Do I Really Want to Wear a *&%#$ Suit?
I have to say I have a particular association with wearing a suit which is: the inner ring of hell, aka my brief time as a lawyer. I left college and went straight to law school and left law school and went right to a firm. Plus I have always been immature. So the result was this only relatively out of her teens person completely out of place in a law firm, mostly because it looked so fun on LA Law.
I had a hunter green Ann Taylor suit (“You might want to rethink your hemlines, Ally McBeal,” said a female partner I worked for), plus a black one that I broke into pieces which I wore with two blazers handed down from my mom. I could have bought more with my ginormous lawyer salary, but who had the time? And talk about a not fun purchase. The suit was just a costume. And I was the imposter who put it on.
Until I quit. I spent the next years as a freelance writer and then as a creative director in a PR firm before I went off to SmartBargains and soon after was part of the launch of Rue La La. I still I wore a white DVF wrap dress in crisp cotton on my first day, a divorced, single mom, entering a whole new world. Never again would I put on that suit.
Today I’m 50 and I’ve owned my own marketing/ad/brand venture, Honor Code Creative, for over three years. I am far, far away from shaky little lawyer-girl. And I am venturing into suiting again. Today a suit makes me feel incredibly powerful. Especially right now in a world that makes me long to feel in control of something.
It’s also a uniform, which I sometimes long for as someone who is constantly multitasking. As much as I love clothes and playing in the closet, there are days when I wake up and I don’t have time to think. Right now, I still have to put something on to get me through a day of calls and help me feel like a business person, at least from 9–5. A suit smartly does all the work.
I currently own 2 suits +. Here’s what I mean by 2+.
- Black with ecru striped Alexander McQueen, bought at a Saks sale. I kind of fell into my first suit in this new life because it was on sale, so I thought, I’ll try it, and boom. I was in. It has really great sharp tailoring with those big, structured shoulders (bolstering my shrunken ones) It’s light wool that can cross multiple seasons and it’s beautifully cut at the waist with these triangular insets. I’ve worn it to a meeting at Converse with a pair of Comme de Garcons All Stars and a T-shirt. I’ve worn it to a nighttime event with a cami and a pair of sharp pumps. And to any meeting I’ve fallen out of bed and basically rolled over to. Just some Trinny London BFF and I’m good to go. Also coffee.
- Prada gray suit plus bonus shorts from Saks during Triple Points. The first suit gave me such return on investment that last year I wanted to buy a summer suit. The gray suit I chose is super lightweight and unlined. The jacket is oversized in a way that feels current, but not so oversized that it’s going to get dated quickly. It has special details like cuffs that are flipped up with striped silk peeking out and buckles. The line is really long and wearable. And the matching pants have a great flare and high waist. I also saw a pair of long shorts in the same fabric so I got those too. I wore that out to dinner recently for my birthday. I felt great.
- + I also bought a pair of Racil print pants in a blue I love on sale a while ago at a now defunct web site. But I was never quite sure how to wear them. Instead of selling them, I recently made the decision to hunt down the matching blazer, which I found used on Vestiaire Collective. It’s on its way. This will be my fun suit, a wildcard print but still with the ease of grown-up Garanimals.
Digging around for that blazer (aka “going down the rabbit hole”), like so many of my decisions nowadays, was inspired by the other love of my life (no, still not my husband), Trinny Woodall. If you need an intro to Trinny, I envy you. Your life is about to dramatically improve.
And, perfectly timed: this week’s Trinny Woodall Closet Confession was all about … the pants suit.
Here are my takeaways from Trinny.
- What suits do you need? (And I think Trinny and I use “need” in the loosest form of that word). A neutral that can take you anywhere and one in your best color.
- What pants length should we go for? Play with the pants length! If it’s not ankle or full heel length, if it’s an odd length, shorten it to a fun crop to look updated (if that’s less flattering on your leg, a high waist and wedge/stacked heel helps offset it). Or take the trouser length down; sometimes you don’t even need to hem.
- The bonus pants. Consider buying two pairs of the same trousers (if they’re affordable!), keeping one long and another short. (Rachel note: If you’re a shorts person, consider the shorts version if you see it. I find I’ve ended up wearing the shorts even more.)
- The tuck: You can do a half tuck to show the high waist of your pants, and it can be imprecise because the jacket plays nicely and covers it.
- How do I up the ante for a dinner date? Add more of a lip, and a wedge vs. a brogue, keeping the color of the trouser to help elongate the leg … or sequins under, hair up, earring.
- Dressing it down: Of course, try white trainers. Also, use a crossbody (my current favorite) to dress it down and make it less of a suit and more of an outfit — and break up a feeling of hippiness too.
- Finding a waist. Use a structured jacket with strong shoulder (aka a “Balmain shoulder!”) and exaggerated high waist one size down (as long as the arms fit) to help create a waist — you’re more likely to find this as a suit vs. a blazer.
- Do I button? Try one button only. But don’t do up a boxy unstructured blazer … let it be loose and fun.
- About that shoe: An ankle strap breaks up length between the end of the trouser and start of the shoe; it helps distract the eye, and distract from short legs. And avoid a black shoe stunting all the color with a colorful suit. For the right trouser flow, choose a shoe under that doesn’t create a break — the pants should flow over the shoe elongating your leg.
- What goes under the suit? Pull something that flatters your face up high, close to your chin. You can go “full enchilada,” a suit with matching shirt too. (But then don’t also match the lip!). Or, try it with no shirt at night, just a necklace and darker lip.
- Extra Credit: Make your own mix and match suit, like Trinny’s black suit (really Gabriella Hearst jacket and Loewe pants.)
Now go somewhere. Or go nowhere, but feel like you’re getting somewhere.