Here’s Why 2017’s Fashion Word of the Year Was Power

Power and woke were fashion's most used words of the year.

Power Dressing - March 2017
Photographs by Fanny Latour-Lambert, Styled by Alexandra Carl

Politics seeped into every facet of culture in 2017, from film to TV to music. So, perhaps it’s no surprise that politics also influenced the way in which we talk about fashion. Often times, that included the word “power,” as that noun has just been revealed to be the most-used word of the year in fashion.

According to Lyst, which analyzed over 30,000 articles on fashion published throughout 2017 across 100 publications, “power” is the word that appeared the most frequently. Outside of fashion’s own examination of power, whether it be indirectly with suiting like Virgil Abloh did through the lens of Princess Diana’s own wardrobe in his recent collection, or more overtly like the political slogans that graced the runways of Public School, Prabal Gurung, Jonathan Simkhai, and Christian Siriano, “power” also played into the formality of this year’s clothing. That’s because designers from Céline’s Phoebe Philo to Louis Vuitton’s Nicolas Ghesquière and Balenciaga’s Demna Gvasalia brought back the era of 1980s power dressing that was once a staple for many women in the workplace. Albeit, this year’s power dressing was notably stiff and more eccentric. “Personally, I like my ‘power looks’ to be a combination of drama, nonconformity, restraint, surprise, modesty, and playfulness,” Linda Fargo, senior vice president of Bergdorf Goodman, told W earlier this year. “That’s when I feel strongest and the least vincible.”

Female strength was definitely a theme of 2017, perhaps peaking with Time‘s recent Person of the Year cover: the Silence Breakers. The #MeToo movement originally started in 2006 on Twitter by activist Tarana Burke (who was notably absent on the cover) but gained momentum this year as everyone from Angelina Jolie, Gwyneth Paltrow, Jennifer Lawrence, Uma Therman, Lupita Nyong’o and many others came forward with their stories of sexual abuse. It’s fitting then that the second most-used word of the year in fashion was woke.

Trailing behind those two words were, in order, statement, floral (a word that seemingly never disappears from fashion’s vocabulary), millennial, extra, masculine, cult, ugly, and vegan. Considering how in tune with culture fashion was this year, take that as an argument for your back pocket, the next time you hear it dismissed as frivolous.

Power Dressing Through the Years

Power dressing takes a forceful turn (from left): Balenciaga blouse and pants; Celine sunglasses; Balenciaga earring. Mulberry shorts suit and Vetements x Comme des Garçons shirt; Oliver Goldsmith sunglasses; Ben-Amun by Isaac Manevitz Earrings.

Photographs by Fanny Latour-Lambert, Styled by Alexandra Carl

Mulberry suit; Magda Butrym suit.

Photographs by Fanny Latour-Lambert, Styled by Alexandra Carl

DKNY blazer, Off-White c/o Virgil Abloh shirt, DKNY Pure shorts; DKNY blazer, Jil Sander shirt, DKNY Pure shorts, Sies Marjan stole.

Photographs by Fanny Latour-Lambert, Styled by Alexandra Carl

A Céline spring 2013 look.


A Helmut Lang fall 1995 look.

Getty Images

Donna Karan’s “presidential campaign,” 1992.

Courtesy of the Designer/Peter Lindbergh/Rosemary Mcgrotha, icon focus models

A Jil Sander fall 1990 look.

MVC photo

A Giorgio Armani ad campaign from 1984.

Aldo Fallai, Courtesy of the designer.

A power look photographed by Patrick Demarchelier in 1988.

Patrick Demarchelier: Conde Nast