It all began in 1920 with the Chanel suit – a knitted wool cardigan paired with a matching skirt, accessorized with a long string of pearls. This was called the ‘woman’s new uniform.” Actress Marlene Dietrich wore a sharp tuxedo in 1930 in the film Morocco and sparked a frenzy, while Katherine Hepburn’s 1942 film Woman of The Year established the slouchy suit as a wardrobe staple for working women. 1966 saw Yves Saint Laurent introduce a sexier version of the pantsuit – ‘Le Smoking’, which fashion photographer Helmut Newton captured on the pages of French Vogue in 1975. The sharp tailoring and sleek sophistication of the iconic suit screamed individuality and marked a shift in both fashion, and power. In the words of Pierre Bergé, “It is a well-known fact that Chanel gave women their freedom; years later Saint Laurent brought them power.” This new direction was embodied in 1971, in the form of Bianca Jagger at her wedding to Mick Jagger in St Tropez.
This season, Miuccia Prada embraced the suit once more – in shades of cotton-candy and chartreuse. The 50s and 60s debutantes walked with purpose, confident in their spongy structured power suits. River Island created an identical Prada-inspired pink suit, which was featured in every top British fashion magazine. Gucci’s Margot Tenenbaum-inspired collection showcased androgynous crumpled tailoring, paired with pussybow scarves and retro specs – an inventive take on the classic pant suit.
As new creative director of Gucci Alessandro Michele proved with his debut collection, it is all in the styling. First off, choose a tailored suit with an eye-catching print. One that gives you an edge. Think Sigourney Weaver in Working Girl – you own the room, quite literally. This is not about exerting power in the work place, it is about owning your individuality and having fun with pattern and shapes. Pair with a simple white pussybow blouse or polo neck and add either a decisive brogue or heel, depending on your mood. I enjoy impersonating Hilary Clinton in my sharp suit, minus the pearls.
Photography: Christina Higgins
Green and white patterned pantsuit, Gerard Darel at House of Fraser, white beaded polo neck, H & M, metallic brogues, Zara, white vintage bag, The Loft Market., Powerscourt.