Though shoulder pads and skirt suits may seem more like a punchline than a fashion statement these days, no outfit telegraphs “career woman” quite like a power suit. Originally conceived as something of a gender neutralizer, the menswear-inspired two-pieces gained steam in the ‘40s–Katharine Hepburn was an early adopter–and re-emerged in the ‘80s as woman entered the corporate workplace in larger numbers than ever before. The boxy suits became the uniform de rigueur for pop-culture representations of working women, from Melanie Griffith in Working Girl to Diane Keaton in Baby Boom.
Though many women these days have abandoned the stiff button-ups for more casual — and feminine — work styles, they remain the outfit of choice for those in the political trenches, like Hillary Clinton and Angela Merkel, and modified versions continue to be embraced by pop stars like Lorde and Rihanna, who performed in a Margiela couture suit at the Grammys. Click through the slideshow for a look at the most iconic power suits in recent history — and the women who wore them.