Appreciation for the Power Suit Evolution


There is no denying my attraction to a shoulder pad, a big jacket and high waisted pants. A nod to my fondness for the late 1980’s, From Meg Ryan in When Harry met Sally, to Michelle Pfeiffer in Scarface, to Julia Roberts and Lauren Hutton. I’ve always been one to choose an outfit prioritising its functionality, especially in terms of ease of movement. I’ve always appreciated dress for its ability to enrich or transform a mood. I relate to that quote, “ Im a really great person when I like my outfit”-unknown. Yes, this may sound slightly superficial, however there is so much history and substance behind the evolution of the Female Power suit that stems far before the 80’s. It is such a wonderful time to be a woman.

The Power-suit dates back to the early 20th Century with the Suffragettes. Where the “new woman” was born, a more active and bolder woman, challenging the 1800’s ideals of gender roles. The power suit began with a large heavy jacket, blouse and ankle length skirt. Movement was still limited at the ankles but seems to be very indicative of the strides in the right direction to Woman’s empowerment. The suit campaigning as loud as the banners for Woman’s rights.

By 1914 Coco Chanel had taken inspiration from the male wardrobe to create a suit tailored for the new age woman, to participate in the former male dominated world. The design was eloquent and refined to enhance its acceptability into the post war females wardrobe, who aimed to maintain their new found freedom. By the 1930’s designer Marcel Rochas had created the first Female suit incorporating pants and wide shoulders (my kind of suit), big shout out to Marcal Rochas! By the late 1960’s woman were wearing suit pants and jacket with bowties to cocktail parties, which was a huge transformation from long dainty dresses. Yves Saint Laurent did a lot for this era with the introduction of the first tuxedo suit for Woman le smoking.

The 70’s suit was all about a serious woman. With more and more woman entering the male dominated workforce, the suit became a representation of their confidence and stand for gender equality. Additionally, there was the likes of Annie Hall who played with idea of masculine dress, had fun with it and stood up for woman rights, challenging societies preconceived notions of gender and dress. By the 80’s Georgio Armani had tapped the market with a masculine suit designed for the un-masculine female physic. It was all about big and bold, big shouldered jackets and long pants demanding authority. There was criticism around woman be expected to wear the power suit to be taken seriously, as it essentially emulated the men. In the 90’s and 00s we did see a large shift to more romantic and feminine designs but the suit has not died and I hope it NEVER will.

I enjoy looking into the history of things as it informs my views and expands my perspectives. Thats whats so great about our day and age, sometimes I feel we forget to appreciate, is our freedom to be ourselves and dress how we please. Make the most of it and Do you, wear whatever makes you feel good, pretty, powerful, fun, however you please.

All photographs by @shecriedwolf

Styling & direction: Yours truly @emmgurr

Suit : Sass and Bide

Shoes & Bag: Tony Bianco

emily gurrComment