Thursday, March 14, 2013

Power Dressing in the Halls of Power

Remember the ‘80s power suits? No?

Allow me to refresh your memory………

Diane Keaton in "Baby Boom" 1987
Over-sized jackets with shoulder pads the size of launching pads……

Oxford-cloth shirts buttoned up to the neck….

Tiny shoulder bags that sneered, “I don’t need all that silly, girlie stuff”……..

Giant briefcases that screamed, “Take me seriously; I’m important”…… and……..

In the background, Helen Reddy singing, “I am woman; hear me roar.”

Still don’t remember?

Just rent a DVD of “Baby Boom” with the delightful Diane Keaton and it’ll all come back to you.

Fast forward to the Ladies who occupy the halls of power today, and you will see some welcome changes in attire, if not entirely in attitude.

Neutrals still play a major role in their wardrobes, but jackets are more form-fitting and flattering.

And nobody does neutrals better than former French Finance Minister and current Head of the International Monetary Fund (“IMF”) Christine Lagarde. She has become a fashion icon for the successful woman, and for those striving to become successful, and it’s easy to see why.

The pantsuit is a staple in every professional woman’s wardrobe. Hillary Clinton and Nancy Pelosi wear them almost exclusively; however, while they prefer something a bit looser, Lagarde opts for fitted, impeccably tailored versions that flatter her long, lithe body. Most of her suits are made in the English House of Austin Reed.

She also pays close attention to accessories, which can take a simple grey suit from stuffy to sophisticated with the fabulous addition of a bright pink clutch and two-toned, kitten pumps.

Grey is the color of intellect, knowledge and wisdom. It is dignified, conservative and carries the weight of authority.

Because it sits comfortably in the middle between Black and White, it is seen as the color of compromise…the perfect color for a politician who wants to create the appearance of compromise whether he or she is willing to do so or not.


Here’s Lagarde in a navy blue suit with ¾-length jacket nipped in just a bit at the waist.

The jacket is slightly loose, but the sleeves are beautifully fitted to her slim arms, which avoids a too-masculine, over-sized feel.

The spiky gold necklace and starburst brooch kick everything up several style notches, and let’s not overlook the gorgeous Birkin in a warm neutral.

The color Blue projects intelligence, efficiency and a willingness to communicate. It has a cool, calming effect, and the person wearing it is the one you turn to in a crisis.

This is quintessential Lagarde business style….

Slim-cut, black suit,

Classic, mid-heel pumps.

The color Black is the ultimate in sophistication and glamour. It projects sleekness and substance. 

It can make the wearer appear cold and aloof, but not when you take a long scarf in a deep jewel tone, drape it casually around your neck and leave it untied.

And the girlish grin captured by this photo as Lagarde bounds up marble stairs on her way to a high-powered meeting makes her look anything but cold and aloof.

But, one cannot live by neutrals alone, and the powerful woman can pack a pretty powerful punch with a zesty dose of color in her wardrobe.


Condoleezza Rice, former U.S. Secretary of State, was famous for her neutrals, often black.

These days, the stunning Condi is showing off her toned arms in colorful sheath dresses.

These bright colors are so flattering to her warm skin tones.

A lifetime of athletic pursuits, such as competitive figure skating, has left her with perfect posture and the confidence that goes with it.

Sometimes, Ladies, just standing up straight can get you noticed in a sea of slouchers.

Michele Bachmann, U.S. Congresswoman from Minnesota, is a lady who knows the power of bold colors, particularly Red, and the effect they can have.

Just like the perfect red lipstick, every woman needs the perfect red dress in her wardrobe arsenal.

The color Red projects courage, strength, warmth and energy. 

It is an aggressive, stimulating color that will always get you noticed. In fact, in this color, you can easily command the room, which is definitely a plus for any politician.

Of course, in Bachmann’s case, the total package of brains and beauty is definitely an attention-getter all by itself.

Junior U.S. Senator from New Hampshire, Kelly Ayotte, favors jewel-toned jackets.

This deep amethyst jacket has wide lapels and tapers to show off her slim waist and slender arms.

The color Purple is the color of royalty and luxury and projects spirituality and integrity.

Notice that Ayotte is wearing basic black underneath. This works beautifully for the businesswoman, too, because it gets her noticed when she enters the room, but once she removes her jacket, she can get down to business without the distraction of a bright color.

Oh, and BTW, Ladies, although known for her neutrals, Christine Lagarde can rock a color with the best of them any day of the week.

Yellow is considered a feminine, youthful, creative and optimistic color. The wearer is perceived as friendly, confident and outgoing.

It is, however, not an easy color to wear well. It has to be exactly the right shade and, if the fit isn’t perfect, it will add unwanted pounds. Do I hear Big Bird?

Lagarde has chosen the perfect shade for her skin tone – a light, clear Yellow. And, she has grounded it with touches of Black in her shoes and in her Hermès scarf, once again, draped casually around her neck.

Kristi Noem, a young U.S. Congresswoman from South Dakota, clearly has her own version of power dressing.

Considered a rising star on the Washington political scene, her look is a little bit country, a little bit rock ‘n roll and a whole lot her own.

Here, the lady-like ruffle adds an unexpectedly feminine touch to her plaid, flannel shirt.

The grey tweed jacket is pure classic, but by pairing it with low-rise black trousers and a big, belt buckle, she adds a modern twist.

The mix of textures and neutrals is a power look that gets my vote.

I don’t know about you, but I’ll be keeping an eye on Ms. Noem.  

Will she be the new American fashion icon for power dressing in the halls of power? 

Look out, you D.C. Good Ole Boys, there’s a new Sheriff in town, and she’s packin’….some serious style.

Photos of Christine Lagarde courtesy of AFP/Getty Images.
All other photos courtesy of iVillage. 


  1. Christine is such a fantastic role model I love her look professional and feminine. I have to admit to wearing "power suits" in the 80s. Those shoulders!

    1. Isn't Lagarde terrific? And on so many levels.

      As to wearing "power suits" in the 80s. Didn't we all? We thought we looked terrific! Truth is, shoulder pads instantly give you a smaller waist and hips. You could, in effect, have your dessert and eat it, too, just by putting on a power suit.

      BTW, I love your new profile picture. You look very chic.

  2. Great post. I love the photos of Lagarde - what an inspiration. She really knows how to pull an outfit together.

    By the way, thanks for the restaurant tips in NY. We only got to one, but it was great. I'm busy writing up a post about it and other things now. We had such a fun time in New York.

  3. Thanks for stopping by Grace. Yes, Christine Lagarde is truly a great role model. She is always so "soignée."

    I'm so glad you found my restaurant tips helpful. Next time, you'll have to try one or to more on the list.

    I knew you and your family would love much to much to see. It truly is the City that never sleeps.


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