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From Milan to Muscat: How the Suit Became a Woman’s Wardrobe Essential

how to wear women’s suits Bianca Jagger

Christian Dior Spring 1999. Courtesy of CNI digital archive.

The new generation women’s suit is a rebellion against the bygone era of the body-con dress and the tight creations that dominated the runways for seasons, from the Resort 2017 to Fall 2017 collections. Over the course of a year, we’ve seen a move towards more fluid shapes of the Phoebe Philo aesthetic, with long sleeves and hemlines at Valentino, and mannish tailoring made relevant for the modern woman under J.W. Anderson, Lemaire, Racil, and Erdem. Barbara Casasola also included numerous looks in her latest collections that hinged on women’s suiting, rather than her signature evening gowns.

how to wear women’s suits Bianca Jagger

Cindy Crawford walking for Ralph Lauren Spring 1989. Courtesy of CNI digital archive.

The atmosphere is decidedly slick, and the suit is at the epicenter of a clothing revolution. While we see the likes of Style.com’s Director Yasmin Sewell, millennial supermodel Gigi Hadid, and W magazine’s Giovanna Engelbert hustling through busy fashion landscapes clad in head-to-toe soft tailoring, the suit is not just a piece of power dressing in today’s world.

Arwa Al Banawi See-Now-Buy-Now Collection at Fashion Forward Dubai Fall 2017. Courtesy of Arwa Al Banawi

Saudi designer Arwa Al Banawi’s collections have a strong focus on the pantsuit: “I look into making women feel comfortable and powerful at the same time by changing the classic pantsuit into looking more effortless and cool, modernizing it for the millennial age,” she shares with Vogue Arabia.

“Women nowadays are making a change in the world and they are being heard, especially in the Gulf.”

how to wear women’s suits Bianca Jagger

Arwa Al Banawi Spring 2017. FFWD/Getty.

“If I can make a woman feel powerful in her own skin then nothing makes me happier as a designer because fashion is about feelings and most importantly it’s about people,” adds Al Banawi. “I want to stress on women empowerment the only way I know how, which is via my designs. Fashion is about messages and stories and “the suitable woman” is a leader—a passionate and aspiring woman that I think people look up to—whether she’s from the Gulf or anywhere else in the world,” she explains.

how to wear women’s suits Bianca Jagger

Thierry Mugler Spring 1997. Courtesy of CNI digital archive.

This so called “fashion revolution” has been a longtime in the pipeline before it could hit 2016’s breakout status. Iconic women throughout history have turned to the suit as a sartorial position that emboldened their social footing as strong, dynamic women with careers, perhaps children, and a schedule to stick to.

Vogue Arabia decodes four of the biggest power players behind the statement suit.

 

Marlene Dietrich

Style signature: Loose-fit suits in woollen cloth, and waved, slick hair.

Style hall of fame: Born in 1901, the silent film actress enjoyed a long career at the apex of her game thanks to her ability to reinvent her look. Famed for her prominent cheek bones, thin arched eyebrows, and penchant for mannish tailoring; her look is inimitable.

Lesson to learn: Borrow your man’s shirt, tuck it in, and apply lipstick.

 

how to wear women’s suits Bianca Jagger

Bianca Jagger wearing Halston, en route to a party at Kenny LAne’s house, New York, 29th October 1974. REX/Shutterstock

Bianca Jagger

Style signature: White fitted suits and long dark hair worn down, or slicked back.

Style hall of fame: The model human rights activist pushed boundaries with style statements and her politics. With her wedding to Mick Jagger splashed across global newspapers, her white wedding tuxedo became an iconic fashion moment in an instant.

Lesson to learn: Contrast a repertoire of flowing dresses with close-fit tailored jackets and suits.

 

Charlotte Rampling

Style signature: A velvet tuxedo suit worn with a bow tie.

Style hall of fame: The English art house film actress and Vogue cover girl was awarded an OBE for her life’s work, but her wardrobe also deserves a notice in the fashion hall of fame. Rampling broke the mould by opting for suits and trousers over dresses at key events. In an interview with The Guardian, Rampling stated, “I love men’s suits. I only wear a dress if I absolutely have to.”

Lesson to learn: Mix textures. Take velvet and team it with silk or cotton separates.

 

Jane Birkin

Style signature: Straw basket, reworked jeans, track T-shirts, and Donegal tweed suits.

Style hall of fame: Hermès named its most iconic bag after Jane Birkin following a chance encounter on a flight with the company’s Chief Executive, Jean-Louis Dumas. Birkin’s straw bag split open, and allegedly the star told the CEO that she couldn’t find a leather design that she liked (history was made). Birkin encapsulated her bohemian spirit and devil-may-care flair with her wardrobe, and made herself a cult icon for generations of women. Suit jackets worn with jeans, or relaxed wool suits epitomize her style file.

Lesson to learn: Rotate your shift dresses, and wear a suit during the working week.

 

Who is your favorite style icon? Let us know via Twitter @VogueArabia.

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