Trouser suits

I am not one to follow trends. I am not breathless about what is shown at London Fashion Week, or the latest looks from Philip Lim or Victoria Beckham. I don’t have a subscription to Vogue and much of my interest in clothes is informed by my interest in either politics or the world of work. But I do keep my eye on trends and fashion which I find endlessly fascinating for what they tell us, as well as for the inspiration they provide. My all time favourite blog is from Anne of Pretty Grievances , especially her weekly Wearable Wednesday features. Where of course she features the totally unwearable and sends up the latest ridiculous fashions with the most hilarious, knowing, irreverent commentary. Long may she continue (and I hope she brings out a book of it all one day).

However over the last few weeks I have been noticing one trend which I have found both interesting and inspirational. The return of the pant suit. I feel the designers (like a few of the TV series writers) had been assuming a Lady President would be in charge of free world by now. In their mind (a few months ago) they were designing for female power even if the election results were unexpected.

I have been looking at some of the designs on show at New York fashion week in particular and noticed a few trends that may be of interest to those of us who make our own clothes.

Colourful Pant Suits

Of course Mrs Clinton has made the colourful pant suit her own, and finally it has moved from parody to mainstream. Personally I like wearing colourful trousers which I regularly twin with a sober shirt-type blouse or a navy or grey jacket. I think this looks fresher than dark trousers with a colourful jacket, but that can work well too. Of course the cat-walk models usually pair a pant suit with a push up bra, but I wouldn’t do that. Especially if you have the habit of taking off the jacket as the meeting room warms up.

I am really attracted to the delicious red pant suit at Altazurra – the lovely wide lapels, elegant princess line, the interesting sleeves and maybe even the shortish trousers. But the thing I like the best is the belt, or rather the ribbon, tied across the waist making the suit very feminine and modern.


A second Clintonesque offering is the pink suit. I have picked this one, from Phillip Lim, as it demonstrates the wider look that is catching on. Pleated trousers! I tried a pair of these (from M&S last year) and actually found them wearable and quite attractive. The key, I think, is to use the belt to pull them in at the top and to wear a close fitting blouse like the model here. You have to leave the jacket open, otherwise you might look like you are wearing a clown suit. These trousers are worn long, skimming the floor, and high (above the waist) to create as long a leg as possible.

Philip Lim

Belted jackets

Here is another version of the belted, tailored jacket. The whole suit is voluminous with long, long sleeves, with interesting button detailing, and long, long pants. So the wide belt makes it really work effectively. I also really like the navy shirt with cravat.

Michael Kors


“Loud” fabrics

Some of the pant suits on display were made in what my father used to refer to as “loud” – Menswear fabrics with an obvious weave, a large or colourful check or shiny fabrics. I think these are very hard to wear as they usually make the wearer look much bigger. I am finding the wider lapels very fresh and interesting with wide but still natural shoulders. Although this model is probably very slim (US s0) and usually tall she looks like a s14 in this double-breasted, plaid suit. Having said that I really like the masculine styling and in a plain colour I think it is a wearable outfit.

Acceptable work wear

The remaining suits are really wearable, and office appropriate, in my view. They are just nicely made, conservative but stylish suits that would look up to the minute and smart for a senior politician, manager or business woman. Maybe the styling is a bit odd, but I think any of these suits would be very suitable as well as comfortable and versatile. Would you wear any of them? I like the Jason Wu best myself.

Victoria Beckham
Ralph Lauren New York Womenswear Fall Winter 17 New York February 201
Jason Wu
Altuzarra New York Womenswear FW17 New York February 2017

Since working hard on a men’s suit jacket I feel I could actually make myself a nice trouser suit. Having had a look around at Burda and Vogue there is nothing current to match any of these looks. The best, to my mind, are vintage patterns. Have a look at McQueen’s Vogue Paris Original 2467, and 1970s Yves Saint Laurent Vogue Paris Original 1143 – Stephanie’s favourite.

Any other suggestions?

25 Responses

  1. Demented Fairy

    Nice one missus! I like the Altazarra, although the Wu does have lovely use of pattern. I have a trouser suit pattern itching to make up for Dawn, although she wants the usual ‘to lose some weight’ before I do. Whatever! One of the first patterns I ever bought was a rather challenging [for a novice] three piece trouser suit, in about 1977. It was never finished, as the welt pockets defeated me, but the trousers were worn for many years.
    I think you’d be great in a vintage suit, maybe something more 1940s inspired, with the fitted jacket and loose trousers: go for it!

    • fabrickated

      Thanks Demented Fairy – useful feedback. You are probably right about the fitted jacket. I think I have suit envy – my male colleagues never really have to consider what to wear, whereas it is always a consideration for me. And I know what Dawn means about not working too hard on something that won’t fit later. But I always think the world (or its wife) will provide a perfectly fitting outfit if the body change happens.

