The History of the Power Suit

Hedi Slimane
10 June 2016

Can an outfit give a woman power? Giving women dominant and dynamic look has always been the idea behind the power suit. It radiates confidence. At least it used to, let’s take a look at the origin and the future of the power suit.

This is where it all started. Before this era women were forced into corsets. Coco Chanel gave women air. She made them able to breathe again by designing a suit consisting of a jacket and skirt, made of comfortable material. It was the new 'woman's uniform'.


This era introduced widened shoulders in jackets. Rochas was the first fashion house to show these off and it was a total new silhouette.

A slouchier and tomboy-ish look was introduced. Katherine Hepburn proved that a masculine look can be very feminine and sexy.

‘Le Smoking’ was introduced into the world by Yves Saint Laurent. The first power suit featuring pants. This sexy look was very popular among celebrities. Le Smoking would gain a permanent spot in all Yves Saint Laurent's future collections and ignite a revolution in women’s fashion.


Shoulder pads! The newest trend was huge shoulders. The bigger, bolder and broader the better.

The power suit was thriving this decade. Giorgio Armani, Ralph Lauren and Anne Klein all had power suits in their collections. Almost all of them included pants. Donna Karan, among others, reintroduced the skirt in the power suit.

More feminine looks, like lace, had a comeback. Pairing a pinstripe power suit with lacy camisoles and silk tops brought us a look that was a little more feminine. Offices started the phenomenon ‘Casual Fridays’ which meant no suits on Fridays. This lead to Vogue declaring "the end of the Power Suit era".


Power dressing and feminism were declared dead when television character Ally McBeal matched a jacket with a very short skirt. However, people were clearly paying attention to what clothing said about women. The pantsuit was still a powerful look, think of Hillary Clinton.

According to The Wall Street Journal, the power suit look is officially over. Women don't need to mold themselves into masculine looks anymore. Women can now wear softer looks, like pink, prints, patterns and feminine tailoring without losing their power or authority. They show confidence and power from the inside and don’t need a special look to help them.

The future
Giorgio Armani, the man who made the power suit famous, agrees that women don’t need clothing to make them look powerful anymore. “[Women] have edged out their standing in the world. Today, they don’t have to wear a suit jacket to prove their authority.” In the future all different work branches will probably embrace a feminine look in the office. Women will be able to wear whatever they want, as long as it is still classy and not too sexy. Because in the end, we don’t want to distract the men too much