Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Suits: Yea or Nay?

I used to think of suits as interview-only attire. And really, hardly even that. Considering that I work in a very artsy environment, it's actually a liability to look too corporate. But ever since seeing the gorgeous 40's-inspired spread in the September issue of Vogue, I've been dreaming of suits in colors like cherry red and plum. (And look! There's a cape up there too!)

This has sent me on a research frenzy of suit patterns from the 40's. Here's a recent eBay score:

These patterns are often called "two-piece dresses" and I think that's what I like about them: they're less structured and more feminine that your standard skirt suit.

It's interesting to note, though, that suit skirts from the 40s were generally a-line rather than slim. It was in the early 50's that skirts started nipping in at the knee. Perhaps the Vogue images above are really just our modern perception of the 40's: the slim-skirted femme fatale and all that.

I've found myself considering recent pattern releases too, with modern silhouettes that hearken back to the forties and fifties in subtle ways. I like the idea of pairing a short-sleeved peplum jacket (like McCalls 5936) with a high waisted straight skirt like my beloved Burda 8155.



My worry with wearing a suit to work, though, is feeling too self-consciously "done up." I suppose it's one of those styles that probably all depends on the industry you work in, among other factors. So my question is this: based on your experience, lifestyle, and career, are suits a yea or a nay?

37 comments:

  1. Yea! Yay!

    I love the look of a suit. Though I agree they're not everyday attire, I just think they look so sharp and classy. They would be great for a job interview, like you said, or a semi-formal event like a christening or a work dinner. I say go for it!

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  2. I would love to see a resurgence of a classy & feminine suit. With structured fabrics and precise tailoring, a good suit can make any woman feel fantastic.

    And if you expand the word "suit" to include various two-piece dresses, the too-corporate, done-up look can be completely avoided. One of my favorite looks is a sweeping, gored skirt with a short, neat jacket paired with a tall pair of clicky pumps. The possibilities for playing with the jacket details are almost endless, and a gored skirt is many a woman's friend.

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  3. Definitly Yay!
    I love the suit look, but I hate it when they're too matchy-matchy. I always do a colorful jacket and neutral pants/skirt, or vise versa, just so it doesn't see too dressed up.

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  4. Let me chime in: Yea!

    I rarely have the chance to wear formal clothes like suits - or even blazers actually (or should I say I rarely have the guts to wear something that would stand out like that) and still I find myself admiring those beautiful suits and patterns like the McCall's jacket, which I recently bought without really knowing when I'd be wearing a garment like that. But I youldn't resistt the cute little peplum! And I think it would look grat with that Burda skirt. So again, a definite YEA from me!

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  5. I LOVE suits, but I've always had the same problem. I've never worked in an environment where they were appropriate at all. I do think they're a great alternative to a dress in more dressy situations though!

    Just recently I was wearing some black wool sailor pants, a vintage blouse, and a black flannel fitted blazer for warmth. Even though it wasn't a matching suit, it had that look and I felt smart in it, but also a little too just-came-from-a-job-interview looking.

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  6. Love love love suits, though I generally find it hard to find something that fits me well without spending an awful lot of money. Very excited to be able to make my own some time in the not too distant future... I hope...

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  7. PS - I should also add that I'm a city lawyer in a big firm so suits are everywhere in my office. Not often I see one and think 'gorgeous!' though!

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  8. I think it depends on the suit itself.

    The ones you show in the pictures? Absolutely! Something 40's inspired with a fabulous short sleeve? Yes!

    I also think its how you put it together. I doubt you'd put together a "suit" to go to work. I don't and I work in a conservative corporate environment...its just not me. And it doesn't seem to be you.

    I have one khaki suit in a cotton stretch fabric with a cargo feel to it. Some leopard platforms and a big necklace and its not just a "suit"...it's a cute outfit.

    I bet the patterns/styles you're looking at would be the same idea...not a suit but a fabulous outfit.

