I find myself a few days behind in correspondence as graduations, birthdays and holidays have interrupted my letter writing. But in the lost days of last week, a fabulous not-to-be-missed article by Robin Givhan of the Washington Post hit the cover of the Sunday Washington Post Magazine: Beyond the Red Suit: The State of Washington Power Dressing. Through conversations with a few of Washington’s leading women in law, real estate, journalism and finance, Givhan documents the shift from business suits and pantyhose to sheath dresses and boots for women in serious professional environments. In our creation of the Julia Farr Collection, you and I have seen this change in the working woman’s wardrobe as the suit in all its iterations has transitioned to more separate dressing with knits, pencil skirts and tailored pants, as well as the new found reliance on the DRESS to suit all occasions. Indeed, where the bells and whistles of leather trim and lace embroidery did not see the office light of day ten years ago, women are incorporating these in vogue details as they introduce their own sense of style and expression into their professional lives with fashionable, current designs.
Compelling to me is Gihvan’s statement that “[f]ashion now allows women to communicate more than ‘I am qualified.’ There is a potential to deliver subtle messages about mood, intent and even course of action.” When collaborating with remarkable women, like CNN Chief Congressional Correspondent, Dana Bash, on wardrobe choices, we discuss the environment, the subject matter and the audience who will visually receive the woman in her professional wear. It is a thoughtful process where I advise that women both express who they are in their daily dress but balance that with place and occasion appropriate pieces. Although a federal courtroom still demands a high level of decorum and respect, a skirted suit is no longer the strict uniform. And where women have begun to show a little more skin on air where their male counterparts are still wearing a dark suit, I have suggested that a news anchor’s dress be visually and professionally matched to the fully clothed man sitting beside them. Dana Bash was keen to this on Election Night 2012, as Givhan writes in the article, knowing she would be in a “crowd of men in dark suits, as well as an ever-changing backdrop of blaring graphics.” Her minimal-chic long-sleeved dress that we decided upon set the right tone for her appearance on this historic evening viewed around the globe.
Ann, the exciting thing about the Power Dressing article is that it both spotlights and elevates what you and I do everyday in our business: creating designs for the polished, professional woman that are both feminine yet place & occasion appropriate for the ever changing scenery of her life. Robin Givhan captured the cultural current change concluding through one of her interviewees, Deborah Ratner Salzburg, that for the image of a powerful woman [in fashion], that [t]here are no rules, only minimal standards.’ I would say that building upon minimal standards for women’s power dressing is a great place for us to continue to create Julia Farr Collection designs for the women who are making a mark in their professions, impacting the world with their talent, and are singularly and brilliantly expressing themselves through their wardrobe in a concise, powerful visual statement.
Photo courtesy of The Washington Post by Charlie Archambault.