15 People on What Makes Them Feel Powerful

By Sara Afzal

We all know that power comes from within. But sometimes it is the armor we wear on the outside that gives us the boost we need to feel ready to face the world. Whatever the item or style, what you wear (or don’t wear) is a way to convey how you feel about yourself, to bring your inner power to the outside.

We asked 15 people in New York City to strike a pose and take a moment to tell us what makes them feel powerful.

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Katherine Castañeda, 31 | Project Architect | Brooklyn, New York

“I don’t derive power from what I put on in the morning. I think it comes from confidence – how you feel about yourself, your state of mind, your attitude. Clothes in a sense carry that with you. You make yourself powerful and then whatever you put on reflects that.”

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Olivia Perez, 25 | Portrait Photographer | Brooklyn, New York

“My attitude and confidence speak a lot more to power than what I am wearing. I find a lot of fashion actually brings me down. I’ve worn lipstick for years. I’m inspired by the minimal look –just some lipstick and eyeshadow.”

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Cleopatra Joseph, 32 | Senior Finance Business Analyst | New York, New York

“When I am happy with who I am, I always feel powerful.  Having the freedom to travel often and experience what the world has to offer makes me feel empowered. Being the only female among my peers at work makes me feel powerful as a woman. The way my outfit moves with the wind lets me embrace the power of mother nature.”

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Katie Hakala, 29 | Writer and Editor | Brooklyn, New York

“I feel most powerful when I’m fully embracing my individuality. Women are raised to appear as either non-entities or sexual entities when they go out in public. Women are told that a diminutive presence is the most likable, and that conformity is the safest mode for navigating life. I don’t buy into any of that. My power thrives when I’m fully articulating my funky, crass, wise, irreverent me-ness without apology or hesitance.”

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Ardavan Arfaei, 29 | Architectural Designer | Brooklyn, New York

“I feel powerful when I learn. It can be learning a scientific principle, feeling how another being feels, or something about myself. I feel powerful when I teach. It can be explaining a fact I learnt or making it possible for someone to feel a new feeling.”

“The elements I use in my outfit are both a means of making myself feel good and also a tool to connect with other people. I wear different scarves to different occasions, It’s an easy yet very expressive accessory. I like expressing myself free of gender norms.”

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Mary Bustamonte, 28 | Stylist | Brooklyn, New York

“I never feel more powerful than when I’m present to taking up space as a woman. When I’m having a good day I remember to put my shoulders back, I feel in line with who I actually am. So much of our lives as women is catering to others and power is really prioritizing what is best for your own well being and then factoring in compassion and what needs to get done. I feel most powerful when I’m around women who resonate on the same frequency.”

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William McGuinness, 28 | Social & Digital Media Strategist/ Masters Student at Columbia University | New York, New York

“I know people who dress to look powerful or fashionable; but in my world, I need people to open up and feel comfortable in a professional setting. Then, they can share their knowledge and think more creatively. This space tie works well with astrophysicists and astronomers on the faculty and with my NASA capstone team. It’s a friendly wink that leads into the conversation.”

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Nicolet Schenck, 25 | Freelance Graphic Designer | Crown Heights, Brooklyn

“I always feel powerful when I’m driving on an on-ramp to the highway and I manage to take the curve at the perfect speed. I break, then accelerate with precision and feel the wheels glide with ease underneath me. When someone else is in the car, I hope they notice the way I’m cradling them with the turn’s fluidity. This smooth, elegant, in control feeling paired with a slight edge of adrenaline and a steady leap in the pit of my stomach is my ideal sense of power in anything I do.”

“The jumpsuit is the fabric equivalent of that moment for me. It’s elegant, it’s smooth, it’s a little daring and gives me a bit of an adrenaline rush from the feeling of wearing something out of the norm. It’s elongating, classic, and attention seeking, yet offers a caring, feminine presence that makes me want to guide and cradle others. I am powerful with a touch of breezy femininity.”

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Alena Le Blanc, 27 | Fashion Designer | San Francisco, California

“The reason I became a fashion designer is I wanted women to feel confident and happy in the clothes they are wearing. If you look good, you feel good. I feel confident and happy in this jacket.”

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Jan Philipp Sendker, 57 | Writer, Novelist | Berlin, Germany

“Knowledge makes me feel powerful. It gives you the power to make decisions to move forward and act.”

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Cece Chan, 19 | Film and TV Student at NYU | New York, New York

“I feel powerful when I can relate to other people. One one hand, it’s great when someone’s telling me something deeply personal, but on the flip side, I let things affect me more than I’d like to. But I always remember that when someone tries to hurt me, it’s usually not about me – it’s more often coming from a place of hurt. And I don’t feel the need to hurt people. That makes me feel powerful.”

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Robert Krakower, 26 | TV Producer | Brooklyn, New York

“I think it’s fun to wear something a bit out of the ordinary. I feel powerful wearing something I wouldn’t normally wear and pushing myself out of my comfort zone – plus they are super comfortable to wear!”

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Nadia Carrillo, 19 | Student at Columbia University | New York, New York

“I think above all else I feel empowered when I pay attention to detail on any aspect of my life, whether it be my clothes or my schoolwork or even just hanging out with friends. Keeping the little things in mind helps me to feel complete and thus like the best version of myself I can be.”

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Marlon Daniels, 24 | Prep Cook | Boston, MA

“Being in the right state of mind makes me feel powerful. It’s so difficult to be in a good place mentally.”

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Shirin Mazdeyasna, 24 | Student in Fine Art | Brooklyn, New York

“I find power in new environments and connections.”