The Power of Power Dressing


Do you believe in the power of power dressing? I do! I’m not the best public speaker (nerves and adrenaline get to me too often) and so my big crutch is the threads I wear.

I had a work presentation this week. On the day, I got up, showered, stood in front of my wardrobe. Stood there a bit longer … and a bit longer … Then I slammed the doors shut. It’s time for the big guns, I thought. Marched myself over to the spare wardrobe where my nice dresses hang. I pulled out the Simplicity 4934 I’d worked on with Sunnygal. The one made from lavender wool bought at Goldhawk Road and carried in my suitcase to San Francisco. The dress with a hand picked zipper, beautifully fitted bodice (all credit to Beth and none to me), silk organza underlining and a subtle Sixties vibe. Then I applied my make-up, pulled on my coat, reached for my bag and set off into central London. I got through the presentation just fine.

Two years ago, how could I possibly have known that a dress worked on in the warmth of a Californian afternoon, would become my armour of choice on a grey, rainy day in London? With a needle and thread, I hadn’t just been making a dress, I’d been giving myself a coping strategy. This is why we sew. Strength and self love go into those stitches, to keep us together when we’re feeling weak and uncertain. I don’t think there’s a designer label, a pill or a big enough slab of chocolate in the world to duplicate that. Do you agree?

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55 Responses to The Power of Power Dressing

  1. sewbusylizzy says:

    Such a beautiful post & strikes a chord with me today.
    When I’m faced with a tough day I always put on ‘body armor’ or something which I know will knock others off their feet. While others may dismiss that approach as superficial it’s about putting on a mental attitude as much as anything else and for me that’s with my clothes.
    And today I’m on holidays but had a day when I’ve felt under appreciated and unloved… and the first thing I thought? “I need to go home and sew a happy dress” sewing is part of my soul. Clothes are not shallow, they reflect our mental state, they protect us from the elements… and not just the weather.

  2. Linda says:

    What a fabulous positive message! Glad the presentation went well:)

  3. JacqC says:

    You express this so beautifully. I did something very similar for a workshop last week. And my shoes are a barometer of my confidence, at 5’2″, I do not where flats when I need courage 🙂

  4. I know exactly what you mean… Some of my handmades have gotten me through job interviews, presentations, oral exams and first days at an entirely new school. You know, scary things!

  5. so beautiful put, when I need courage it is always what I wear that helps. A great pair of heels on occasion too!

  6. Debby says:

    Most definitely agree. I always remember what my Mother said about wearing a pair of heels (not massive) and lipstick when a confidence boost is needed. What we wear says so much about who we are and us sewers are lucky as we can make exactly what suits us.

  7. I always feel more confident in my own makes its a fabulous feeling. Glad your presentation went well.

  8. Brenda says:

    Thanks for explaining why I’m working on a red tunic!
    Eloquently stated. I hadn’t connected these dots, but it makes complete sense, and resonates deeply!

    Thank you!

  9. Annika says:

    Wow, what a beautiful post! And you’re just 100% right. No designer label could give the same feeling…

  10. pinka says:

    I agree completely. I had my graduate thesis presentation a few months ago and I really really fear any kind of public speaking. I flew back home for it a week and a half before the actual date, so sewing the dress also helped me not to have a billion panic attacks before it and kept me sane.

  11. Gemma says:

    What a lovely sentiment. I’m not sure my dress-making skill extends to giving me confidence yet, but at least when wearing a home made item I am pre-occupied hiding the wonky bits 🙂

  12. elle says:

    Fabulously put! And super inspiring to someone who’s just starting out. 🙂

  13. Bunny says:

    I agree completely. Before I retired my me-made wardrobe with all its tailored suits and silk blouses was my combat armor. I so understand your beautifully written sentiments.

  14. joanfrankham says:

    what a beautiful colour, and fabulous looking dress. You are so talented.

  15. Adrienne says:

    Oh I couldn’t agree more. Thanks for the nice post. And I’m glad your presentation went well. 🙂

  16. mari says:

    When I was part of corporate America, my go to colors was always cream and red. I felt feminine, powerful and ready to take on the world! :0) It was even better when it was a garment made by me… great post. Beautiful suit! So glad that the presentation went really well. m.

  17. Dawn says:

    This is an example of why your blog is one of the best. Beautifully written thoughts that strike a chord. Well done!

  18. Well done you. What a beautiful message.

  19. Sunni says:

    I completely agree. And actually, just this year, I’ve come to realize the power of power dressing. Now being the owner of a shop, where I took over from a previous owner who had an immensely loyal clientele and staff, I’ve found its in my best interest to power dress every time I’m going to pop into or work in my shop. It’s not necessarily a “corporate look” but it is a look of, “Wow, she’s got it together and is someone who is not to be walked on,” which is exactly the type of look I’m going for. I’m not a mean person, I just want to have a touch of an authoritative presence. Great message Karen! I do so love your wonderful posts!

    • LinB says:

      I completely agree about the “feminine armor,” especially for a woman who is not a total … let us say “witch” … who needs to project an image of calm competency. Another mental crutch that I sometimes lean on is that I once painted an entire two-story house, all by myself, using a Wagner power sprayer, an aluminum extension ladder, and a brush to trim the windows.

