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The Pantsuit: A Symbol of Power For Women

By Kames Narayanan

 
 

The pantsuit has long cemented its status as a symbol of power for women, a tangible extension of their ethos speaking to a feminist ambition. A century ago, women who wore suits were frowned upon in society, and some, even thrown behind bars for what was deemed an inappropriate dress code. Donning a pantsuit ensemble was primarily a demand for equality in the workplace. Originally cut for the male body, the stringent pantsuit in its earlier days inherently concealed what was considered a liability: the feminine silhouette. 

Through the years, the role of the pantsuit has shifted from an outcry for equality to an unabashed display of power. Appropriated from the male wardrobe, designers have, across the years, tailored the pantsuit to the curves of a woman’s body. Coco Chanel, for instance, is credited as being amongst the first to borrow from menswear suits in creating the womenswear equivalent. Chanel’s preposition was a collarless boxy jacket with fitted sleeves, braided trim and embellished buttons, accompanied by a figure-flattering slimline skirt. Since breaking away from the rigidity of menswear suits, the repertoire of suits crafted for women run the gamut from the iconic structured Le Smoking tuxedo by Yves Saint Laurent to the intentionally oversized renditions of Maison Margiela and form-fitting silhouettes at Dior.

 

Today, they have become somewhat of a permanent fixture on the runways, appropriated by brands like Céline and Stella McCartney with every passing season. The once exacting codes of the suit, in the contemporary landscape, have been altered by an inclination towards versatility. These sensibilities took centre stage at Giorgio Armani’s Spring/Summer ’18 runway presentation

“The suit has an incredible iconographic power and ease of use. It expresses awareness and control, and is, in my deconstructed version, easy to wear. With the proper adaptations, I find it perfect for him and for her; a magnificent and elegant passe-partout,” said Armani.

 

Under the Italian designer’s treatment, the suit comes undone. Losing its formality, its deconstructed structure sits relaxed, draping the body closely. Here, it breaks away from the regiment of a uniform, instead serving to accentuate the wearer’s personality and individuality. The only reminder of its former boardroom formality was Armani’s choice of a stark grey colour palette, and even then, given the visual appeal of luxury fabrications. 

“Grey is the colour par excellence of the male suit. This season I presented it in a silky, shimmering version for the women’s collection, focusing on the alluring effect of the jacket cut close to the body,” explained Armani.

 

An early purveyor of androgyny, Armani first introduced the crossover in menswear and womenswear codes some 30 years ago. Since then, his collections of suits for women have been established as a stylistic signature. In moving with the zeitgeist, Armani’s Spring/Summer ’18 collection echoed the sentiment that the true power of a woman lies in embracing the qualities that make her one.