Karl Lagerfield once called sweatpants a sign of defeat. “You lost control of your life so you bought some sweatpants,” he said.
But in March 2014, in what we’ll call a classic case of ‘do as I say, not as I do’, Kaiser Karl was sending models down the Chanel runway dressed in sweatpants. It has been a slippery slope on the smart-casual front ever since.
Take boyfriend jeans – a few years ago they were strictly weekend attire, but chances are, every other woman you saw today was rocking a pair with holes in the knees so gaping that there was more leg on show than covered up. And, unless you work at a law firm, chances are most of these women were walking around the office. One of them was probably your boss.
You might be of the opinion that there’s a time and a place for such a scruffy sartorial choice and an important client meeting (or, for that matter, fancy dinner, movie premiere, or night on the town) isn’t it. And you’d be right, with one important exception.
Consider the next dress-code abuser who walks past your desk. Is the shirt that’s haphazardly falling out of her waistband 100 percent silk and perfectly pressed? Is her makeup flawless; her hair a little messy, but the kind of messy that took 45 minutes and six products to achieve? Are her nails perfectly manicured, her heels high, and her blazer tailored and lint-free? And if she’d been wearing a suitably corporate skirt instead of distressed denim, would you have given her a second glance?
Behold, the new rules of power-dressing. In order to command the respect of a room it’s now not enough to appear to have made an effort, you must also exude effortlessness.
Confused? Don’t be, the formula is simple: take a polished ensemble and incorporate one off-key element. Substituting slacks for ripped jeans is an easy way to try this trend, but there are many variations; a luxe midi-dress worn with sneakers, a designer sweatshirt tucked into a structured skirt and, of course, the Lagerfeld-approved sweatpants paired with stilettos.
If you’re still wondering what’s so wrong with making an effort, I hear you, but think of it this way. In bygone eras, people would wear their wealth on their sleeves so as not to be mistaken as lower-class.
Today, though, nothing is more classless (or more likely to call into question one’s true financial status) than being adorned in top-to-toe logos. When it comes to power-dressing, the same logic applies.
Don’t let pulling out the stops be your style safety blanket. Next time you are dressing for a special event (especially one where you don’t feel you belong), switch out one smart item for something more casual, ensure you are otherwise immaculately presented, and you won’t look like you’re trying to convince anyone of your right to be there – least of all yourself.