With powersuits for shields in the corporate battle, women crashed through the glass ceiling and men defeated the opposition. A term adopted for the new trend in aggressive dressing for the over-achiever, the powersuit was a force field strengthened by designer labels like Yves Saint Laurent and Armani.
The 80’s silhouette was strong and bold: with wide, padded shoulders and nipped-in waists, businesswomen were out to prove their equality, and the power suit was getting them noticed. Designer Yves Saint Laurent mimicked and modernized the navy blues and slate grays of men’s suits, and women found power in the reflection. Adorned with their Rolex watches, Donna Karan pantyhose, Pierre Cardin shoes, and Coach briefcase, women entered the race. No longer willing to be slowed down by the unsteady gait of high heels, women ‘power-walked’ along the streets in their sneakers, keeping pace with their co-workers.
In this decade of big spenders, men became as interested as women were in designer labels. Italian fashion designer Giorgio Armani burst on to the scene with his revolutionary designs for 1980 movie American Gigolo, and men everywhere copied Richard Gere’s new look. The Italian construction was more relaxed than the traditional American sack suit: shoulders were wide and sharp, with an unstructured drape throughout the body. A crisp, hand-tailored shirt and designer tie in bold colors complemented the understated but elegant cut of the suit.
The 80’s obsession with wealth and upwardly mobile status was marked best by the label-conscious powersuit that advertised the wearer’s ability to take over the world. There was nothing special in the fabric, no superhero quality that came with the slipping on of a blazer: the power was found in the confidence of looking good.
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