How to Style: Power Play

March 28 2017

Be it white collar or blue, style has always been an essential part of our working lives. While office dressing was once a straight-forward affair, the padded shoulders and pearls of generations past can feel as dated in a modern office as a typewriter in an open floor plan.

The land where the power-suit once ruled is now fair game for an assortment of bold and commanding pieces—but with this newfound freedom comes great responsibility. To help decode how to dress now, we spoke with the illustrious Sissy Sainte-Marie, the stylist behind our power dressing shoot, for a modern wardrobe that commands both respect and style points.

Safe for Work

Ruffles, bows and the babiest of blues—such overtly feminine details were once banned from the office attire lexicon for fear of not garnering respect. “As long as you emanate emotional maturity from the center of your being, you can dress as girly as you want and still be taken seriously,” declares Sainte-Marie.

Flat Feet

There is perhaps no item more symbolic of the office dressing struggle than footwear. The cliché of stiletto-toting, career women Houdini-ing the rapid under-desk change before being caught in their Seinfeld-ready sneakers is forever immortalized in the cultural imagination. The dichotomy of discomfort is one that Sainte-Marie suggests leaving in the past. “You appear more powerful when you are at ease, so steer clear of any uncomfortable shoes.” Instead of stilettos that appear to be competing with skyscrapers in both height and rigidity, opt for statement flats that integrate dynamic textures and interesting embellishments. Your feet will thank you later.

It’s in the bag

Possibly the most essential element of the work-day outfit, there’s really no need to supersize your office bag. “Having to dig around a big, slouchy bag is a waste of valuable time, and it’s gauche,” explains Saint-Marie. Downsize your weekday essentials and keep them handy and organized in a compact, structured bag. Save yourself time and the headache of rummaging through sticky gum wrappers and crinkles receipts for those presentation notes.

Give ’em the Boot

With the rules out the window, fanciful dresses once reserved for ‘special occasions’ (whatever that means) are now fair game. But styling these pieces to last from 9-to-5 and beyond requires a different strategy than after hours dressing. “Pairing a chunky, low boot with a frilly dress signals power rather than sexuality—not a bad thing, of course, but probably best to leave that for after hours. The essence is: the frillier the dress, the more masculine the boot should be.”

Pattern Play

Drawing from elements of traditional power dressing such as texture and tweed—optical patterns, graphic prints and abstract flowers are welcome additions to this season’s key pieces. “As long as you’re effective, consistent and conscientious you can wear just about anything to the office and still command respect,” says Sainte-Marie. And, just like that, you’re networking event ready.

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