder look. Opt for thin or tapering kitten heels to retain your spring.

If you need more convincing, more inspiration can be found from Michelle Obama. And there’s a board too.

heels alternatives lucca quinn style pointed toe lace ups

Midi block heels

We love Lucca’s girly look here — low block heels paired with a pussy-bow blouse and a short skirt. Here’s where you get to be envious too if you can’t imagine going to work in so short a skirt!

And the great thing about block heels as a heel alternative is that you don’t have to give up that many inches because they are so stably comfy.

heels alternatives lucca quinn style block heels
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Power Dressing

Spring 2017 Fashion Trends: Curated For Your Power Dressing Style

Style over fashion. Authenticity over trends. We too share these ideals but do recognize that power dressing should be fan, and where basic staples build up your wardrobe, accessories and befitting trend additions give it edge. We scoured catwalk photos on spring 2017 fashion trends and arrived at a list of fashion forward looks that will complement and add trendy edge to your power dressing aesthetic.

1. Statement stripes

We’d wear them vertically on wide-legged pants for a sophisticated play on volume, but they will work just as well on a blazer or a blouse.


2. 80s silhouettes

Bring back an era with corset-thin waists, voluminous shoulders and playful flirty hemlines. If a full silhouette’s too much, keep it to your top.

Heard of Nicki Minaj’s Paris Fashion Week Outfit? A top like that one. Just without the bared nipple!


3. Stylish shoulder

Bring out your single shoulder tops, and pull off edgy cutouts on one shoulder on casual work outings.


4. Futuristic metallics

Embrace an impactfully stylish sheen


5. Florals

Add some spring cheer to your wardrobe with florals. You could do them on one half of your outfit, for instance on a full skirt. That doesn’t say decided as does wearing them from head to toe on a midi dress though.


6. Tasteful reveals

Always wanted to go sheer? It’s now fashion-forward!

Sneak peaks of beautiful skin in lace and sheers fabric. Or do sexy front slits and midriff and side cutouts.


7. Reclaimed pink

Own and reclaim pink pastels. It’s fashion forward, it’s unapologetically feminine, it’s powerful worn powerfully.


8. Sleeve drama

Your cape sleeves are still gorgeous, just not trendy. Keep to them because authenticity. But for trendy edge, do volumes and slits.


9. Bold accessories

Mix and match long earrings, wear navel-grazing thick chains, do bold cuffs. And our favorite part, rock block heels — they are comfy and you can still spring tall.

Happy power dressin’!
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Power Dressing

Fall Fashion 2016: Choices For The Power Dressed And Runway Trendy

Gorgeous fall colors and perfect temperatures call for as perfect a wardrobe. We scoured the style magazines and fashion weeks for fall fashion 2016 for trendy outfits that make the cut for a power-driven wardrobe, and here’s some inspiration for exciting addition that are both powerful and trendy.



Fall palettes

Borrow from your favorite fall drink! We have in mind breath-taking pencil skirts, cashmere work shirts and camisoles, and elegant trench coats, all in pumpkin spice.

Other trendy palettes to include in your fall wardrobe include show stopping reds, our favorite rule breaking color — white, and the palette we’re reclaiming — pink


Edgy color blocking

Well thought color blocking will add a fashionable edge to any outfit. For this fall, combine the femininity of soft pinks with the fun spontaneity of yellow.

Be bold now, and go on!


Suits du jour

It took us long, but aren’t we all endeared to those Clinton pantsuits.

Try novel cuts such suits whose blazers have long lengths or elegant capes.

And for bold Tuesdays, the mini skirt suit is all the danger and business you need.


Playful midi pleats

Remember Michelle at the DNC? We do too! Channel the playful bottom of her dress with the shimmying of draping fabrics and of thin pleats.


Trendy overcoats

Add sophisticated to your anti-cold repertoire with military style jackets and coats, and with plaid in stylish minimalist cuts.


Shiny nights

Steal the show while being trendy at it – pull some sexy on with slips and evening dresses in velvets, satin, sequins and metallic gold sheens. And if you need some star inspiration, well, you do have one from Gisele Bündchen.


Power Dressing

Michelle Obama’s Style AT The DNC: We Learnt A Thing Or Two About Power Dressing

Most people marveled at the classy act that was Michelle Obama’s speech at the DNC. The speech carried a powerful message, and it was so elegantly worded and delivered, as was the woman delivering it. Even more powerful, is that Trump, the person the speech so skillfully tore apart without mentioning in name, thought it excellent. Huh?

Anyway, this post is about the powerful elegance of the woman that delivered the speech.

At Ysttyle, we care about building a distinctive style that is at once powerful and socially conscious. From Michelle Obama’s style, we learnt just how self and social consciousness closely intertwines with powerful self representation.


Michelle Obama’s Style Choice

A couple of weeks ago, Leslie Jones commented on Twitter about how there were no designers willing to dress her for her movie’s premiere. The implications of her tweet, given fashion’s history with race and size, were widely understood. But not everyone agreed. She had no right to expect fashion brands to dress her for free. She could go shopping as did everyone else.

She could. But this response completely missed the point. Fashion brands scrambled to dress the likes of Jennifer Lawrence. It cannot  even be argued that such a scramble was a good business decision given that 67% of women in the US wear plus-sizes (14-34).

