RRed lips, pink pumps with a neon green dress, eye-catching accessories: this is how young entrepreneurs present themselves today – and they are changing the image of femininity in business and politics. Generation Y – those born between the early 1980s and the late 1990s – is shaping the new “power dressing”. For a long time this generation was considered rather reserved and almost invisible, but now it seems to have found its fashionable voice.
Role models are founders such as 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 feel increasingly disguised by classic work clothes.
The curiosity and desire for modern and consciously feminine “power dressing” has captured many women, and I can see it in my daily work life. Something that was unthinkable for a long time, because in recent decades the majority of women considered adaptation and the extreme desire to perform to be the fundamental prerequisite for professional success.
More personality is needed today and showing personality visually sparks interest. Why not a yellow jumpsuit or leather skirt instead of black work pants with a white blouse? The women’s empowerment movement, particularly visible on social media, is helping loosen the outdated dos and don’ts of choosing clothing.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 showbiz set new standards with their looks from the 90s to the 2000s: Madonna, Sarah Jessica Parker and Oprah Winfrey demonstrated how their bold style can make people more interesting.
In business and politics, however, this was considered doubtful. If you managed to get a seat at the table as a woman in recent decades, you had to fit in visually and not stand out. But Generation Y had to understand long ago 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.
US politician Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez is also a pioneer of the new business trend. Already in 2018 she showed up 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 the casual and elegant style of American politicians. Their message seemed clear and should be taken seriously. She arrived in Congress in the blink of an eye – being the youngest member to date – and she particularly inspired young voters. Her style and manners have brought a breath of fresh air into the somewhat dusty politics.
But there have also been models in Europe that have shaken up the image. Sanna Marin, former Prime Minister of Finland, is one of them. She preferred to wear black and white, ultra-feminine clothes. She paired a razor-sharp white blazer with a deep V-neck and striking red lips. Gone are the days when it was considered questionable to wear red lipstick at work. In fact, as Marin’s example demonstrates, 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 introverted people who don’t like to attract attention.
Entrepreneur Tijen Onaran, also a member of the TV show “Höhle der Löwen”, shows what successful women entrepreneurs can look like today: colourful. She is of the opinion: “Only those who are visible will take place!” However, this only works if the appearance also fits the personality.
Extroverted women like Onaran have a clear advantage: They’re not afraid to accept an award while wearing a blue dress with orange pumps. And color combinations consisting of two complementary colors are the strongest form of color combination. Because they support each other in their effectiveness. Furthermore, in a certain sense they also promote self-confidence, because wearing them requires courage and the will to assert yourself and stand out. It is assumed that someone who wears such a strong look also has 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 start-up sector and makes frequent public appearances. He noticed more and more how uncomfortable she felt in the classic work clothes. Also because he knows that the modern and expressive look is now almost a requirement in trendy corporate environments. But even in conservative sectors or business casual, women’s style is becoming more and more colorful and feminine.
However, professions still dominated by men represent a great challenge: an architect, for example, told me: “If I dress too feminine on a construction site, no one takes me seriously anymore.” That’s why she bases her wardrobe on her male colleagues. This is understandable. Yet, even in this case, small changes with great impact are possible. For example, through color accents used in a small but conscious way: it could be a red blouse paired with jeans or colored culottes with a black turtleneck sweater.
The visual diversity that comes with changing dress codes creates an invigorating and exciting atmosphere that one could only wish for – for every industry.
About the author: Dunja Heß, founder of the style consultancy platform Mindful Style, has been working as a certified stylist for 15 years and advises mainly women in management positions who want to present themselves more confidently and effectively in their work. She combines style advice with coaching elements.