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Trends & Subcultures

10 May 2017

Power dressing for modern times

WORDS BY ALEXANDRA RHODES

 

Whether it’s actresses wearing all black in support of the #metoo movement, or designers referencing oversized tailoring, right now power dressing is enjoying a well-deserved moment in the spotlight. Back in the eighties, business-minded women dressed in suits to fit into the boys' club rather than to make any kind of rad fashion statement. But fast forward to 2018 and progress is (finally) being made. No longer confined to the realms of the financial district, the two-piece is a genuine fashion item, rejecting its connotations of uptight office wear in place of a newer, freer mood...

 

 

The history

 

If knowledge is power, it makes sense to gen up on the history of the suit. Ever the pioneer, Coco Chanel designed her first in 1914, a jacket with matching ankle-length skirt for post-war women in the workplace. Later in the thirties, Marcel Rochas took the concept one step further, daring to pair a wide-shouldered jacket with trousers - no mean feat, considering that even in the early 1900s, women were getting arrested for wearing men’s pants in America. The two-piece underwent another, altogether sexier, revolution in 1966 when Yves Saint Laurent debuted ‘Le Smoking’. And then came the eighties, and with them Armani’s shoulder-padded suit. We’ve never been the same...

 

The icons

From the silver screen sirens to well-dressed politicos, the suit has had many fashion fans. Marlene Dietrich and Katherine Hepburn were early pioneers in Hollywood, favouring wide-leg styles which wouldn't look out of place in today’s street style roundups. Diane Keaton became the thinking woman’s icon in that Annie Hall ensemble, and in Working Girl, Melanie Griffith’s strength was quite literally synonymous with the size of her shoulder pads. And then there’s Hillary Clinton: the first ever first lady to wear trousers in her official White House portrait. Whatever you may or may not think about her politics, there’s no questioning her ability to rock a pantsuit...

The update

So, how to bring this power pairing into SS18? Once stuffy and corporate, the sensible suit is breaking out of its comfort zone this spring, and the key to looking 'fashion' not 'finance' is to have fun. Forget pinstripes, think pastels - contrary to popular belief, pretty shades of mint green, lilac and dusty pink are much more wearable than you think. There’s no need to restrict your suit to the boardroom, either - wear over an easy slogan tee and style with fresh white trainers for day, then switch in a trinket bag and pointed heels for night. Suits us…

 

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