If anyone understands how clothes can transform us, it's Valerie Steele, director and chief curator of the Museum at the Fashion Institute of Technology in New York City. We asked her about what makes a woman feel commanding:

The item of clothing that makes us feel powerful is the one that makes us feel confident and self-assured, that magically makes us look our best in all kinds of circumstances. Whenever I have to give an important talk or go to Paris to see the collections and I have to travel with a small bag, I keep pulling out this one black taffeta coat by Isabel Toledo. I bought it about eight years ago, thinking, "I hope I'm not spending too much." But it turns out it's incredibly versatile: I can wear it over a load of sweaters, or with just a blouse. It falls below the knee, and it's got a very shapely silhouette, but it's still streamlined and crisp. Very flattering. It makes me look tall and slim. And though it isn't couture, it looks like it is. The sleeves are beautiful, the back delicately cut. Yet it's also a real workhorse, practically indestructible. I can spill the sugar off a doughnut on it; it wipes clean. It can get rained on; it hangs dry. It folds into nothing. I can wear it day or night, over jeans and a T-shirt or over a fancy dress with heels. If I had to run out of my house with only one thing and my cat, this coat is the thing I'd be tempted to grab.
— Valerie Steele

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Illustration: Ruben Toledo


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