  20. cathynd95 says:

    I completely agree! I used to do a lot of public speaking, board presentations and such. If I wasn’t Dressed in my best, and prepared, I did horribly.

  21. I totally agree! I am a teacher, and if I feel a little under the weather or bummed-out, I make sure to wear something that really flatters me. It gives me a little push! Plus, most times, when we wear our “body armor”, we tend to get tons of compliments, which helps in the confidence department. It’s even more satisfying when you made it yourself, like you and that elegant purple suit!

  22. liza jane says:

    Yes!! I one hundred percent agree!

  23. Helena says:

    Great post, Karen! I totally agree and I’m hoping to get there with my me-mades soon. I’m not quite there yet, but working on it.

  24. bmary says:

    Fantastic! I totally understand the power of feeling confident in what you wear! There is so much confidence that a beautiful outfit that fits well can give you. Plus, you made it yourself! That is just astounding. Wish we could see more of it?

  25. Kathryn says:

    A lovely post as usual and so spot on. For my job I wear scrubs and head cover. It is easy for me to lose site of what it is to even dress feminine anymore. Your posts give me such inspiration to look for projects that make me feel like a lady when I am not saving lives.

  26. amaryllislog says:

    I love this and agree 100%. What a great way to ease one’s nerves and look beautiful and confident!

  27. I completely believe in the power of power dressing. I don’t save it for difficult times though, I do this practically every day! Having good feelings about (and memories attached to) things we make ourselves is definitely a big part of it.

  28. EmSewCrazy says:

    Agree! While I don’t have to give work presentations when I have to go to an event something I’ve made is usually chosen because I just feel fabulous!

  29. Lori says:

    The color made this already spectacular suit stand out!

  30. Chris says:

    Like you I’m a big believer in power dressing. I think it can help to make the difference. Especially with a garment as polished as yours!

  31. CurlsnSkirls says:

    Absolutely agree! Thanks so much for your articulate prose, reminding me of yet another reason to keep on sewing!

  32. Lauren says:

    absolutely! Wearing clothes that fit me will, with fabric that I love makes me feel like I can do anything, and that’s the frame of mind a person should have, and I wouldn’t have that without my sewing.

  33. Fadanista says:

    Totally understand the power of dressing – my whole wardrobe has been built round this philosophy, and it follows right through even to having a really good (read expensive!) haircut.

  34. MadebyMeg says:

    Such a beautiful post! Thanks for sharing! And I’m quite tickled that you came all the way out here to California to start making it 🙂

  35. lisa g says:

    beautifully expressed, i completely agree!

  36. I agree with the sentiment you express – although the chocolate? Hmm, not so sure about that! – but for my part, because I don’t sew a great deal and have often been in jobs where uniform was provided (and uniform doesn’t leave a lot of room for personalising), my little supports in time of need tend to be accessories: that lovely “bullshit castle” bijoux brooch that used to belong to my mother; the earrings my Dad gave me or some from one of my sisters. But there is much comfort knowing these little parts of your past are supporting your present and, in the case of clothes, the comfort of knowing that what you have made, a memory stitched into every seam, is in a league of its own and could never be replicated is priceless. I’m delighted that your presentation went well; but with that kind of confidence support, how could it have done anything else?

  37. Absolutely. Wearing something lovely to work that I made myself is like an all-day competence reminder: I did this, therefore I can do that.

  38. oonaballoona says:

    oh yes, totally. the power of clothing is huge for me. i can’t even relax properly without the right clothing on, let alone take over the world.

  39. joelleharris says:

    Yes, totally agree. We should only have clothes in our wardrobes that make us feel that good! Rather than loads of stuff that isn’t quite right and we don’t care about. I think that’s one of the things with making it yourself, you really value it too.

  40. Anne-Marie says:

    Lovely post, thank you Karen!

  41. Eleanor says:

    Love this! Thanks so much for a worthwhile break in my studies this afternoon. I am a massive fan of power dressing but have yet to make my own power frock!

  42. Absolutely true Karen. I think my handmade outfits have an extra edge over my ready to wear clothing too as knowing that I made what I’m wearing and feeling great in gives my confidence an extra boost!

  43. I’ve read this wonderful post several times, thinking how well you put into words which so many of us know, but do not always acknowledge. Thank you, thank you for expressing so beautifully one more reason why sewing is such a gift to those of us who practice this art.

  44. Elizabeth says:

    Totally agree and what a beautiful suit that is. Cheers!

  45. missmarys says:

    The color is BEAUTIFUL. My daughter keeps telling me to wear lavender or purple.

  46. redsilvia says:

    I’m sure you were great. You just feel better when you’re comfortable with what you’re wearing. Nothing like a tight waistband or hurting shoes to make your aura brown.

    Two years! Has it been that long since you were here in SF with us. Come on back for a sunshine top up whenever you can!

  47. maddie says:

    Absolutely, I agree. The strength and courage a handmade garment gave give you is amazing. There is such love there, like the love between a mother and a child.

  48. Mirna says:

    I thought I was the only one who felt like this… I’m glad to find others who share this view. 🙂
    Inspirational message!

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