‘Power Dressing’ – Like Cross-Dressing, But Kinky

Power Dressing (noun): A style of dressing in severely tailored suits, adopted by some women executives to project an image of efficiency

Power dressing is basically dressing up to look powerful. And I don’t mean powerful like the Hulk (technically that would be un-dressing), but powerful as a metaphor for a suit that says “look at me, I have a shed load of cash”. ‘Power’ in this context is simply ‘capital’ (a word I highlighted as one of my three main ones in the seminar). If you have money, you have choice. If you have choice, you have power to manipulate the environment around you, including the people in it. If you want people to know you’ve got money, you can give them fair warning by dressing in expensive attire.

This is fine when you’re genuinely rich. But what if you’re not? Power dressing would surely be a phrase more common to people with that ‘common touch’, who like to think they’re rich, but have actually saved up for six months to buy the jacket they’re wearing. It allows people to perhaps live the fantasy that they possess power that they’re working towards, or power that they do not yet have.

In the most fictional term, allow me to introduce ‘Cosplay’ (that’s basically ‘playing around with costumes’). Cosplay is big in a lot of circles, and is a niche market for those who enjoy dressing up, and watching other people dress up. Costumes of anime characters are particularly popular (because the costumes are bright and colourful, and Japanese are weird – take your pick), but the trend also spans out to computer game characters. Below is a girl who imitates a character called Kasumi for the game Dead Or Alive:

The game is a very popular one in Cosplay circles, as the game features several unlock-able costumes for each character.

However, isn’t it all just a fantasy of sorts? I’m sure some would argue that there’s some deeply hidden sexual ‘voyeurism’ behaviour going on amidst all this, but in terms of power dressing, could it not be argued that people dress like their favourite anime characters because they want to be like them? Who wouldn’t want to be a Shinobi ninja like Kasumi? Who wouldn’t want to be a Pikachu for the day? We do fancy dress parties right here in this very university all the time… that’s probably a bit over-analytical for a simply drunken night out, but the idea is there. We dress up as our favourite thing given the option – you’d pick your favourite Pokemon to dress up as at a Pokemon party, because given the choice, it is probably the Pokemon you’d choose to be for a day. (Note – mine would be Articuno)

But anyway, I seem to be going slightly off topic.

Cosplay has that idea that wearing something to become somebody else is popular with those who like dressing up. I myself have worn jackets on nights out before – it does symbolize that I can afford such clothing. It does connote other things though – I have a car, I can drive, I’ve got an amazing personality, I’m a great lover, I travel places, I see things, I’m interesting. Technically, me wearing a jacket doesn’t mean any of those things, but as a society, we tend to judge people by how much money they have, which would explain the important of power dressing within our culture.

In the most fundamental form, uniforms are also one way of power dressing. Wear swish, posh, fancy jackets all you like. If a man in a police uniform tells you you’re nicked, you’re authority is overruled. Authority is a key player in power dressing also – having money can help you to manipulate your environment, but there are some things (like ninjas) that overrule money.

It doesn’t take a lecture on Milgram to know that if a scientist told you that it was safe to electrocute a man with a fatal voltage, that you may well possibly electrocute him. The man is wearing a lab coat. His dress wear gives him authority over you. Surely he’s the one in trouble if the participant in the other room dies. Milgram wrote a book on his study that was literally called ‘Obedience To Authority’.

As aforementioned, authority is what people are after. Authority is in itself power. Power to control others, provided you are willing to accept responsibility. There are those who deserve their attire, those are are working to deserve it and want to jump the gun, and those who just want to play ‘rich’ for the day, just to see how people treat them differently. Three different levels, and three different examples of ‘power dressing’.

Advertisements

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s