Women's suits have come a long way since their inception in the 1920s. From empowering symbols of liberation in the 1920s and 30s, to practical and stylish expressions of professionalism in the 80s and 90s, the women's suit has always been a reflection of the changing cultural and societal norms. Today, women's suits continue to evolve, offering endless styles, shapes, and designs to suit the needs of women in all walks of life. From boardrooms to bridal wear, women's suits are a timeless and versatile fashion staple.
Women's suits have a rich and pioneering history, despite not being as dated as men's suits which date back to the 1600s. The first significant instance of a woman adopting a man's suit as her own was in 1870 when actress Sarah Bernhardt started wearing "boy's clothes" in public. This was considered scandalous at the time, but it didn't stop her from pushing the boundaries of gender roles. She even went on to play the lead role in Hamlet in 1899, showing her ahead of her time in many ways. Sarah Bernhardt was the forerunner for what has now become a signature style for modern women.
Marlene Dietrich was a trailblazer in women's fashion, paving the way for the popularity of pantsuits. Her iconic tuxedos and white double-breasted suits, seen in films such as Morocco, Blonde Venus, and Seven Sinners, challenged traditional gender norms and sparked a revolution in women's wear.
In 1910, the suffragette movement gained momentum and with it came women who were more assertive and involved. The rallies, marches, and acts of civil disobedience demanded attire that was not restrictive like the traditional 1800s clothing. Thus, the Suffragette Suit was born, which was a sharp contrast to the popular hobble skirt, a mainstream fashion of the era that was so tight at the ankles it hindered the wearer's movement.
The Suffragette Suit symbolized a progressive woman and was an inspiration for fashion icon and grande dame Coco Chanel. Chanel is one of the most renowned designers of women's suits and rose to fame during World War I by replacing corsets with tailored garments. She is credited with creating the first truly feminine suit in modern times. The Chanel suit retained its elegance and femininity, unlike its predecessors.
The liberation of women's fashion continued during the Jazz Age, as women widely started wearing pants for leisure activities, especially tennis, horse riding, and cycling. Prior to that time and in some places even afterwards, a woman wearing pants was considered cross-dressing and was often punishable by law.
In 1933, Eleanor Roosevelt made history as the first First Lady to wear trousers at an official event. She was out riding and didn't have the chance to change before hosting the annual White House Easter egg roll. Although her attire was unintended, she embraced it and even posed for photos in her unconventional outfit, raising eyebrows.
And then we have Marlene Dietrich who was a trailblazer in women's fashion, paving the way for the popularity of pantsuits. Her iconic tuxedos and white double-breasted suits, seen in films such as Morocco, Blonde Venus, and Seven Sinners, challenged traditional gender norms and sparked a revolution in women's wear. Her influence coincided with Marcel Rochas creating the first ready-to-wear women's pant suits. By the 1940s, Katherine Hepburn had also embraced trousers, further popularizing them as a staple in women's wardrobes. Vogue magazine's first spread featuring women in trousers was published in 1939.
The female suit saw a decline in popularity after World War II, as many women sought to return to traditional domestic roles after participating in the wartime workforce. Dior's "New Look" emphasized the 1950s housewife look with cinched waists and voluminous skirts. However, by the 1960s, the suit regained popularity as 40% of women joined the workforce. This decade marked several milestones in equality, including the Equal Pay Act of 1963, the Civil Rights Act of 1964, and a Presidential ban on gender discrimination in 1967. The 1960s also saw designer Andre Courreges bring back the suit as stylish daytime and evening wear.
In 1966, Yves Saint Laurent cemented his iconic status with the release of his "Le Smoking" tuxedo for women. At the time, this tuxedo was so ahead of its time that many hotels and restaurants wouldn't allow women inside while wearing it. In 1971, Bianca Pérez-Mora Macías made a lasting impression when she married Mick Jagger while wearing a white Le Smoking outfit designed by Yves Saint Laurent. The seventies also saw the rise of unisex clothing in youth culture and the implementation of Title IX, which allowed girls to wear pants in public schools.
During the 1980s, more women were entering the workforce with over 50% of women participating. The decade was famous for the power suit, with Giorgio Armani leading the trend. The androgynous design featured large shoulder pads and an over-sized jacket silhouette, which became the iconic look for women in the business world.
In 1993, Senators Barbara Mikulski and Carol Moseley-Braun initiated a change by advocating for the repeal of the restriction against women wearing pants on the Senate floor. It is difficult to fathom that only a quarter of a century ago, a woman could be dismissed from Congress just for wearing trousers.
In recent years, there has been a remarkable increase in the number of women in various fields such as business, politics, and sports, with a record-breaking number of women elected to the US Congress in the past year. The rise of women's rights movements like #TimesUp and #MeToo has also brought more attention to women's issues. Furthermore, an increasing number of women are leading major corporations. As a result, the women's suit is making a comeback in fashion. With a trend in men's wear towards more casual looks, designers are updating their collections to cater to professional women who want to look stylish and fashionable in the workplace.
Tracy Studio is taking the lead in creating elegant and feminine tailored suits for women. With an array of designs inspired by trailblazing women like Coco Chanel, Marlene Dietrich, Katherine Hepburn, and Bianca Jagger, the brand is offering women the opportunity to express their power, confidence and style in a sophisticated way. The brand's suits are made to cater to the modern woman who demands nothing less than the best. Let’s take a look at Tracy Studio’s women’s suit.