Oct 23

The Evolution of the Power Suit for Women! – Mavelle style

Let’s talk about menswear for women. I have been wanting to write a post about menswear inspired fashion and women wearing power suits for some time now simply because I personally love wearing a great suit and menswear inspired pieces.When I put on a suit I feel confident, smart, driven and, well, like a Bad Ass #BossBabe. I have never felt manly in a suit (unless it was ill-fitting and then it was all bad) yet always sexy because I find the above attributes to be just that… sexy. However, with the whole #PantsuitNation and Lady Gaga “wearing the pants” media stories of recent times it got me thinking about how wearing a suit still sends a powerful message and is not always just a fashion choice.Historically, a woman wearing a suit was a message of power and controversy and today, while many ladies are still suiting up to send a message and the media still talks about it… Hi Lady Gaga… we are lucky enough to be able to purchase almost any style of suit we want from almost any designer we want thanks to the women who suited up before us and the risk-taking designers who had a daring vision.Here’s a look at the evolution of the power suit for women:In the 1870’s actress Sarah Bernhardt created scandal in Paris by wearing a custom-made trouser suit. In 1914 Coco Channel designed her (maybe the) first designer suit for women. It was a fur-trimmed jacket with a matching knee length skirt. In the 1930’s Marlene Dietrich wore a tuxedo and top hat while performing on stage. In 1932 French designer, Marcel Rochas, was credited with originating the idea of pairing pants with matching jackets by designing the first wide-shouldered suit for women. I guess the 80’s version was actually a fashion comeback if you can believe it. In November 1939, Vogue fashion editor, Elizabeth Penrose, spoke out against women who wore the new suit trend outside of the workplace saying those women are “letting themselves go” and are “slackers in slacks.” Yikes… can you imagine if the editor of a large magazine said (probably more like tweeted) something like that today? The ladies on the View would have their head.  Then came the Zoot Suit era. The Mexican American woman zoot suiter, or pachuca, came onto the scene in the 1940’s. One of their most distinguishing characteristics was that they wore the same zoot suits that the men wore projecting a tough and rebellious image. Zoot suits were synonymous with gangsters but for pachucas the suit represented more than that. The look symbolized feminism; rejecting the idea that women should just be wives and mothers. On November 22, 1963 First Lady Jacqueline Kennedy wore a pink Chanel suit to an event in Dallas; this was the day President JFK was assassinated. The suit was stained with blood and for historic preservation it has never been cleaned and is on display for viewers to see as one of history’s more famous Chanel Suits. In 1964 André Courrèges introduced a slim, minimalist pantsuit for women to wear both day and evening. This was the first time a women’s line of pants was introduced for formal/evening attire. In 1966 Yves Saint Laurent designed a woman’s formal tuxedo, which he later referred to as his most important design. An updated style has been included in every collection from the brand since. Soon after, in 1969, an American socialite, Nan Kempner, was denied entry to a restaurant in Manhattan because she was wearing an YSL pantsuit. So what did she do? She took off the pants and strolled in wearing the top half of the ensemble and called it a mini-dress. Today you are more likely to be kicked out for the latter. Following the 60’s was the 70’s, which brought us Annie Hall. This doesn’t need much more explaining because the character and style of Annie Hall is still considered to be that of a fashion icon and maybe even the first menswear inspired style icon. Eventually, the decade of the power suit arrived. It was the 80’s and it came with shoulder pads, decorative buttons, and bright colors. This was the decade they took sex out of fashion and replaced it with seriousness. Business woman from all over were wearing the trend to mask their feminine features in order to prove they could hold their own in a “mans world.” Eventually, the look spread beyond the office and into the social scenes; we can thank shows like Dynasty for that one. Luckily, there were designers like Donna Karen who believed women could walk into a boardroom looking feminine and still own respect. Designers like this are what got us through the 90’s and helped to put us on the path to where we are today; where menswear doesn’t have to mean unflattering and trying to hide the fact that we are, in fact, women. Now I bring you to the year 2000. This was the year Hillary Clinton made her Senate-election victory speech, saying, “Sixty-two counties, 16 months, three debates, two opponents, and six black pantsuits later, because of you, here we are.” Today, we have entered the years of power dressing = anything goes. It is no longer a suit that makes your look powerful but instead the woman who wears the pants (pun intended) or skirt, or whatever she feels confident in.  Women are wearing suits to work, on the red carpet, to formal events and in their everyday life. They are also wearing jeans to the office and feminine dresses to tackle what the day has to offer. Woman are no longer hiding their bodies under boxy shoulder pads in order to be taken serious, they are not afraid of looking weak in a dress or like they’ve let themselves go if they wear a suit. Powerful and strong women come in all shapes and sizes and with all types of style. Women are bad asses and they are letting the world see it. Even if we still call it MENSwear and the media talked about Lady Gaga wearing a suit to an award show for at least three days, we really have come a long way. Women are owning the modernized power look and that makes wearing a suit and menswear inspired pieces all the more funShop menswear inspired and chic power suit pieces below.Stay Fabulous, Lovies.XO,Jenna

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