Power Dresses for Work: Blending Style & Function

power dresses for the office

When it comes to women’s workwear, we have more options than ever. Gone are the days of regimented office attire. In fact, with hybrid work limiting the amount of “in office” days for many women, it seems workwear is getting more creative. Whether you lean prim and proper, colorfully eclectic, sleek and minimal, or whimsical and feminine, your work wardrobe is an important channel for personal expression. So, let’s talk about power dresses for work!

They’re ideal for days when you need to be bold not basic.

Perhaps you have an important interview, presentation, or you’re giving a keynote address. These are moments when you want to be seen. Power dressing means commanding attention through fashion, but in a sophisticated and situationally appropriate way. You can power dress in all kinds of silhouettes (e.g., trousers, skirts, blazers), but dresses are my favorite.

Why? They’re easy and comfortable. If you’re a fan of “one and done” dressing, this post is for you!

Power dressing vs Corporate style

These terms accompany each other a lot – and for good reason. Corporate attire and power dresses blend form with function. They must be industry appropriate and work for the setting too. They should flatter the wearer with quality construction and a tailored fit. Finally, they must present a level of polish and sophistication that boosts your confidence.

workwear sheath dress royal blueDress (c/o Nora Gardner) | Shoes (on sale right now!)

So, what makes power dresses different?

Power dresses allow a bit more sparkle, creativity, and personal expression. Like corporate attire, you can dress them up or down. However, power dresses usually have an element of uniqueness. It might be the color, interesting darts, folds, or architectural construction. Women reach for a power dress when they want all eyes on them.

This type of carefully selected clothing, in strategic hues (my royal blue dress is an example), forces people to take notice and pay attention. However, there’s a fine line between drawing eyeballs and distracting them. Professional women don’t want clothing that competes or conflicts with their message. Rather, it should reinforce your goals and communication style.

Power dresses make a statement, but in a refined, elegant, ever-appropriate manner.

how to choose a power dressWhite Dress | Red Dress | Black Dress | Blue Dress | Pink Dress

Think about Catherine, the Princess of Wales (aka Kate Middleton). She opts for “see me” colors, but with classic, sleek construction. There’s a lot of attention to detail, often at the waist or necklines. Like Catherine, you want to think about your best features and play them up.

Have a slim waist? Look for belted styles or folds that accentuate that. Want to draw attention upward to your face on a video or Zoom call? Create a physical frame with a square neckline like the this blue dress above. Itching to show off toned arms? A higher neck sleeveless style like this might be a good option.

Catharine also carries herself with poise. It’s important that you pair power dresses for work with a confident, upright posture. This is how you own a room. Shoulders back and head high!

Pairing power dresses for work with perfect posture

Posture is the best beauty trick in the book and can immediately boost your self esteem. If you’ve never thought about posture before, I want you to practice in the mirror.

Think about how dancers move. They stand out, even off duty. This is because they’ve developed muscle memory for holding their body in the best alignment. If you’ve ever watched Miss America or Miss USA, you’ll notice pageant contestants to this too. Envision you have a string attached to the top of your head, pulling you upward as you roll your shoulders back and tuck your stomach in. The more you practice this, the more natural it will feel.

Fictional characters, like Claire Underwood of House of Cards, are also great at rocking power dresses for work. As the Corporette blog discusses here, Claire’s style (and posture throughout the series) is impeccable!

How to Choose a Power Dress for Work

Focus on fit, tailoring, and versatility

Now, we get to the fun part… shopping! When choosing power dresses for work, the most important factors are fit and tailoring. Keep in mind, finding them is a process. Don’t rush it. These should be investment pieces you’ll be wearing for years to come.

You’re looking for garments that give you an immediate wow factor. You know those fitting room moments when you think to yourself… “Dang, I look good in this!” That’s what we’re after.

For example, when I slipped on Nora Gardner’s Clea dress, I knew the royal blue hue helped my eyes pop. It also fit perfectly. With power dresses, there should be no adjusting, tugging, or convincing needed to make it work. They should flatter your figure, skimming your curves, not clinging to them. Try multiple styles to figure out what makes you shine and order multiple sizes too. This will ensure the best results.

