First, there was Zara’s all-conquering, instantly-sold-out lemon yellow corduroy co-ord; a surprise hit (due to the unusual color) featuring a double breasted jacket and cropped trousers. Then, a powder pink version with ’70s-style brown leather buttons appeared at & Other Stories; and soon alternate versions of the New Suit were proliferating absolutely everywhere else. Several months later, and what looked like it might be a brief summer fashion fling is proving to be a trend with increasingly long legs. Yes, the pastel shades and ankle-baring trousers of late summer have beaten a retreat, but they were soon replaced by a wide selection of new, more wintery styles – on the catwalks, through the mid-range, and all over the high street.
One thing is for sure: the suit trend isn’t going anywhere fast. And frankly I don’t know why anyone would want it to. Who among us doesn’t miss the sheer simplicity (if not the aesthetic) of putting on the same school uniform every day? Even Barack Obama, during his time as POTUS, wore the exact same tuxedo and shoes to every single posh event he attended. While Michelle Obama’s outfits were pored over in great detail (“People take pictures of the shoes I wear, the bracelets, the necklace,” Michelle said last year), no one even noticed that her husband had the same look on repeat: “They didn’t comment that for eight years [Barack] wore the same tux, same shoes,” she said.
This gendered double standard is tiring for everyone (except perhaps the men in suits), so while we should absolutely stop scrutinizing women’s red carpet and black tie style so minutely (and judging it so cruelly), there is a useful takeaway from this outing of Barack Obama’s international fashion secret: suits are always stylish, no matter how many times you wear the same one. This isn’t news to many a butch woman (and, indeed, Cate Blanchett), but it does explain why a colorful suit worn simply with trainers and a T-shirt has become go-to office-wear for droves of women working in the creative industries all around the world.
In recent months, suits have taken on an even greater symbolic meaning, one that eclipses their simple efficiency, and is more a modern update to the glass-ceiling busting power suits of the Eighties. For her appearance at Elle magazine’s Women in Hollywood event last week, Lady Gaga eschewed the glittering couture gowns she wore throughout the promotional campaign for her Oscar-tipped film debut, A Star Is Born. Instead, she opted for an exaggeratedly oversized grey suit from Marc Jacobs’ Autumn Winter 18 catwalk collection – a parade of wrapped-up, colorful ’80s couture style.
“In this suit, I felt like me today,” Gaga said of the 180 fashion pivot. “In this suit, I felt the truth of who I am well up in my gut… As a sexual assault survivor by someone in the entertainment industry, as a woman who is still not brave enough to say his name, as a woman who lives with chronic pain, as a woman who was conditioned at a very young age to listen to what men told me to do, I decided today I wanted to take the power back. Today, I wear the pants.”
Gaga’s statement-making (in both senses of the phrase) look made waves across the media, and soon gained its first homage: for the launch of Rimmel’s ‘I Will Not Be Deleted’ campaign (raising awareness of appearance-based cyberbullying), Rita Ora wore a bold suit from the same Marc Jacobs collections. While Rita didn’t comment directly on her suit, it had a powerful visual impact as she spoke about the pain cyberbullying has personally caused her. “Earlier in my career I was completely obsessed with the comments and I saw some hurtful horrible things that made me think twice about [whether] I even want to do music,” she said during a BBC News interview.
So, whether you’re queering the fashion codes, seeking a powerful look to match your determined (and perhaps defiant) outlook on life and work, or even if you’re just a fan of the suited-up aesthetic, your time is now. We have searched high and low, and travelled far and wide (around the internet) to find the best suits money can buy – whatever your budget.
At Refinery29, we’re here to help you navigate this overwhelming world of stuff. All of our market picks are independently selected and curated by the editorial team. If you buy something we link to on our site, Refinery29 may earn commission.
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