Michelle Obama's arm-baring dresses, Hillary Clinton's statement pantsuits, and Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez's omnipresent It bag: These pieces, just like the women who wear them, leave a lasting impression. "We have mental associations with clothing, based on the people who wear these pieces," explains Shakaila Forbes-Bell, a U.K.-based fashion psychologist. "When we wear the same clothes, we subconsciously embody the traits we associate with those people."
But if a bold, floral print dress or a smartly tailored suit à la a famous politician doesn't help you meet the day head on—look elsewhere. Commanding authority via fashion is less about the piece itself than it is about the feelings they bring out. "The more we wear a piece, the more value it holds," Bell explains. "In turn, these pieces take on a life of their own.” They can herald mood-boosting powers or help navigate tricky social situations.
As you head out into the world, armor yourself with pieces that embolden you—like a workhorse winter boot or an invest-in-yourself watch—but it’s important to remember that the power really lies in you.
The Bar Jacket
Known for its rounded hourglass silhouette, Dior's Bar jacket turns 74 this year. “The shape of your clothes can change a person's perspective,” explains Bell. “Women who wear tailored clothing are perceived as more intelligent. In turn, women wearing form-fitting jackets will feel more confident,” she says.
The Skirt Suit
Turn the patriarchy on its head with a high-slit skirt suit. "Suits often have a masculine connotation, but don't settle for a man's suit," says Bell. " A skirt suit exudes a feminine power that the wearer will draw strength from.
The Knit Dress
Embracing comfort may actually help you power through your day. “Not having the distraction of uncomfortable pieces can increase your cognition so that you’re actually able to perform better,” Bell says. “Pieces that are elevated, yet cozy, embrace the excitement of novelty with all of the positive benefits of comfort.”
The It Bag
There’s no better way to flex your purchasing power than with Telfar’s vegan leather tote.
“Of-the-moment bags help people belong to the cultural zeitgeist,” says Bell. Not only does it feed an internal desire to belong, but your buying decisions can also lend support to powerful purposes.
The Winter Boot
Put your best foot forward with a heavy-tread winter boot that will ground you. “Virtual life means we haven’t seen each other’s shoes in a long time, but they’re the first thing we see in real life,” explains Bell. “As we continue to socialize, now is the time to use an incredibly strong shoe to make your mark.”
The Low-Rise Trouser
A trouser with a natural waistline can have supernatural powers. "Women are taking ownership of their bodies, tapping into the power of their own skin," explains Bell. "Don't conform to ideals on how much you should or shouldn't show."
The Gold Choker
Front and center, a radiant necklace will speak for itself. “Jewelry enables people to inject their creativity into an outfit,” says Bell. "A special piece will help you differentiate yourself in a meaningful way.”
The Investment Watch
Isn’t it about time you did something nice for yourself? “People embody power and carry their heads higher when they’re sporting luxury pieces,” says Bell. “They may even interact differently with other people.”
Swap your little black dress for a less expected tuxedo suit. “Playing dress-up can be used as an escape. It’s a mood-elevator that can help us break out of our shells—separating ourselves from our usual day-to-day routines,” Bell explains.
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Sara Holzman is the Style Director at Marie Claire, covering runway trends and tracking down the latest finds to buy and wear. When she’s not writing about fashion, she pens about the best places to jet-off to. Over her six years with Marie Claire, Sara has reported on the ever-evolving world of fashion— covering both established and emerging designers within the industry. Sara has held fashion positions at Lucky and SELF Magazine and was a regular contributor to Equinox’s Furthermore website, where she wrote across their style, wellness, and travel verticals. She holds a degree in Journalism from the University of Missouri, Columbia, and currently resides in Manhattan. Follow her along at @sarajonewyork.
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