PJ-inspired belted blazer, £210, and wide-leg trousers, £140, Karen Millen.
The trouser suit as we know it is a relatively new invention. Its earliest antecedent dates to 1910, when the American Ladies’ Tailors’ Association created a “suffragette suit” consisting of a blouse, jacket and ankle-length divided skirt that allowed for freedom of movement (if not quite the vote).
Timeless suit jacket, £295, and trousers, £145, The Kooples.
Then in 1966 Yves Saint Laurent created Le Smoking, a women’s formal tuxedo that caused a sensation even when clients didn’t wear it as intended (in 1968, when New York socialite Nan Kempner was denied entry to Manhattan’s La CÔte Basque restaurant because her YSL tux broke the dress code, she removed the trousers and walked into the dining room wearing the jacket as a minidress).
That was 51 years ago. But women still had to wait until 1993 to wear anything besides dresses or skirts on the floor of the US Senate – that rule stood until the “pantsuit rebellion” of 1993.
Which brings us to pantsuit aficionada-in-chief Hillary Clinton. For years the former New York senator and 2016 Democrat Party nominee drew the wrong kind of attention for her personal style, before turning it into one of her calling cards. In the run-up to last year’s presidential election, 2.5 million women joined the Pantsuit Nation Facebook group, and many wore suits to the polls.
That suits are so ubiquitous this season could be interpreted as a subtle hint of fashion activism. Or – more likely – a reflection of the recent mass epiphany that a jacket and tailored trousers is a shortcut to looking sharp.
Anyone who’s taken part in a job interview will have a suit at the back of a cupboard, just in case. The trick to wearing an old suit in a new way is to take it out of a business context.
Instead of a button-down shirt, try it with a slogan tee; swap courts for velvet trainers. There’s a wide enough range of cuts in circulation that anything goes in terms of fit, but for a quick update, have your tailor crop the trousers to just above the ankle.