Bébhinn Campbell looks at why a staple part of men’s fashion has been adopted by women.
In March this year, fashion “It”-girl Alexa Chung paid tribute to one of her leading style inspirations, Woody Allen’s Annie Hall. The pages of InStyle magazine exhibited a muted array of checked blazers and wide-legged trousers, each pairing oozes a kind of laid-back masculine charm.
The piece fell in line with what would become one of the biggest trends of this season. Some call it ‘suiting,’ others ‘tailoring’ and Vogue titles it ‘Pantsuit Nation.’ Everyone seems keen to jump on the bandwagon. Zara’s website has given blazers their own section among the standard clothing categories as they have become a wardrobe staple. Herringbone printed jackets are styled in their ‘Retro Fiction’ edit, a spread which blurs the line between chic and professional. The name hits the nail on the head: the past is the first place we should look for inspiration.
This is not the first time Diane Keaton’s cool-girl character has been held up as a universal style icon. Alongside the film’s success in 1977, imitations of the ‘effortless’ look were carried out on the streets of London and Paris. The distinctive play on gendered styling has reemerged several times since. Floppy hats, half-buttoned vests, untucked ties. What is it about this messy masculinity that has caught designers’ attention time and time again?
It only makes sense that female equality should be represented through a suit, a timeless symbol of power.
While Annie Hall’s thrown-together attire may simply have been an expression of her ditsy personality, it spoke volumes about the flexibility of the fashion’s boundaries. Hall didn’t abide by any rules, she chose comfort over impracticality. Catwalks in the 1980s adopted that mantra, as Giorgio Armani debuted their pantsuit with bold shoulder pads and masculine cut-outs.
The return of the pantsuit says a lot about the modern woman, as politics stays closely to the runway. For example, last year’s “Thanks Girls” collection by Stella McCartney was dedicated to women in work. The impact of feminism on fashion is not a new thing. It only makes sense that female equality should be represented through a suit, a timeless symbol of power.
Fashion houses are now aiming to put a modern spin on the pantsuit classic. Calvin Klein have focused on the androgyny, sending models down the runway with minimal makeup and clunky heels. French label Jacquemus have incorporated a subtle femininity, delicate court shoes peeking out from the bottom of a tailored trouser. Whatever the twist and whoever the designer, the suit is here to stay.