Suits have been gaining popularity over the last couple of seasons, with 2017 being dubbed the year of the suit.
A woman’s place is no longer at home as we strive for equal opportunities socially, in work, and through education. But for all of our progress, just how far have we come to accepting the humble suit as part of a woman’s everyday wardrobe? A woman in a suit no longer shocks us, but it still remains a powerful way to deliver a message to the world. It is a statement of self-confidence and self-acceptance, one it appears can’t be told with a simple dress. Never has the power of fashion been so noticeable than when a woman wears the trousers.
2017 has been dubbed the year of the suit by the fashion industry. Barely a collection was shown this year untouched by the presence of a tailored alternative to eveningwear, presenting itself in a multitude of guises. Slim cut, boxy, velvet or patterned, the female suit kicked off the year in a big way and shows no signs of slowing as we move into the fall season.
On the runway Mary Katrantzou gave us velvet patterned blazers and matching trousers, whilst Marni’s suits had a more relaxed feel and came with eye catching graphics. Bigger is most definitely better, with oversized jackets and loose fitting, bellowing trousers set to be everywhere this winter. On the high street print is key, with suits in brocade, floral prints and stripes dominating. For a dressier evening look, velvet and silk options will be in abundance, along with softer pyjama inspired styles following on from the summer.
“It became the symbol for great change
and breaking the mould."
Echoing the runway trends, actress Evan Rachel Wood also found herself devoting the year to the iconic suit. She committed to a promotional run of red carpet appearances wearing only suits for the whole of the year. Predominantly a personal decision for Wood, she explained that it was important to demonstrate to young women that a dress is not the only option should they want to look glam, although the fashion industry and media can often make it seem this way.
Bisexual Wood has struggled with gender norms her whole life and regards the suit as that grey area in between things being black and white, which makes people feel uncomfortable. “Sometimes grey areas need to be embraced,” she explained. Other than serving as a powerful reminder of equality, her red-carpet moments have reinforced that suit dressing can be beautiful, feminine and striking as she rocked velvet and silk jaw-dropping creations by Altuzarra teamed with frilled blouses and plunging necklines.
Many labelled Wood’s move revolutionary, despite the fact women have been wearing suits for decades now. There is something about breaking away from the traditional image of femininity that makes our ears prick up and forces us to listen. What is it about a woman in a suit that makes us believe she must have an underlying message to be heard? Why must this choice of attire be politically motivated? Can’t women just wear suits for suit’s sake?
Marlene Dietrich was the first movie star to effortlessly pull off the suit in the 1930’s, defying sexual stereotypes as she openly talked about her bisexuality. By the 1960’s the female tuxedo became iconic thanks to YSL and ‘le smoking suit,’ which was both androgynous and sexy and immediately adopted by models of the era. It became the symbol for great change and breaking the mould. So powerful and important was the message of the suit that YSL has shown it in one variation or another in every subsequent collection.
American singer-songwriter Janelle Monae is famed for wearing suits and menswear pieces on the red carpet. Her signature look is a monochrome jacket and trousers which she calls her uniform, celebrating her family’s working class heritage. Her mother was a caretaker, father a bin man, so the suit serves as a reminder to her that as a woman in uniform “she has work to do, people to uplift, people to inspire.” Her suits tell the story that to get where she is today, she didn’t have to compromise who she was, instead she embraced it.
Just like Peter Parker, there seems to be a great deal of responsibility for a woman that chooses to wear a suit, as if it can be used to channel our inner superhero. It is a strong sign of personal expression, a precursor that the wearer has something she wants to be heard. This could be a message as simple as ‘Girl Power,’ as told by the Spice Girls when they collectively wore theirs buttoned low with push-up bras! Strong feminine symbols need no longer resemble Disney Princesses and the suit has always been about dressing for yourself rather than for men or the general public.
Suits are no longer the embodiment of power dressing for women as Giorgio Armani himself admits, “women have edged out their standing in the world. Today, they don’t have to wear a suit jacket to prove their authority.” But this hasn’t diluted the impact of the ensemble nor its ability to make a loud statement. Sit up and take notice as suits are here to stay, telling the wearer’s story in a fashionable and unique way.