Suits Are This Season’s Top Fashion Moment
This fall, it’s time to embrace suiting’s carefree spirit.
by : Truc Nguyen- Aug 31st, 2022
PHOTOGRAPHY, COURTESY OF GUCCI, EMILIA WICKSTEAD & MICHAEL KORS
Afer a few false starts, many of us will likely be headed back to the office more regularly this fall, whether it’s on a part-time or hybrid basis. After two and a half years of wearing Zoom-friendly tops with sweatpants hiding below, we need a fashion reset for our return to office life, and fall’s monochromatic, slouchy-cut trouser suit might be just the ticket. Spotted on the runways in crushed velvet at Italian luxury label Etro and in wool at London brand Emilia Wickstead, this oversized but tailored silhouette offers the best of both worlds: traditional workwear codes that prioritize comfort and adapt to individual style.
Part power suit and part leisure suit, fall’s wardrobe must-have should almost feel (and fit) like a track suit. Think extra-long wide-legged pants with a full break at the hem and oversized, longer-than-hip-length blazers. You could even add a matching coat with padded shoulders to the mix for a unisex look that projects carefree confidence.
According to Alexandra Palmer, senior curator, Global Fashion & Textiles at the Royal Ontario Museum, the classic tailored suit—a coordinated three-piece ensemble of breeches, a waistcoat and a jacket or coat—was established as an elite uniform of sorts for men by the end of the 17th century. Women first wore suits in the 18th century, when they donned the riding habit—a long skirt and a matching jacket—for horseback riding. This attire eventually left the stables and was accepted as daywear in the late 19th century, but it wasn’t until the mid-1960s that the modern trouser suit truly came into fashion for women.
“[Yves] Saint Laurent was really one of the first people to [champion the pantsuit] in a very elegant haute couture way and then also his ready-to-wear way,” says Palmer. “The beautifully made trouser suits with the long jacket were very, very radical in the ’60s.” In fact, American socialite Nan Kempner was once famously turned away from restaurant La Côte Basque in 1968 because she was wearing an Yves Saint Laurent trouser suit—women were still expected to wear skirts at the New York City restaurant. She wasn’t admitted until she took off the trousers, keeping the jacket as a minidress.
Following the influence of the Le Smoking and other Saint Laurent creations that were considered avant-garde at the time, more ready-to-wear brands started offering trouser suits. Still, it took time for them to become widely accepted women’s attire, and it wasn’t until the 1980s that women started wearing them to the office, sometimes with the power-dressing oversized shoulder pads of the era, explains Palmer. In the ’90s, the pantsuit finally became normalized in women’s workwear wardrobes. During that era, Belgian fashion designer Martin Margiela made waves by experimenting with deconstructed tailoring, while Japanese designers like Yohji Yamamoto championed loose-fitting asymmetrical suits.
If you look closely, this season’s slouchy suiting hearkens back to some of those game-changing oversized silhouettes of the ’90s and early 2000s, says Palmer. “It’s probably sort of a reaction to the very, very tight clothes that have been in fashion for so long,” she says. The new workwear is comfort-driven, and suits are no exception. Emily Gordon-Smith, content director at trends-intelligence agency Stylus, sees this relaxed fit as the way forward. “We’ve been tracking a return to tailoring for some years now, but it’s the soft [knit fabric] pantsuit that is winning out with consumers,” she says. “Easy volume with a casual quality is the key to this silhouette’s success—nothing like the confined, restrictive tailoring of traditional officewear or historic ’80s-influenced power dressing. The soft pantsuit can take you from brunch to the boardroom and is highly forgiving.”
Beyond a drapey, comfortable fabric, the top suits of fall/winter 2022/2023 feature a key colour from head to toe, according to Gordon-Smith. “Single-tone dressing is all the rage, and the bolder the better,” she says. “So think hot-pink or grass-green suits styled in a heightened monochromatic way with matching footwear and accessories.” On the runways, there were suits in warm taupe, moss and Bordeaux at The Row, in bright fuchsia at Valentino and in lovely shades of yellow at Jil Sander and Michael Kors. While classic wool sets continue to dominate the catwalks, designers are also offering trouser suits in more interesting textiles too, Gordon-Smith points out, like velvets and satins.
Like so many other trends, it’s not the oversized trouser suit’s first time on the catwalk. What feels new now, though, is the range of both earthy and vibrant colours it’s showing up in. How these suits are being styled feels fresh too: with square-toed flats or white running shoes à la Hailey Bieber, for example, or with perfectly-colour-coordinated overcoats and shirts, which we’ve seen on everyone from Julia Roberts to Zendaya. Sometimes there’s no top at all—or there’s just a triangle bra, as shown at Stella McCartney. “The key is the styling,” says Gordon-Smith. “This isn’t about neat silhouettes and heels; it’s soft volume, a relaxed edge and smart sneakers all the way.”
Best of all, the season’s comfort-first suiting is an effortless workwear option that will impress while also easing the transition back into the office world and redefining power dressing for a new era of work in the process. “Trouser suits kind of take care of the ‘What am I going to wear?’ question,” says Palmer. “You have an ensemble that’s complete.”
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