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  9. Yea! I just bought a cute 1960's suit pattern this weekend that I hope to make up soon. I can't wait to get back to a job where I CAN wear a suit but don't HAVE TO wear one. Like when I worked in PR, I only wore them at events where they were appropriate, otherwise, we were very work casual.

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  10. Also, don't forget that a dress with a coordinating jacket is a suit too. That seems to be much more doable, right?

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  11. Yay! Yay!
    Suits are so beautiful. I look every time i go into a thrift store for "the one"...I know I'll find her one day.
    I could make one but I want an original from the past.
    Andrea :)

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  12. Absolutely a yea! And let me tell you: I am currently at home to take care of my three little ones, and even now I love wearing a two-piece. A lovely skirt, a well fitted blazer, and ofcourse some killer heels to match with them. Really feminine.

    Ofcourse, I didn't say well fitted for no reason. When I look at the women around me that wear suits to work these days, I must say that a lot of them wear suits that I don't consider to be feminine at all. Sometimes I think that to be taken seriously in a men's world, many women tend to dress 'manly', with dull suits without any feminine shape and (to me) borimg combinations. What's up with that? I, not only now, but when I did manouvre in a men's world before, never felt that urge. And even though I love to dress feminine all over (with the red lips and ├╝ber high heels to match), I never felt like I wasn't taken seriously.

    So. Suits: definately yea. But people: please choose the right (fitting) suit for your body.

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  13. One way to take some of the 'Oh, are you going for a job interview?' out of a suit is to not make it match. I like a plaid skirt and plain jacket, esp. if the skirt is a little longer and I can wear boots with it in the winter. Looks a little more sporty and less formal. Now, to be both 'belt and suspenders' as we say at home, I have been known to make a suit with a matching plaid skirt - that way, I get my suit and my sporty outfit too.And I have seen pictures from the 40s where this was done as well.

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  14. I don't love suits. I'm top heavy and usually a rtw suit won't fit me without alterations. Because I'm top heavy the jackets package the girls in an unflattering light no matter the suit. So I go for separates and dresses. If I gotta wear soemthing up top then I'll opt for a cardigan. AND I was doing this before Mrs. Obama!

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  15. I agree with the posters who said it is how you put it together. I am a homemaker so I have no occasion at all to wear a suit but I love the jackets that is the top part of the suit. I wear them with calf-length, long full, patterned skirts in a matching color, high heels and they come off as very feminine. I have worn them that way to church events like confirmation. I have seen other women wear suits to school events like fund-raising banquets but a blue, full suit looks too corporate to me. I think the fabric and color make a lot of difference. I have a seer-sucker light blue and white striped fitted jacket I wear in the summer. I have also worn a khaki stretch-cotton, fitted jacket embellished with copper studs on the lapels paired with jeans which have turned heads. Right now I am thinking a blazer with a feminine looking dress would look great.

    You can also do the same with the bottom piece. That way, you can have a matchy suit when you need/want one and use the top or bottom separately to achieve other looks. Try it and you might end up with a closet full of suits like I did. Hahaha.

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  16. Definitely yea. As long as the suit is not one of those ill-fitting pantsuits in a drab color, I'm all for it.

    I think they look best when they're very simple. Not too much trim, plain buttons, no tricky details, etc. And plum would be gorgeous in a nice lightweight wool, maybe with a pink or red (maybe teal?) lining.

    Oh gosh. I really need one now.

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  17. Wearing a suit to work makes people wonder what you're up to. Which is always fun.

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  18. I like a well tailored suit, but where would I wear it besides special events and church...I did buy one for a banquet I am the emcee for but I can not imagine where I will wear it again. I really love the look but it would take a movement of sorts to get it to being an everyday outfit.

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  19. I love this Vogue spread, and the pattern you picked up is divine.

    I have quite a few forties suits--I love the way they look--but hardly ever wear them to work as my office is fairly casual. It's a shame really; suits can be so flattering and elegant!

    The short sleeve option, or tailored jackets paired with softer skirts (say, a floral print rayon 40s skirt) or even pants, takes the formality look down a notch, and I find these to be very wearable.

