Pop Culture Power Suits We Love

Our look at the best of the best.

Barbara Hershey, Oscar-nominated actress and menswear fashion lover, will have a role in the new season of Fox’s X-Files revival. She’ll play Erika Price, a “powerful figure who represents a mysterious organization.” We’re already anticipating the killer power suits in Hershey’s on-screen wardrobe, sure to rival those of co-star Gillian Anderson.

The power suit became a trend in Hollywood as a way to define a female character’s rise to independence, but the fashion statement has much deeper political ties. NPR discussed the history of the woman’s power suit in 2014:

At the same time women were entering the corporate workplace in large numbers, the power suit began to pop up. . . . The 1980s power suit was designed to ignore a woman’s shape so it didn’t hinder her mobility as she worked her way up the corporate ladder. . . . as women gained a more secure foothold in executive suites, things began to change. . . . By the ’90s, women began to hang up their broad-shouldered jackets. . . . The big challenge to power dressing came in the new millennium, when the dot-com world began to roar back and the very casual workplace became standard.

Couturesque magazine recently wrote about the resurgence of the power suit as a social/political statement:


It’s this that makes me believe that this latest resurgence in the power suit is more of a form of self-discovery and affirmation than the simple pursuit of a trend. As we endeavour to protect the rights of our fellow sisters, Muslim, Hispanic, LGBTQIA+, black, and disabled friends, as we fight for our voices to be taken seriously, we look to the power suit to energize us, protect us, and empower us. When Elaine Welteroth of Teen Vogue wears her millennial pink power suit, it isn’t covetable just because it’s a good look. It gets its power because as both the youngest and first black female Editor In Chief of a major magazine, she’s using her voice for change, and her confidence feels attainable by means of her symbolic choice of clothing. The same goes for the thousands of women who wore white like Hillary, or red for the International Women’s General Strike last week. Yes, the suit saw a revival in the F/W runway shows, but that’s not what we’re striving for, because we don’t just want the look, we want the power.

We certainly agree, so here are some of our favorite pop culture power suits:


All hail Grace Jones. (Photo by Griffin Lipson/BFA/REX/Shutterstock)

Power suit queen Gillian Anderson shows off her tailored best in The X-Files, The Fall, and Hannibal.

Madonna’s blonde ambition.

Power to the plaid, Peggy Olson.

The Claire Underwood power suit is a fashionable fortress.


Olivia Pope: fixer and style maven. (Photo by Danny Feld/Shondaland/ABC/Kobal/REX/Shutterstock)

Fire emojis for days. Taraji P. Henson’s Cookie Lyon is unfuckwithable in a snakeskin-print suit.

When your suit matches bae’s. Jane Birkin forever.(Photo by BOB DEAR/AP/REX/Shutterstock)

Do not attempt to cross these Joan Collins/Alexis Carrington shoulder pads.(Photo by VIVIANE VENTURA/REX/Shutterstock)

Tilda Swinton. Tilda Swinton. Tilda Swinton.

Cults we’d like to join.

Diane Keaton, the patron saint of menswear-inspired fashion and frequent power suiter.

Yesss. (Photo by Stephen Lovekin/REX/Shutterstock)

From the New York Times on Patti Smith’s sense of style: “‘She is very aware of her style and she controls it,’ said Ms. Demeulemeester, a longtime friend and fashion collaborator. (Ms. Smith favors the designer’s mannish white shirts, inspired by the one she wore on the cover of her debut album, ‘Horses.’) ‘It’s about being conscious of who you are and using all the strength you have to communicate that.'”

Nothing clueless about it.

There’s only room for one shoulder pad goddess in this town, and it’s gonna be Joan Crawford.

“I put on pants 50 years ago and declared a sort of middle road.”

Mic drop.