Dress for Success: The Power Suit

There really is something to the term “power suit.” Every woman should have in her closet a suit that she can turn to no matter what the occasion and donning it will give her more confidence than ten shots of tequila. There are a couple of key things to keep in mind when searching for the “it” suit. First, look for a suit in a classic color. This includes black, navy, grey, charcoal, and sometimes brown (I say sometimes because brown has a tendency to look dowdy and does not compliment as many skin tones). There is a lot of room within the classic colors to find the right shade and pattern. Whites, khakis and camels can make beautiful suits and wardrobe staples but should not be the cornerstone of a suiting wardrobe.

Second, and most importantly, fit. There is no point in owning and wearing a suit that fits improperly. An ill-fitting suit comes across as sloppy and unprofessional (and yes, people notice). If you have yet to make a personal relationship with a tailor, do so; it will be worth your while. Clothes that fir properly will always look good.  If you do not have a tailor, most stores will alter suits for free at the time of purchase. For pants the hemline should be just high enough that it does not hit the floor, giving the longest possible leg line.  This means that certain suits should be tailored to wear exclusively with flats and others with heels, not both. Skirts should be just above the knee and jackets should not be tight across the shoulders or have sleeves that extend beyond the wrist.  One of the key mistakes women make is buying a suit whose jacket is the improper length.  The jacket should come in slightly at the sides and should extend slightly beyond the widest part of your body. Experiment with different jacket types (one and two buttons, length) and bottom styles to find what compliments your body best.

Third is style. The choice between a pants suit and a skirt suit is really personal preference. Pants suits have gotten a bad rep for women due to some poor choices by many political figures but when one moves away from rainbow color choices and boxy cuts  they can be very feminine and flattering. I personally find skirt suits to stunt my already short frame so I like the height illusion pants give me but this can be different for each individual. Additionally, keep the style classic. Certain accents like folded back sleeves, bold stitching, and different collars can keep suits classic yet fashion forward so choose those type of accents over “trendy” suits that include shorts and cropped pants as these are not office appropriate no matter what Lauren Conrad says.

Fourth is price. While it would be awesome if we could all  go to Calvin Klein and drop several thousand dollars on a suit, the reality is most of us can’t if we want to be able to pay next month’s rent. Great suits can be found at a variety of price points but be aware of the super cheap (and just cheap).  The matching pants and jacket you find at H&M that costs less than a night out in DC may initially look like a great deal but stand it next to a Theory ensemble and you will realize those martini’s would have been a better investment.

Above are some of my picks for some classic but never boring suits. Theory keeps their Edita jacket refined in its cut but updates it with flirty back detailing. The bold architectural collar on the Classiques jacket is modern  while the Ann Taylor jacket collar is slightly unexpected.


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  • Too many lawyers don’t know how to “dress for success”. To some, this may mean a nice suit. To others, it may include a nice pair of board shorts and flops (a buddy of mine represents a local surf company). Personally, I think you should, “Never Wear SpongeBob Squarepants Underwear to Trial :-) ” http://www.triallawyertips.com/2009/11/never-wear-spongebob-squarepants.html

  • Camille Pendragon

    I graduated from college not too long ago, and my step-mom suggested that I invest in a power suit for interviews. This post was super helpful, because truth be told, I didn’t really know that a ‘power suit’ entailed, and I was literally in crisis as to whether or not a skirt suit counted. I don’t have much experience in the work world, but I believe showing up dressed for the job I want will be an invaluable help. Thanks so much!