Essay – Gritty Woman and Power dressing

Here is the essay I wrote to go with my photo story, next I will put the images and the writing together to make a magazine inDesign.

Gritty Women and Power Dressing

The evolution of how women are seen in the media and within the male gaze has changed so much over the years, from being seen as sex objects to that of strong powerful women. In 2007 if you typed in the word “women” into the internet most of the photographs that would come up were of naked women gazing at the cameras or other such provocative images suggesting how sexy and inviting the women looked. Now in 2017, it’s about women doing exercise, covered in sweat, mud and in some of the images you can’t see the women’s faces. It could be suggested that these images are all about power, strength and freedom, moving on from the sexualised gaze of the media, to now not caring how they look or who sees them. It shows the empowerment of women. (Anastasia, Dyakovakaya. Getty images. Online)

The words “Gritty Women” describe one of the 2017 Getty image trends, this represents the future of women introducing the new type of women who is ready to challenge how people see the female role model. This development is also an extension of the trend of gender-blending, which is all about dissolving the gender boundaries of men and women in society, primarily focusing on the depiction of equal representation of gender in the media. My thinking is that every woman is gritty and has power and strength, whether that’s through exercise, mental strength, in everyday life or as a businesswoman everyone has grit. This essay is going to explore the notion of the working women and how in order to fit in, women need to wear certain types of clothing to get noticed and to be taken seriously. The term ‘Power Dressing’.

The definition of power dressing is a type of style that is intended to show that someone is important and has power in the business world. Women have used power dressing throughout history to stand out and be noticed against men. (Marlen, Komar. Bustle. Online). They did this by how they dressed. When thinking about how women and power dressing has changed through history most people will think of the working girl, white bow ties and the padded shoulders of the 1980”s. However, power dressing did not only start then. Power uniforms have changed and developed through the 21st century and did not only start and end with nine to five jobs. One example of a woman’s suit that stands out in history is in 1910 and is the suffragette uniform. This was the time of women moving away from the principles of the Edwardian and Victorian times and the 1800’s idea of gender roles, women wanted a new lifestyle. This suffragette suit stood out because the trend of that time was a hobble skirt, this was as skirt hemmed so tight to the ankles women could not walk properly. Where as,the suffragettes suit along with a blouse and jacket had an ankle-length divided skirt that allowed them to take longer steps and have the freedom to move. This was when the first women suits were born!

Then Chanel in the 1914 helped create one of the first women suits. This differs from the suits we see later in the century, there are no trousers or bow ties. It was based on the men’s wardrobe and was designed to go with the female’s ever-changing position in society. This suit was comfortable and gave women a new found freedom of independence and power. During the 1930’s the first trouser suits were made and when the actress Marlene Dietrich appeared at the opening of ‘The Signs of the Cross’(Paramount Pictures, Produced and directed by Cecil B. Demille,1932) wearing a masculine tuxedo, soft feel hat, topcoat and wing collar it definitely started controversy. What is incredible is that the actress wearing this suit was talked about worldwide and even reached congress in the United States, where they then had to decide if this new style broke the law, which at the time forbid women to dress like a man. Marlene Dietrich wearing this suit definitely helped popularise this look for women in mainstream culture.

Another actress who helped make the wearing of suits prevalent among women was Katherine Hepburn, when she wore a suit in her film ‘Women of the Year’.(MGM Home Entertainment, Directed by George Stevens and produced by Joseph L. Mankiewicz 1942) This showed the suit as feminine and helped make the suit a staple iconic wardrobe item for the working women. In 1966 the first male inspired designed evening suit with trousers for women was created. This was ground-breaking and men were furious that designers would take something so typically masculine and making it more feminine.  Alternatively Women saw a chance for change and progress, saying men can wear this, why can’t They? The 1980s was the decade for power dressing and one of the most famous pieces of clothing in a women wardrobe became the shoulder pads. This was a great time for the business women, as the standard dress for the working female was completely changed. However, there was still a lot of controversy about the trousers and blazers; some viewed these changes as women wanting to show they had more power, but to get this power they had to disguise themselves as men. While these changes helped take the focus off their gender and it provided an opportunity to blur the traditional gender roles, not all men liked it.

