RRed lips, pink heels with a neon green suit, eye-catching accessories: this is how young businesswomen present themselves today and are changing the image of femininity in business and politics. Generation Y (those born between the early 80s and late 90s) is shaping the new “powerdressing.” For a long time, this generation was considered quite reserved and almost invisible, but now it seems to have found its fashionable voice.
Role models are founders like Lea-Sophie Cramer (Amorelie), Franziska von Hardenberg (TheSissBliss) and Tijen Onaran (Global Digital Women), who demonstrate that visibility can be a guarantee of success and give self-confidence. This also means that women increasingly feel dressed up in classic business suits.
The curiosity and desire for modern, consciously feminine “power dressing” has taken over many women, and I can see it in my daily work life. Something that for a long time was unthinkable, because in recent decades the majority of women considered that adaptation and extreme will to perform were the basic requirement for professional success.
Nowadays more personality is needed and showing it visually arouses interest. Why not a yellow jumpsuit or a leather skirt instead of black business pants with a white blouse? The female empowerment movement, which is particularly visible on social media, is helping to soften the dos and don’ts of choosing clothing.
Of course, in the past there have always been women who attracted attention for their clothing. Women in show business set new standards with their looks from the ’90s to the ’00s: Madonna, Sarah Jessica Parker and Oprah Winfrey showed how their own daring style can make people more interesting.
However, in business and politics this was considered dubious. If you managed to sit at the table as a woman over the past few decades, you had to fit in visually and not stand out. But Generation Y had to see for a long time that the visual game of hide-and-seek with classic business fashion did not necessarily bring women to the tables where they wanted to sit.
American politician Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez is also a pioneer of the new business trend. Already in 2018 she appeared with perfectly drawn eyeliner, bright red lips and a business casual look suitable for street style, consisting of jeans, shirt and blazer. We were not used to such an informal and elegant style from American politicians. Her message seemed clear and she was to be taken seriously. She arrived in Congress in the blink of an eye (she was the youngest congresswoman to date) and especially inspired young voters. Her style and manners brought a breath of fresh air to a somewhat dusty policy.
But there were also role models in Europe who changed the image. Sanna Marin, former Finnish prime minister, is one of them. She preferred to wear ultra-feminine clothes in black and white. She paired a sharp white jacket with a deep V-neckline and bold red lips. Gone are the days when it was considered dubious to wear red lipstick at work. In fact, as Marin’s example shows, some women have made this their trademark. And as a result, they have not lost their experience. They show how you can make a strong impact with your personal style. This could serve as inspiration, especially for introverts who don’t like to attract attention.
Entrepreneur Tijen Onaran, also a member of the television show “Höhle der Löwen”, shows what successful business women can be like today: colorful. She opines: “Only those who are visible will take place!” However, this only works if the look also suits the personality.
Outgoing women like Onaran have a clear advantage: They’re not afraid to accept an award in a blue suit and orange heels. And color combinations that consist of two complementary colors are the strongest form of color combination. Because they support each other in their effectiveness. In addition, they also promote self-confidence to a certain extent, because wearing them requires courage and the willingness to stand up for yourself and stand out. Those who wear such a strong appearance are also supposed to have a strong personality. These looks today radiate confidence and, therefore, competence.
An example from my practice shows how public perception has already changed: I recently advised a client who works in the startup space and makes frequent public appearances. She increasingly noticed how uncomfortable he felt in classic work suits. Also because he knows that in fashionable business circles, modern and expressive looks are almost a requirement. But even in conservative industries or business casual, women’s style is becoming more and more colorful and feminine.
However, male-dominated professions pose a big challenge: for example, one female architect told me, “If I dress too feminine at work, no one takes me seriously anymore.” That’s why she bases her wardrobe on her male companions. That’s understandable. And yet, even in this case, small changes that have a big impact are possible. For example, through color accents that are used in a reduced but conscious way: it could be a red blouse combined with jeans or colored culottes with a black turtleneck.
The visual diversity that comes with changing dress codes creates a stimulating and exciting atmosphere that one could wish for for any industry.
About the Author: Dunja Heß, founder of the style consulting platform Mindful Style, has been working as a certified stylist for 15 years and primarily advises women in leadership positions who want to present themselves more confidently and effectively in their work. She combines style advice with elements of coaching.