In the Western world, fashion of 80s was all about appearance and aesthetics and became materialistic. The visual is very important, logos, brands, make-up, funny hairstyles, funny shoes and eccentric accessories.
Glues are bright and sometimes fluorescent, sequins and patterns are daring. The athletic body is moulded into form-fitting garments such as ripped high-waisted jeans and leggings. Leather jackets were also an important part of this aesthetic.
The fashion of the 80s was free of all conventions and norms, and was eclectic, giving way to eccentricity where everyone could express themselves and dare to be completely free! The X-shaped figure with broad shoulders and an accentuated waist is very popular. One of the garments that embraced this silhouette was the powersuit!

The fashions of the period, particularly the powersuit, can be seen as a form of expression for the women's cause. We have to go back a little further to realise that it was the 60s and 70s that created a breeding ground for the expression of women's emancipation, particularly through the powersuit.



     First of all, we need to go back a little before the 80s.
The 60s and 70s saw an acceleration of women's rights in the Western world.

     Between the 60s and 70s, Europe experienced a sexual revolution and liberation that brought about a profound change in sexual mores.

     The May 1968 movement in France is a flagrant example of this change. In the "Elle" magazine article "Libération sexuelle: 75 ans de révolutions", Laura Boudoux explains that "the student demonstrations of May 1968 were accompanied by a wave of sexual freedom, and young people were calling for their bodies to be liberated and for women to be emancipated", which means that young people were calling for sex not just for the purpose of procreation, which means that a woman's body would not be reduced to the simple purpose of bearing children!

- A little earlier, in 1960, the contraceptive pill was authorised in the United States, initially reserved for married women.
- « The National Women's Alliance » website explains that the 1963 Equal Pay Act guarantees "equal pay for equal work, regardless of race, colour, religion, national origin, or sex.

- In 1965, "the Supreme Court overturned one of the last remaining state laws" and authorised the prescription and use of contraceptives for married couples.
And in 1972 "Title IX (Public Law 92-318) of the

Education Amendments prohibits discrimination on the basis of sex in all aspects of educational programs (...)".

In the « Elle »magazine article, "Sexual liberation: 75 years of revolutions". Laura Boudoux explains that in 1974, French Health Minister Simone Veil succeeded in passing a law decriminalising abortion, despite "24 hours of heated debate" and the violence she had to face when she delivered her speech in favour of the abortion law.


     Thanks to all these advances, the women of the 80s are no longer necessarily confined to the role of mother and have greater control over their bodies and therefore their future by freeing themselves from their traditional roles! Their (advances) impact can be seen in everyday life, socially speaking.

- According to the first paragraphs of the article "the power of a suit" in "a Magazine" in 1980. The overall activity rate of women in the workplace has increased by 52%.
"The Bureau of Labor Statistics describes women's participation in the American workforce as a major factor in its growth between 1970 and 1980.Maeva Durand describes in "L'entrée massive des femmes dans le marché du travail depuis les années 1980 en Europe" that "since the 1980s, the share of women in the workforce has increased in all
European Union countries".

- The article "Women and Credit Through the Decades: The 1980s", "more than half of all baccalaureate degrees have been awarded to women".

- 18 june 1983, Cindy Ride becomes the first américain woman in space.

While for the longest time, university was 'reserved' for boys, from the 1980s onwards more and more girls were entering. According to the the article "Women and Credit Through the Decades: 1980" more than half of thee baccalaureate degrees were awarded to women.



- There were also advances in the world of politics, particularly in America in 1981. 

Geraldine Ferraro is appointed campaigner by candidate WalterMondale and becomes the first woman vice-President of the United States ("Women's History Milestones: Timeline" of "History") by a major political party.

Sandras Day O'Connor is nominated by he President Ronald Reagan and become the first woman to sit on the Supreme Court (National Women's Alliance).  

1981 State laws designating a husband as "head and master" with unilateral control over property held jointly with his wife are struck down. ( National Women's Alliance ).

- The media and entertainment industry have also evolved! 

Pop culture and television have played a major role in the social representation of women.

Women are increasingly represented in the media, particularly in TV series. 

The series 'Dynasty', 'Cosby Show' and 'Family Ties', are three sitcoms that showcase strong female roles, whether at work or in the family, but above all at work!« Working Girls", with Melanie Griffith and Sigourney Weaver, puts the spotlight on two ambitious women in the male-dominated world of finance.


- The arrival of MTV has given women greater visibility in the music world. Cher and Tina Turner have both sung about women's problems and dilemmas, and Madonna is another iconic singer who challenges the way men look at women ("STARTING TO SEE SOME PROGRESS..." of the site "Representation of women and girls in the media").


One of the most fashionable outfit of the period was the power suit. It was very clearly a suit. It was a suit that was first and foremost reserved for men: it had exaggerated shoulders, wide double-breasted lapels and a pointed seam. In Western society, the suit marked the difference between the world of work and the home. In most workplaces at the time, virtually every man wore a suit. Just as the idea of a suit was (and still is) associated with power, whether on TV with the Italian Mafia or through politicians.     






The power suit with or without pads is used on TV, in "Dynasty" with Joan Collin in the role of Alexis Colby, in "Working Girls", in the world of pop Janeth Jackson, Madonna. In politics there's Oprah Winfrey and Nancy Reagan. Even Lady Dianna wore one too! 

The use of this garment by well-known women of power, some of whom are important in the world of politics or television, means that other women can identify with these powerful women. 

The powersuit can also be seen as an expression of « gender fluidity »  fluidity. 

In fact, women are no longer restricted to intra-family roles (inside the home, the family) such as mother, sister, wife, but because they work, they have a role outside the family cocoon, in the world of work and therefore in society.

Because it was originally a men's garment, there's a gender fluidity because it's now worn by women too.  What's more, the fact that women wear it shows that they are perfectly capable of doing the same things as men, including working.

So when designers such as Yves Saint-Laurent, Giorgio Armani, Thierry Mugler and Ralph Laurent took up the idea of the masculine power suit in the 80s, they did so for women, in a way expressing the emancipation of women and their desire to carve out a place for themselves in the world of work.

One of the first was Yves Saint Lauren, who in 1966 presented the world with "Le Smoking" (for women), inspired by the men's tuxedo.Then in 1977, shoulder pads were added. This made it possible to have bigger shoulders and therefore to Some look more imposing and hard and to appear more credible in the eyes of men.

Some designers, such as Thierry Mugler, accentuate feminine curves by adding a more pronounced waist to the power suit, forming an X silhouette.

Throughout the articles I read, I couldn't help noticing that the advances made by white women excluded those made by minorities.

One of the only articles that mentioned the black community in the evolution of women's rights was by Erin El Issa ("Women and Credit Through the Decades: The 1980s" for "Nerdwallet"), who explained that "Women also made up about half of graduates from master’s programs and nearly 30% of graduates with doctorates for the 1980-1981 school year, though these degrees were disproportionately awarded to white women. »






Therefore, to conclude, we can  say that the power follows a form of expression and concretization of the emancipation of women but also a symbol of gender fluidity.

With the rise of women in the world of work in the 80s, mores began to change. 

  Women in particular no longer wanted to restrict themselves to the traditional roles that society ascribed to them, but demanded their place in active society.

The power suit was both the result of these advances and a "tool" that helped to accentuate, support and impose these changes - the massive increase in the number of women in the workforce.

Today, the power suit is still used on a daily basis and for special events.