Power suits have been the outfit of choice for female politicians, historical heroines and royalty.

So the waves of female Wharfers flooding the estate with blazers and tailored trousers are in good company.

The thumbs-up to androgyny wasn’t simply a product of the 1980s, with Armani’s power suit, Versace’s striking pinstripes and YSL pantsuits.

Women Fashion Power at The Design Museum reveals how clothing reflects not only gender, authority and values but society too.

Its mannequins are dressed to illustrate three areas – power and fashion, fashion and women and women and power – and when it comes to suited and booted businesswomen, it shows the aesthetic was first adopted by Joan of Arc.

The French heroine embraced the masculine silhouette of military clothing and shoulder pads. Next came the utilitarian styles of First World War deployment. Then flapper girls added risque, sequinned glitz during the 1920s before the Second World War brought textile rationing, functional fashion and a link between smartness and patriotism.

The spotlight on suits re-emerged with the white collar workforce of the 1980s and the glamour of high profile legal careers showcased in TV dramas Dallas and Dynasty.

Fast-forward past nylon stockings, fringed hippie skirts of the 1960s and cringe-making Juicy Couture tracksuits and visitors arrive in London’s contemporary fashion scene.

Whether it’s in the words of top designer Vivienne Westwood or Nails Inc founder Thea Green Women Fashion Power concludes style is synonymous with empowerment.

And a masculine look doesn’t have to neglect sexiness or individuality – Thea’s preferred outfit of a deep green Chanel blazer and pirate trousers is a fashionable, attractive and personal twist on a classic. Lady Gaga’s “bin bag” dress – part of the same showcase – can’t be ignored and hammers home how fashion can ooze personality.

Talking of her shimmering propaganda design from 2005/06, flame-haired Vivienne rounds things off.

A plaque alongside her mannequin reads: “All my outfits are powerful even if they are pretty, or silly or butch. They all give you power because you are able to play with your identity.”

Until April 26, Go to designmuseum.org