Women in Suits

Women Suits

Women in Suits

A suit looks effortlessly cool. It certainly does for Yara Shahidi, who opted for head-to-toe Marc Jacobs at a Women In Hollywood recognition event.

BR’s Factory sector has good suiting options, including a blazer and slim pants in this season’s on-trend color, pink. Other good suits include those by Theory (separates) — Nordstrom and Macy’s carry this brand.

History of the Suit

Unlike pants that have a long history, women’s suits are relatively new. It is said that the suit rose to prominence in the early 1900s. This is likely due to the industrial revolution and women starting to work outside of the home. Women wanted to dress professionally, while still being stylish. The suit fit the bill perfectly.

Originally, the suit was a men’s outfit that women borrowed and modified to their liking. This was done so they could be taken seriously at the office or in society in general. The first notable instance of this happened in 1870 when French stage actress Sarah Bernhardt scandalized Paris by wearing a custom-made trouser suit that she referred to as her “boy’s clothes”. This was the beginning of blurring gender roles and the unofficial birth of the power suit. Bernhardt continued to push boundaries when she played Hamlet in 1899 in a suit, further proving that women could wear suits just as well as men.

Coco Chanel is also credited with the creation of women’s suits as we know them today. Her fur-trimmed suit was a departure from the corsets of the day and Women Suits a clear nod to the growing women’s rights movement. The 1930s saw the rise of Hollywood icons such as Marlene Dietrich, who wore a skirted tuxedo suit with a soft felt hat and mannish topcoat.

The Suffragette Suit

By 1910, when the suffragette movement was in full swing, women began to demand more than just votes. They also wanted to shake off the restrictive clothing of the 1800s, which had long restricted movements and caused skeletal deformities in wearers. Enter the suffragette suit, a tailored trouser and skirt that was a clear response to the mainstream hobble skirt (which literally hobbled the wearer around due to its tightness).

Actress Sarah Bernhardt is credited with the earliest iteration of the women’s power suit when she scandalized Paris by wearing a man’s suit while performing Hamlet in 1899. She continued to blur gender roles by incorporating androgynous designs into her repertoire, further cementing the idea that suits were meant for anyone who was willing to break down gendered stereotypes and do it their way.

The suit has since become the hallmark of progressive women and a symbol for the fight for equal rights, with the first women’s suits worn by the WSPU to rally for their cause. In 1913, more than 8,000 suffragists marched in Washington D.C. in a uniform of white, which was chosen to signify a clean slate and the beginning of a new era. Today, we see suits reimagined for the modern woman, from Max Mara’s puffed sleeves and velvet blazer to Louis Vuitton’s tuxedo-inspired silhouettes layered over a slinky tank.

The Modern Skirt Suit

After a brief lull in popularity following World War II as women returned to traditional domestic roles, the female suit experienced a resurgence in the 1960s thanks to feminism and women’s equality movements. Designers like Coco Chanel and Christian Dior’s era-defining ‘New Look’ embraced 1950s housewife silhouettes with nipped waists, full skirts and feminine details, while Georgio Armani championed androgynous shoulder pads that were considered a sign of power for women in the business world.

Today, the modern skirt suit can be seen worn by everyone from celebrities to politicians (our favorite example is Kamala Harris in a white, pleated minisuit). A softer iteration of tailored separates favored by 2023 runways shows that suits are no longer consigned solely to afternoon tea get-togethers and fundraising committee meetings.

A smattering of brands are reviving the skirt suit with sleek Women Suits silhouettes that can be dressed up or down with ladylike accessories and casual wardrobe staples for everyday wear. Look for blazer and skirt combos with a sleek, pleated skirt in neutral hues like cream or gray, or opt for a short style that’s playful and perfect for spring.

Shop a handful of our picks below, or find your perfect fit with the many online retailers that carry suiting separates in regular, tall and petite sizes including ASOS, H&M, Topshop and Zara (and, sadly, the defunct Ann Taylor Factory). Also check out Talbots for wool suits in a wide range of colors that are seasonless and classic enough to work at any level.

The Tuxedo

The tuxedo is not just for men – women can wear it too. And while it had a short lull after World War Two when women retreated to traditional housewife roles, the sixties brought a resurgence as women entered the workforce. Designers like Yves Saint Laurent introduced the suit into elegant eveningwear with a nipped in effect and full skirts.

The term tuxedo (or dinner suit) comes from the early 19th Century when upper class British men began rejecting formal tailcoats in favor of shorter dinner jackets. The trend likely originated with a custom made tailless silk smoking jacket designed by Savile Row tailors Henry Poole and worn by Prince Edward VII.

When paired with a black bow tie and dress sock, a classic tuxedo creates a sophisticated silhouette. It’s easy to see why it became a favorite of the likes of Marlene Dietrich, who wore a tuxedo in Josef von Sternberg’s 1930 movie, ‘Morocco’. Dietrich’s style was boldly androgynous at a time when gender fluidity was still not widely accepted or embraced.

The tuxedo is the ultimate power outfit for women. The look can be dressed down with a pair of trainers and a T-shirt for a smart casual ensemble or elevated with luxury accessories for an evening out. The Reiss jumpsuit combines the classic hallmarks of a tuxedo with a flattering shape and modern finish. Complete with a satin lapel, front pleat trousers and satin buttons this suit is ready to wear – just add a clutch bag, statement cocktail ring and polished shoes.

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