Looking at women and power dressing in the present, it is evident that style and fashion has changed dramatically. Today, there is no such thing as power dressing; it is a thing of the past. The new power look includes soft colours, patterns, prints, beading and feminine tailoring. Historically if you wore any of this new style of power dressing in the workplace you would not have been taken seriously, there has been a definite shift in what is seen as appropriate for women to wear in the workplace. Women have moved a long way from trying to fit into the male inspired suits. A quote that I think sums up the reason why women nowadays don’t have to dress like men in the workplace to be taken seriously is Meredith Lepore at career development site Levo: “We are seeing this trend because there are just more women in these top positions who determine what is an appropriate look for the office”. We are finally able to decide for ourselves what is suitable to wear and how we behave, this demonstrates power, not what we are wearing. That said, things are still far from perfect and anything we wear will still be judged by the men (and other women) we work with. (Vanessa Mambu, The Evolution of Women’s Suits,Online)

Nevertheless, there are many issues still out there around equal opportunities, and a very big topic at the moment is equal pay for men and women. At least we don’t have to dress a certain way to be taken seriously as a professional woman. Why should we not be treated equally and have the same pay or opportunities as men?

Looking at the future and the term gritty women, I think women will continue to move forward and I believe we will only see more of a blur between the two genders as the years move on.

In the fashion industry we are beginning to a shift towards the real and true representation of the diversity of the female body, we are slowly being shown through photography a more genuine and realistic viewpoint, such as hair on the armpits, sweat and blood. If this trend continues, the next generation will not have to attempt to live up to unrealistic body images, but instead recognise that women have the strength and power to achieve anything we put our minds to.


Fabian, Stark., (19th of December 2017). Visual Trends: Gritty Woman. [Online]. Unknown: Strum und Drang. Available at:[Accessed on 20th January 2018, at 12.10]

Susannah, Frankel., (23rd October 20090. What Is Power dressing?. [Online]. Unknown: Independent. Available at: [Accessed on 20th January 2018, at 12.15]

Anastasia, Dyakovakaya., ( 16 Novmenber, 2016) Getty Images Trends Team Makes 2017 Predictions. [Online]. Unknown: Getty images. Available at: [Accessed on 19th January 2018, at 14.15]

Claire, Cain Miller., (7th September 2017). From Sex Object to Gritty Woman: The Evolution of Women in Stock Photos. Online].  Unknown: The New York Times. Available at: [Accessed on 19th January 2018, at 15.00]

Marlen, Komar., (14th of April 2016). The Evolution Of The Female Power Suit & What It Mans-Photos. [Online]. Unknown: Bustle. Available at: [Accessed on 19th January 2018, at 14.45]

Vanessa, Mambu., (2nd August 2016). The Evolution Of Women’s Suits. [Online]. Unknown: Tallulah Tennant. Available at:[Accessed on 20th of January 2018, at 10.30]

Hayley, Phelan., (8th of April 2013). Margaret Thatcher Set The Bar For Power Dressing. [Online]. Unknown: Fashionista. Available at: [Accessed on 20th January 2018, at 11.00]

Karin, Nelson., (21st February 2017). How Fashion is Updating Power Dressing For 2017. [Online]. Unknown: W Magazine. Available at: [Accessed on 20th January 2018, at 11.30]

Hannah, Almassi., (13th April 2017). The 8 new Rules Of Modern Power Dressing. [Online]. Unknown: Who What Wear. Available at: [Accessed on 20th January 2018, at 11.45]

Jack, Sunnucks., (8th March 2016). Is Power-dressing a Thing Of the past?. [Online].Unknown: Dazed. Available at: [Accessed on 20th January 2018, at 12.00]