    • fabrickated

      Yes! I have come to value and appreciate the 1980s all over again Chris. The two vintage patterns I picked out are from the 1970s and the 1990s. All of these looks though seem to blend themes rather than stick to one definable one, don’t you think?

  2. Stephanie

    Love this piece, Kate. My go to is a pant suit as I am not a skirt person, especially in winter when I want to be warm. I have the YSL jacket on my list for SWAP. I do love the YSL pants but I wear them infrequently as they are impractical for walking, which I do a lot of. Moreover I had a funny incident last year, catching my foot in them on the way into a meeting and nearly landing on the top dog i was visiting…not the best way to make your case…You make me want to use my red fabric to make the whole YSL suit, rather than the Valentino one. I suppose I can make both!

    • fabrickated

      Oh dear. I can see that happening. How embarassing.

      We need practical, comfortable, warm, and user friendly as well as elegant, professional and becoming. And yes a red YSL suit sounds amazing. I love that idea.

      • Stephanie

        I had considered the red YSL suit last year after seeing the perfect one in Max Mara. I will definitely give it some more thought. Great inspiration here. I usually stick with slim pants for work, although I have been thinking about slimming down the a YSL ones for something in the middle. Fortunately the guy I was visiting knows me… and I have embarrassed myself more with him on other occasions. 🙂

  3. Lynn Mally

    What caught my eye was the pant length. Some were the currently trendy cropped pants (which I see rarely where I live) and others were super long. I wonder if that means that the cropped style hasn’t really taken hold?

  4. Abbey

    So many lovely examples here! The statement lapels are always very exciting; even some of the blouses have them in these exhibits. =)

    I quite like the idea of the bold plaid suit paired with an obviously sheer/gauze-y top underneath–it’s a nice juxtaposition of weights and masculine/feminine, although the colors of this particular plaid aren’t my favorite…too muddy. I’m also not a fan of the big, square jacket shape (the Victoria Beckham example) or double-breasted jackets at all, but I am loving the return of the pant suit in so many variations! Some of the fabrications are really interesting as well (the striped Altuzarra, the Jason Wu example, etc.). I hope you will consider one for yourself, as I think you’d look fab in one!

  5. mrsmole

    Just looking at the buttons and buttonholes on all these jackets makes me smile…so diverse and the Ralph Lauren one (love the animal accessories) can be closed either way left or right. The Altuzarra draws your eye to the very center and the Jason Wu with no buttons has none of the plaid matching even in the pants. For those of us who wore and sewed these styles the first time around in the 70’s…we are so pleased to see them return albeit with belts. The Victoria Beckham just misses the mark being too huge and worn with ridiculous gloves. If Hillary had gotten in…this would be the suit of choice for sure!

  6. Naomi

    I’m all about the pants – wide leg often. I love a good jacket paired with them too, but usually go for a contrasting rather than matching colour. I only have a few actual jackets that work in this way – in terracotta and one in navy. I also have a red seersucker one that is only really for warmer weather. I’m hoping to make a cobalt blue blazer sometime this year.
    I do love the images you have shown here Kate. That navy and white combo is especially en pointe.

  7. Bunny

    I just love these floor scraping, loose, pleated trousers. I can’t wait to make some and will be on the search for a great woven, but probably for next winter. This is a look I have always loved and actually mourned the day when my old pairs were just not in style any more. So glad this look is back. I am not sure I will get to wear suits ever again but these trousers, YES!

  8. Sue

    Back in the day those pink Phillip Lim trousers would have been known as “paper bag” trousers, and I loved them! Another great post, thank you.

  9. Chris T

    I love the Altazurra and the Ralph Lauren suit too, but the McQueen one is the best. I noticed how ill most of the models looked, how sad that they have been chosen by such stylist houses

  10. ceci

    Some of these examples are a little clownish, but in real life a good pants suit is a lovely thing to have in the wardrobe!


  11. Elle

    Love these examples–so many ways to take the traditional (well for men anyway) suit into new territory: relaxed and sexy while still a suit.

  12. Denise babin

    This is an inspiring post for me, as I’m thinking I could use a good pantsuit. I plan to look back at the 1990s Neue Mode patterns, which are still sold online, for possibilities.

  13. Kim

    Gorgeous suits – although I find the broad stripes a bit ‘Beetlejuice’. Suits are perfect work wear but it’s nice to have feminine details. Plenty on show here ?.

  14. Brenda

    I’ve got to say I’m not sold on the pant suit, and particularly not on a loud, bold design. I think many of the details, such as the belt, could be added to a more traditional, classic suit. I think I like your idea of a bold pant with a subdued top & jacket better than any of the pics you included here. But maybe that just speaks to the classic part of my style. 🙂

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