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There’s an odd phenomenon in the world of fashion that occurs every once in a blue moon: an item of clothing becomes synonymous with a period of time, political movement, or piece of history. The swinging sixties and increased female liberation brought us the mini skirt, the seventies introduced the power suit, ridiculous shoulder pads included, and nineties grunge saw androgynous dress step into the mainstream.
Last year, the world looked on in not so silent horror as political turmoil raged following the US election, which saw most powerful country on earth to fall into the tiny-handed clutches of Donald Trump. During the pre-election news coverage, Hillary Clinton was the centre of both political and sartorial analysis, her iconic pantsuit taking up a disproportionate amount of space in general news outlets in comparison to her male opponent. Without dwelling too long on an already saturated topic, the basic debate was split into two camps: those who thought that, as a politician, a prolonged analysis of her outfit choices was about as relevant as a prolonged analysis of sheep herding; and those who believed that, as a public figure, she should have taken the time to make more stylish choices. In both cases, the arguments took up a lot of print space and air time, leaving us to come to the conclusion that, whether we like the pantsuit or not, it was News
It comes as no surprise then that this intense interest in the iconic suit has trickled down into the world of mainstream fashion. High street brands, such as Topshop, H&M, and Zara have always stocked their shelves with limited suits, usually a variation of the black pants and blazer combination that has dominated offices worldwide since the dawn of time. Yet this year we don’t have to delve to the back of the shop floor to find suits; they’re in the windows, on the mannequins, on the home page of websites and they’re dominating social media at a level never before seen in mainstream fashion. Suits are back.
Take a look at some of the UK’s biggest names in blogging, the likes of Megan Ellaby, Hannah Crosskey, and Gemma Talbot, and their Instagram’s are full of variations on the suit. From candy pink coords, to Clueless inspired checks, and those dressed down with trainers and a slogan tee, suits are finally making it out of the office.
The fact that the suit is now a trend piece as well as an office staple allows fashion to pervade the workplace for those who wish to blend their personal and professional style. Hillary’s suit sparked a debate about the time and place for professional women to be fashionable, the fashion world has responded: follow trends if you feel like it, if not, that’s cool too. The black pants and blazer combo is still there for those who like it, but now we’ve also got it in hot pink.
Inevitably, even women who decide to follow fashion face a backlash. UK Prime Minister Theresa May faced the scrutiny of the press for her trademark kitten heels and Vivienne Westwood tartan suit. Though Mrs May is herself a lifelong follower of fashion who holds a genuine interest in style, she faced criticism for trying too hard to look stylish. It seems that, in the eyes of the press, it’s impossible to win.
So is this a rebirth of power dressing? Has Hillary’s suit changed the fashion world? Are shoulder pads going to be back again? Certainly, the heightened political awareness of millennials following the shock US election has manifested itself in the way women are dressing. Slogan tees brandishing feminist messages continue to dominate street style and even established fashion houses, such as Dior, blend politics and fashion at their packed-out shows. Though Hillary’s suit may not be directly responsible for the swathes of reimagined coords now hanging in every shop window, it is certainly interesting that, once deemed dreary, the pantsuit is now the height of fashion.
Fashion houses draw upon iconic items of clothing for inspiration all the time; is it unreasonable to suggest that, in this time of amplified political awareness in the world of fashion, designers taken inspiration from the fallen Clinton in their collections? In any case, let’s consider the fact that perhaps in twenty or thirty years, 2017 might be known as the year suits became a ‘Thing’ again. And as for the return of the shoulder pads? Not on my watch.