One Christian Siriano rose to the occasion to dress Jones. And on a night when Michelle Obama’s star shone even brighter, she was wearing Siriano.


Excelling At Power Dressing

The Siriano dress excelled at power dressing. Blue has wide appeal – it is distinct without being intimidating or attention seeking. Cap sleeves are just a little demure, and a mildly playful bottom softens the powerful sophistication of a fitting all-covered top. And our style obsession from the night, the earrings, combined the timeless elegance of pearls with the fashionable edge of hook fastening.

The choice of Siriano, a gay rights activist that had done something about creating an inclusive fashion industry, was what completed the powerfulness of the dress.

Dressing powerfully does go deeper than superficially looking powerful, and Michelle Obama’s style choices on a night we’ll remember her for, were as thoughtfully considered and as befitting of intelligent and inspiring leadership as her speech was.

Power Dressing

Power Dressing: Does The Modern Woman Have A Choice?

Professional women today don’t have to wear suits with straight sharp lines and shoulder pads as did women in the 80s. It’s a triumphant departure from those days. Or so articles on modern power dressing declare.

The flaunted triumph feels incomplete however. These articles do not describe a freedom in which women make free choices. Rather, they define new rules that while not enforcing the shoulder pad, enforce a different set of rules nevertheless. Blazer up, they urge. Heel up, do cashmeres and silks. Tailored is better.


Choices, yet constrained choices

The range of choices may be wide, but it still is constrained given the fewer numbers of women in the highest societal echelons, and the pervasiveness of what scholars would call a male gaze. Media outlets are obsessed with powerful women’s wardrobes at the expense of a lot else. You’ve probably come across articles deriding or praising Hillary Clinton’s pantsuits or those attacking the dullness of Angela Markel’s. You’ve probably grappled with questions about how short, how tight, how bold, how revealing, and found no solace in a convincing answer.

Is power dressing a concrete concept? Is it only specific to women?

Fashion is a taboo subject where “more serious” affairs such as those of the state are concerned. Thus, Robb Young encountered problems getting women in government to talk of clothes when he was conducting research for his book Power Dressing: First Ladies, Women Politicians and Fashion. Yet as Pamela Goblin writes in this book’s foreword, fashion is a language. Insofar as men and women occupy and present themselves in positions of power, they will and do speak the language of fashion. And the better their power dressing accent gets, the better their powerful self representation becomes. Power dressing is thus not specific to women, but given the socio-historical scrutiny that has long characterized women’s lives, self-representation and power dressing could well be more relevant to women.


The possibility of freedom

What should characterize powerful/aspiring women’s fashion? Should they adopt a different set of rules that vouches for cashmeres and heeled pumps or is complete freedom possible? What would such freedom entail?

I argue that freedom is possible, but at a price. Just as words and symbols have meanings, so do fashion items and pieces. Women that seek to find individualized applications for fashion items and clothing rather than follow another new set of rules must experiment before striking the perfect fit, and they must be willing to confront the meanings that underlie their choices.

If you do not mind making personal statements with dress you might as well look for befitting ensembles.  Apparently, La Cicciliona, Italian porn star and parliamentarian, mocked male power uniform by wearing low cut lacy camisoles with it. If you’d rather feel and communicate the creativity with which you conduct your workdays, you might borrow from Elise Hoffmana principle at a money management firm, whose belief that financial investors are idiosyncratic and creative has seen her spot black leather skirts and lacy hosiery, and sheaths and swirl dresses from Marni.

In search for simultaneous cultural grounding and global sophistication you might borrow from Sonia Ghandhi’s, president of the National Indian Congress, whose burgundy and amaranth saris are culturally appropriate yet chic, or from Joyce Banda, Malawi’s president, whose elaborate outfits, headscarfs, and one side shawls feature beautiful afrocentric fabrics.


Working power dressing solutions

Power dressing for the modern women does not have to be steeped in generalized rules about which lengths, cuts and color palettes work.  Since conventions exist, however, the secret lies in manipulating the so called conventions to fit ones individual style: wear that in which you’re most confident in; wear that which projects the casual, fun, elegant, professional or sexy field that you work in. This might help:


1.Fulfill the basic standard

Meet the basic requirements for dress in your field. For instance, too tight pants or tight short skirts might not meet a corporate standard, loose hair might not work in scientific research labs


2.Individualize the said standard

Add a unique twist to the industry standard. For instance, add a twirl, a bold pattern, or color blocks to an appropriate length corporate skirt; add extra width to your work pants to gain a fashion forward wide-legged-pants look; add a pearly hair clip to your “required” updo . . .


3.Project your core personality/image

Use statement jewelry, hair dos and cuts, shoe/bag choices, fabrics, and accessories that further accentuate the image you seek to project. Ornate hair scarfs might project heritage, as do fabrics. It’s said that Anna Wintour’s haircut affords her consistency and authority in an industry where she must wear a wide range of styles, and that Margaret Thatcher’s feraggamo handbag was a tool to be slammed onto tables when an important point needed to be made. Look for and find a style that completes the image you seek to project.
Best of luck building your powerful image!
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