'The Post' shows that power dressing is about attitude, not outfits

A story of female empowerment unfolds through the evolving fashion choices made by Meryl Streep's character in 'The Post', legendary Washington Post publisher Katharine Graham, writes Nothemba Mkhodo

28 January 2018 - 00:00 By Nothemba Mkhondo
Meryl Streep as Katharine Graham and Tom Hanks as Ben Bradlee in 'The Post'.
Meryl Streep as Katharine Graham and Tom Hanks as Ben Bradlee in 'The Post'.
Image: Supplied

The expressive power of clothing is one we are all familiar with. I still recall the days when I was a teenager, experimenting with clothes. My attempt to pin down a sense of style was a way of expressing myself.

Meryl Streep's portrayal of Katharine Graham in The Post is not only a retelling of an iconic moment in media history, it is also an enlightening depiction of the expressive and transformative power of clothing.

Although '70s fashion was marked by floral-printed silk shirts and wide bell-bottomed silhouettes, the movie depicts an interesting dichotomy in the way women dressed at the time.

Women in the workplace wore muted shirts with wide-lapel blazers, A-line skirts and minimal jewellery, while women at home or on a casual evening out wore floral, paisley-printed dresses, pearls and collarless crew-neck jackets - a noticeably more feminine look.

As the film shows, Graham was a woman in a man's world - she walked into boardrooms as a lone female surrounded by men in dark suits, pale shirts and ties. At the beginning of the film, Graham is meek and struggles to speak out - even when she knows what to say - and tries to assimilate male power by blending in.

She wears dark skirt suits with broad lapels and neck-cinching pussy-bow shirts. As she becomes more comfortable with her role as a powerful career woman, her style begins to shift.

The day she goes to register The Washington Post as a public company at the New York Stock Exchange, she is wearing a stone-washed cream wrap dress - a marked change for a woman who we had only seen wearing dresses at home or at dinner parties.

WATCH | The trailer for The Post

When Graham's defining moment arrives and she faces the biggest decision of her career, she is wearing a floor-sweeping cream kaftan dress with golden embroidery. Seeing her stand up for herself and her company in a room full of men, wearing a markedly feminine and regal dress, is awe-inspiring.

Graham was powerful, assertive and chose to stand out in more ways than one. As the movie unfolds, it becomes clear that The Post is a narrative of her journey and growth told simultaneously through her clothing, because ultimately, style is a journey that moves and changes as we do.

When it comes to clothing, what could be more empowering than wearing what we want to wear and choosing to stand out instead of blending in?