THE TREND: Pantsuits, the pairing of slacks and a blazer as modeled off men’s suits but worn by women for casual, work and formal wear.
ITS INVENTION: Invented as a mainstream “trend” in the ’60s by Yves Saint Laurent and Andre Scourges, the pantsuit was a controversial fashion piece of the day and as some will argue, remains so in particular environments today.
While Courrèges pioneered the “trend” of trousers with his trouser-suit in 1961, it was YSL who pushed the idea onto fashion buyers in 1966, when he introduced the “Le Smoking” pantsuit into his collection for the fall/winter season. The suit included a tuxedo style jacket and what fashion reporters coined “city pants” for the trouser-pants.
From the its humble beginning in the ’60s through even today, pantsuits are a controversial fashion staple for women.
Soon after its introduction in the late ’60s, women wearing a pantsuit at restaurants were sometimes refused service. According to Paper the story goes that:
“The unacceptability of trouser suits in many elegant restaurants continued to put off the press. The story went around of a trouser ed client who was regretfully refused admittance by the headwaiter of a well-known London restaurant and who, by way of reply, retired to the ladies’ room, removed her trousers, presented herself anew in her mini-length suit jacket, and was smilingly led to her table.”
Actresses and ’60s fashion icons like Katharine Hepburn wore pantsuits without apology, thereby paving the way for the democratization of fashion between men and women for today.
ITS INFLUENCE: While most hardly blink an eye at a woman wearing a pantsuit today, the issue of “should she wear trousers” remained until the 1990s, when the US Senate finally allowed woman senators to wear pantsuits during sessions of Congress.
It’s unbelievable to think that it wasn’t so long ago pantsuits were considered a fashion no-no in the work place, and that women were being discriminated against because they chose to illustrate those two things we’re all born with called “legs” via the trouser.
While bold, big blazers reigned supreme in the era of ’80s power suiting, most women of that lady-in-charge-era still wore skirts below their football sized shoulder pads.
Today, more conservative institutions like banks, government agencies and law firms still occasionally snub the sophistication of the pantsuit for women. Depending on where you live in the United States, you still may prefer wearing a skirt to work for fear of your fashion statement becoming water cooler gossip.
Today, the pantsuit continues to appear on the catwalk in fresh, feminine styles that flatter the figure and embrace modern trends. Cut in various styles, fits, and colors, no two pantsuits are ever created alike. While a man’s pinstripe suit can only take on a handful of variations, a female’s pinstripe suit can come in any color, any cut and any trouser-type/blazer-type coordination.
The possibilities are limitless and thanks to the ’60s, woman can comfortably say that they wear the pants, too.