Working Girl – Power Dressing

Working Girl – Power Dressing

 costume stories, working girl,film,costumes,fashion.80s filmOne of the first films I notice the fashion had to be Working Girl, with the big eighties hair and power dressing, which was made even more evident by the transformation of Tess McGill, played by Melanie Griffith, from Staten Island secretary to high-powered executive.

The costumes, designed by Ann Roth **who also did The Bonfire of the Vanities, another favourite, as well as Bird Cage**, set the scene right from the word go, with Tess strutting off the Staten Island ferry working her power suit teamed with dotty tights and trainers. There is a sexiness about her, it is so New York, it is so eighties chic, and her hair really just makes it, even more, dramatic. 

In Dressed: A Century of Hollywood Costume Design, Roth is quoted as saying: “The hair was very exciting to me—you know, it was the big tease. It was the 1980s with a Staten Island flavour. They usually don’t come to Manhattan, but those girls who come and work as secretaries, getting off the boat, their shoes would be in their purses…and they were sexy. That’s the point. They were very sexy.”



But the fashion doesn’t really kick into gear until Tess meets Katherine Parker, played by Sigourney Weaver, where she is introduced to a more sophisticated, elegant look with sleek tailoring, bold colours, just look at her sexy-yet-professional red dress above, but most of all she is shown that jewellery really makes or breaks an outfit and that less is more, with brooches really being a statement point throughout. 

There are a lot of looks that I love on Tess, from her sparkly black dress that she wears to meet Jack Trainer, played by Harrison Ford, as it really shows off her new found confidence. I think I love it so much because it is so simple, granted it is adorned with rhinestone sparkles, but there is an elegance rather than an OTT vibe to it. Her first high-powered look could have been crazy, I’m so pleased that they opted for glamour. 


Other looks have to be the white crepe Sonia Rykiel outfit that she wears to crash a wedding, it is very bold wearing white to another woman’s wedding, as well as her love of oversized glasses, which I assume was part of her look to come across smarter with a feminine edge with the pink rims, and I have to mention her tan leather coat that she is seen wearing before the transformation, I don’t know about you but it really suited her huge hair. 

But my ultimate favourite, which I don’t mind telling you have tried to recreate many a times, has to be Tess’ final look, where she wears an oversized masculine grey check blazer, with the sleeves rolled up just enough to show off her black pussy bow blouse, or it might even be a dress. It’s just so chic, and really shows off how far her style and professional life has evolved throughout the film, it is less flashy than her earlier looks that she borrowed from Katherine’s wardrobe, this is a new Tess.


One look I have to mention, just for the pure comedy value really, has to be her bridesmaid look – so eighties, so horrendous, and so hilarious, it is as though a Disney film has thrown up on her. The colour is bad, but it’s those sleeves that get me every time – the whole look just needs burning!!!

Are you a fan of the costumes in Working Girl?

[Pics: 20th Century Fox]