You also want to think about styling versatility. Where will you take your power dress? The Clea looks smart dressed down with sleek flats (Sarah Flint’s Natalie is a great choice) and a belt (this one from Amazon is my all-time favorite). You can also tuck it under blazer or let that asymmetric neckline shine all on its own for a special event, like a wedding.

royal blue sheath dress

Avoid revealing styles

Modesty is another factor. Revealing styles are a no-no for power dresses because they’re designed to keep you “on message.” We want people processing our words, not staring at our cleavage or legs. Consequently, it’s best to opt for conservative, yet flattering hemlines and necklines. Avoid anything super short or plunging. However, keep in mind what is flattering will depend on your height.

As a petite, I opt for power dresses with higher hemlines to balance my figure. I tend to struggle with midi-lengths because they often hit me too low on the legs and look at bit dowdy. You want a happy medium with your power dress. A good rule of thumb is to ensure business professional attire is not shorter than one inch above your knee. You can go a bit shorter for business casual.

Fabrication matters too. Power dresses made with heavier weight fabrics and styles with secondary linings are more flattering than those without. They help you avoid the unwanted lumps and bumps we all get with cheap, clingy material.

power dresses for work

Start with trusted workwear brands 

I’m a big fan of bargain shopping, but generally this is not the best strategy when it comes to power dresses for work. It’s hard to look elegant when rocking cheap fabric. Believe me, I’ve tried! Back in my news reporter and anchoring days, I needed a big wardrobe on a shoestring budget. As this post discusses, I sourced a lot of styles from Amazon.

However, most women don’t need dresses in every hue of the rainbow, so you want to opt for the best quality your budget allows. Thankfully, there are brands with strong reputations in this particular category. When starting your search for power dresses, I recommend beginning with brands that specialize in women’s workwear. Nora Gardner, which makes the dress I’m wearing above, is one of those brands.

It’s a mainstay among professional women who engage in outward-facing work, like public speaking and presentations. News anchors favor Nora too, due to the brand’s classic silhouettes, interesting neckline details, quality fabrics, bold colors, and classic silhouettes. She also finds fans in the business, law, and political sector.

Use code LINDSAY20 for 20% off a Nora Gardner purchase

I’m itching to add the brand’s Evelyn Dress to my closet as well, since this coral shade would really pop on camera and the neckline projects a sophisticated look on the anchor desk. It’s also available in the 3/4 sleeve style you see below.

Brands known for power dresses:

workwear for key eventsFrom top left: Magenta | Plum | Teal | Red | Royal blue v-neck | Hot Pink | Salmon | Blue high neck


If shopping power dresses in a department store or online, I’ve had great luck with Calvin Klein, Elie Tahari, Tommy Hilfiger, Ralph Lauren, and Antonio Melani. Take your time and remember you don’t have to settle. Experiment with silhouettes, colors, and styles you haven’t tried before. You might be surprised by what flatters you, especially if you haven’t shopped recently.

Also, keep in mind that some brands offer very hands-on customer service. This includes help with sizing, style recommendations, even tweaks/alterations should you need something in specific. In my experience, and based on Nora Gardner reviews, Nora is one of those brands. Its service department offers lots of fit tips when you order.

nora gardner reviews

What to wear with your power dress

Best shoes to pair with workwear dresses

Since power dresses speak for themselves, you want to keep the rest of your look sleek and simple. This means neutral, classic accessories. Here are a few shoe options that look great while power dressing. While I favor nude, pointy toe pumps, I’m also including options for those of you who need flats or block heels.

Don’t forget foundational garments

Another key consideration is what you wear under your power dresses for work. Nothing ruins a chic workwear look quicker than wrinkles and bra/panty lines. If you don’t already own one, get yourself a handheld steamer. I use this one daily since most of my workwear can’t handle traditional ironing.

When it comes to undergarments, I highly recommend shaper shorts to help avoid panty lines and avoid any unflattering lumps or bumps. My go-to is this pair from ASSETS by SPANX. You can also get a high-waist version if you want tummy control. Both offer comfortable compression (you don’t feel overly squeezed) and a streamlined look.

Finally, since we’re talking about workwear, don’t let your laptop bag ruin the look. Bostanten is a great source for sleek laptop bags. As a video editor, I have a huge, heavy laptop and struggled for a long time trying to find an attractive bag to accommodate it (more on that in this post).

Happy hunting friends! If you have any questions about power dressing or power dresses, don’t hesitate to drop them in the comments below. 

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