Think back to a time when you felt powerful – what were you wearing? For Livia Firth, it’s an ethical, diaphanous Stella McCartney gown, for Miriam Gonzáles Durántez, partner at Dechert LLP and wife of Nick Clegg it’s a bold red Zara shift, whilst architect Zaha Hadid favours a winter-white silk Prada cape.
All of these outfits are on display at Women Fashion Power – the Design Museum’s current exhibition – that sets out to explore how powerful women have used fashion to their advantage throughout history, rewriting the 1980s shoulder-padded power dressing clichés. From the constraints of Victorian corsetry to the regulation workwear of World Wars I and II and the mini skirt that defined the 1960s sexual revolution, social change has influenced our wardrobes and freedom to play with fashion.
For those in positions of power in society, fashion is a tool that communicates a visual language; the Queen has never closely associated her wardrobe with trends to prevent the monarchy from appearing transient, in contrast to Queen Marie Antoinette of France who lavishly spent on the fashions of the time to reflect her status and wield greater autonomy. The over-arching message Women Fashion Power offered us? Confidence is key – if clothes create confidence they empower the wearer and that is real the secret to dressing for success.
Co-curated by Donna Loveday and Colin McDowell and designed by Zaha Hadid, Women Fashion Power runs at the Design Museum until 26th April 2015.