How power dressing actually gives us more power

During one of Trump’s speeches, white outfits made an important statement, and at the Golden Globes last year, black robes drew attention. Our clothing is a tool of powereven in everyday life.

The year is 1977 and in Switzerland women have only been allowed to vote for six years. There is still a long way to go before the image of the successful business woman at eye level with her male counterparts—a goal that even today we have not quite reached. Nevertheless, in 1977 something happened: John T. Mollow launched three bestsellers dealing with power dressing. One of them: "The Woman's Dress for Success Book".

Clothes make careers

In his work, Mollow gives advice on the "right" clothes for the jobthose that in 1977 should make women feel equal to men. In plain language, this meant a blazer or jacket, plus a skirt and a high- necked blouse that drew attention away from the décolleté and towards the face, for instance with a slug at the neck. In today's world, these rather precise rules do not sound very contemporary. In his research, Mollow has nevertheless discovered something important: if we dress as if we are already in a high position, we perform more professionally and often better. In 2015, a study confirmed Mollow's observations: two groups of students were given the task of writing a test. One group wore everyday clothes, the other completed the tasks in formal clothing. The result was formulated by Abraham Rutchick, head of the study and psychologist: "The formally-dressed test subjects were able to think more abstractly and holistically.”

We are taken more seriously in clothes like powersuits, strong coats or simply a shirt and elegant trousers, in which we feel professional and strong, so it is not without reason. We also behave in that way.

Gowns make politics

Many people have now understood that power dressing can not only boost their own career. Clothing is used today as a political instrument. This begins with Hillary Clinton, who went into the election campaign against Trump with her flaming red pantsuit. At the Golden Globes in 2018, all eyes were on the black outfits of the VIPs, who wanted to set an example for the #TimesUp movement with their wardrobe. And just a few days ago, female democrats caused a stir when they appeared dressed all in white for a speech by Donald Trump. They were referring to American women's rights activists who also fought for women's suffrage in white at the beginning of the 20th century. The media echo was huge during all these actionsand stole the show from the actual protagonists without making any noise. The strong outfits spoke for themselves.


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Photo: Michelle Obama; credit @ Getty Images