We have spoken about men’s suiting many times before, but have you ever thought about the role of a suit in womenswear? We wouldn’t bat an eyelid at a women’s power suit in this day and age, but we should. Not only is the suit recognised as one of the most powerful garments in the world, but it is also a political statement.
A tailored suit conveys authority and sophistication while expressing one’s identity. Although it is widely recognised for its place in men’s fashion, the suit has played a pivotal role within womenswear.
A (Brief) History
Social norms have evolved over the years, allowing women to express their identity through all various types of fashion. In earlier days, restrictions prohibited women from wearing certain clothes, such as trousers and blazers – believing that skirts and dresses were the only appropriate clothing. Even the creation of ‘bloomers’, which allowed women to participate in more physical activities such as horseback riding, attracted backlash from the medical community. Arguing that ‘wearing trousers would endanger women’s fertility’.
By the early 20th century, the ‘power suit’ gained popularity as the suffragettes pushed the limits and used their dress for political statements. But trousers were still only acceptable for athletic purposes, and women were not legally allowed to wear them in public. In 1933 Marlene Dietrich was allegedly arrested at a train station in Paris for violating a ban on women wearing trousers. She was photographed on board the SS Europa en route to France wearing a suit and the police had warned her that she would be arrested if she wore menswear on her visit to the city.
Women’s fashion continued to change during World War II as more women entered the workforce and society started to understand their pivotal role in the War. The following years after WWII created a tug-of-war mindset regarding women’s clothing. Whilst some returned to the age of ‘dresses and skirts’, and Dior launched its signature A-Line, some women weren’t ready to say goodbye to the power suit. It wasn’t until the 60s, 70s and 80s that legislation banned employers from denying workers the right to wear suits based on sex.
The traditional suit was not designed for a woman’s shape. It is challenging to achieve a perfect fit when suit styles have been male-dominated. Even today, it is harder for women to find a well-fitting suit than men. But Why?
Common issues include:
Ill-fitting around the shoulders:
Tightness under the arm, bicep and shoulder indicate an ill-fitting jacket, which should be avoided when purchasing a suit. These areas are not cut with extra fabric and are extremely difficult to adjust. Just remember, it is easier to take in than to let out! We always recommend something on the more comfortable side.
Visible creasing around the chest/bust:
Suppose there is visible creasing around the bust, and the buttonhole is stretched when buttoned. In that case, this is a sign that the jacket is too tight and that there is not enough fabric to sit flat against the bust. If you are larger in the chest area (where the tension is sitting) but quite narrow through your waist, look for a jacket with eight pieces to the body instead of four or six.
Length is another indicator determining a properly fitted suit. Sleeve length generally falls on the wrist bone; too long or too short can make the wearer look unbalanced. However, women tend to have more ‘play’ with the length of their sleeves compared to traditional men’s suiting and can adjust their sleeve length according to the jacket style of personal preference.
The same goes for the length of the jacket itself. Look for a jacket that finishes at a narrower point of your body. Be wary of jackets that crop at the hip (sometimes this is all there is) – these can throw off your body’s proportions.
The reality is that although women have more options regarding their clothing, the suit is still something that the fast fashion world see’s as primarily menswear. This is why it can be harder for women to find the perfect fit in their suits.
We want to change that.
The Fitting Room on Edward can help you alter and style your suits to fit like they’re custom-made. We can provide recommendations on what style, cut, and adjustments you should consider when looking at your next power piece.
Or, if you are after something exceptional, The Modern Gentry can create effortlessly wearable suits designed and made for you.
Enquire with us today– everyone loves a power suit.