Suits are back!
This is a fabulous article written by Hattie Crisell for The Times and well worth a read!
When was the last time you bought a suit? At the age of 34, I’ve never even tried one on, yet in recent weeks I keep finding myself window-shopping: suddenly I have a yearning for one in a bright colour and, even more ridiculously, in corduroy or velvet.
If you’re over 45 you may recall wearing a suit to your first job interview — not of the kind I’ve described above, but something muted that said: “I’ll never call in ill with a hangover.” Even in the world of corporate style, for some time we have been drifting away from those matching-blazer-and-pencil-skirt days; businesswear now favours sleek dresses with jackets bought separately.
While we can all recognise the sex appeal of Le Smoking (Yves Saint Laurent’s tuxedo for women, launched in 1966), to call your average navy two-piece “sexy” would be a stretch. They’re too stuffy, too dowdy, too associated with bank managers and cabin crew. But this autumn it’s all change: exciting, attention-seeking suits are everywhere, and they’re urging us to let our hair down.
Yes, 2017 suiting is a more exotic animal. Steer clear of tasteful neutrals, conservative cuts and anything to which one might apply the adjective “sensible”; look for something colourful, tactile and above all appropriate for socialising, not for the office. Dress it up with a silk blouse, buttoned to the top or louchely flashing a bit of bra. Add pretty or quirky heels, but don’t even think about black court shoes, which take the look straight into “regional sales manager” territory. In casual mode nothing could be more chic than a suit paired with a white T-shirt and clean trainers or loafers — or layered over a fine polo-neck jumper, à la Katharine Hepburn.
The recent flurry of fashion weeks has provided plenty of inspiration. Suits were ubiquitous on the catwalks of Chloé, Roksanda, Halpern and a dozen other designers, but most noticeably among the guests. Like catnip for the street-style photographers outside the shows, they varied from the cropped to the ludicrously wide-legged and came in a rainbow of bright yellow, postbox red and sky blue.
If you want to buy into it, look for flair. Take my favourite, from the New York label Theory: it comprises a velvet “power jacket” (as the brand calls it) and tuxedo trousers in “electric pink” (also its wording; I would have plumped mundanely for “burgundy”). They are £460 and £305 respectively (selfridges.com). When I mentioned to a friend that I had my eye on a suit of this hue, he immediately sent me a photograph of Will Ferrell in Anchorman — but his nay-saying fell on deaf ears. Fashion is above all about feeling good, and what could feel more fabulous than an electric-pink velvet power suit?
A word of warning, however. Designers are at the moment particularly enamoured with the trouser suit, as opposed to the skirt version, so this is where you’ll find the greatest selection (although if the latter is your preference, read on for ideas). At the top end, Gabriela Hearst offers a 1970s-ish double-breasted check suit with wide lapels (jacket £1,820, trousers £1,125, matchesfashion.com). Paul Smith, of course, is an expert in this department and has a selection in indigo, cornflower blue and teal. My pick is his slouchy version in a reddish houndstooth; the jacket (£695) is fitted, while the trousers (£395, both paulsmith.com) are double-pleated, roomy and cropped at the ankle.
Hebe Studio specialises in the kind of suits that would be wildly inappropriate at a shareholder meeting, but would go down a treat at Studio 54, and indeed at any swanky party you may attend in the 21st century. All made in Italy, the pieces range from a powder-pink satin-lapelled blazer (£330) to navy palazzo pants (£180, both hebe-studio.com), so that you can mix and match, positioning yourself somewhere on the spectrum from understated chic to flamboyant glamour. No skirts available, sadly.
If trousers really aren’t your thing, don’t despair. For those who are feeling exhibitionist (and flush), there is Gucci: try its blue tweed jacket with red trim (£1,610) and matching pleated skirt (£975, both matchesfashion.com). Sandro has a boxy cropped jacket with tattoo-like embroidered patches (£345) and an accompanying miniskirt with a raw hem (£185, both uk.sandro-paris.com).
Mango’s suit comes in Prince of Wales check (blazer £79.99, skirt £35.99, mango.com), while at Hobbs you can find the Joella jacket (£149) and kilt (£99, hobbs.co.uk) in a matching mulberry hue. At Cos try the grey wool skirt (£55) with blocks of green and yellow mohair, plus a matching cardie (£69, both cosstores.com). OK, it’s an offbeat twist on a suit, but for our purposes anything goes. With that in mind I’m off to make a wild and impractical purchase. It will be absolutely useless if I’m ever called on to broker a business deal, but my God it’s going to look fantastic at parties.