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  20. How funny, I bought a suit pattern on Etsy this very morning (mccalls 5297 if you wanna know... I was looking for the dietrich feeling of a three-pieces suit but it rather feels like Annie Hall) because I know I'll have to look for a job in a few months.

    It's a bit too ambitious at my sewing level, but any time I try on a jacket in store, it's either too large at the shoulders, or too small at the bust (but generally both, and too expensive).

    But in the metro, I often find myself drawing an office wardrobe including: a double-breasted jacket, a blazer, a vest, a fitted dress, a pencil skirt, large pants and a flare skirt, all mixing and matching.
    I love the allure of a suit, and it can look pretty attractive too (think of Saint-Laurent!) so it's really a yea to me. I also love your idea of the peplum jacket, but sadly I think it would look a little too dressy in France for me to think of it!

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  21. I'm in the legal field, so for me--suits are a big yay. I either make mine from vintage 50s and 60s patterns, or buy vintage. I don't normally do 40s style because the jackets tend to be longer.

    I love that suits are SO forgiving for lots of body issues.

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  22. Yes, yes, a thousand times yes! It can be as dressy or casual as the fabric makes it, and can be broken up and worn as seperates.
    -Sandra

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  23. Definite YAY!!! I really love that second suit in the pic from Vogue magazine. It is soooo ladylike. I love the pattern you have picked out.

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  24. Suits are a hell yea no matter what. If wearing both pieces together makes you feel too dressed up for your environment, just take off the jacket and put it back on when you go outside or work is over.

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  26. My fantasy super stylish self wears suits all the time. But in reality, I'm with Carlotta on the big bust/small shoulders front, so I've never been able to purchase a suit that fits. Any remotely suit-like jacket I've tried on makes me look twenty years older than I am (read: matronly). Not to mention it doesn't fit my lifestyle in the least.

    Now, I am in a dressmaking course right now, and we will be making tailored jackets, so I may start singing another song when I figure out how to make one that actually fits me! Either that or I'll try again in twenty years (when you can be sure I will be rocking the matronly look!)

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  27. For me suits have always been a definate YES. I've had totally corporate ones, and dressed down a little slightly casual ones. I've not been an every day suit person, but usually at least twice a week.

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  28. My two favorite suits; Lauren Bacall's houndstooth in "To Have and Have Not" (reborn in the YSL '80's) and the white very fitted jacket and full black skirt that is the iconic image of Dior's New Look. Very different looks--one so super chic and covered-up sexy, and the other just plain beautiful.

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  29. Definitely Yea-- I love the combination you've chosen! I think blazers are the kind of thing that seem too Interview-y until you find The One that you find goes with everything and makes you feel feminine and put-together without being staid. It makes you look at the "suit" or suit separates anyway as just another, formality-neutral layer.

    I am not a huge fan of standard gabardine suity looks on me, but I love a well-shaped blazer made out of interesting color or textured wool, and I have a little short-sleeved black number shaped a lot like the McCalls one above, that I'm on my way to wearing out - it works really well as an in-office coverup/pull-together for bare or overly sheer summer tops, aside from just being fun to wear. It doesn't make me feel buttoned-up at all-- more like flirtatious.

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  30. I say yay to the suit. Not that I wear one to work as we're a jeans kind of office. To me "corporate" is a dark color and conservative. With your penchant for color, you will look anything but corporate. Perhaps if it's too dressy for you, you can take the jacket off at work. I absolutely thing you can pull it off.

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  31. I love tailoring, but working at home doesn't give me many places to wear a suit. I have made and worn dressy suits for weddings, graduations and bar mitzvahs. But that doesn't give me many wearings for the time I put into them. When I do make them I look for non traditional styles and these do fit the bill. A well fitted jacket and skirt can be the most flattering option for any woman. I love how I feel wearing one too.

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  32. Presently I don't have any suits in my closet but would love a suit with a few feminine details like the in the McCalls jacket. I think, a suit in your field would work if you choose a fun color/fabric and make sure it isn't too business looking. Also, I like when you can wear the pieces separately so it gives it an easy wearable feel. makes sense?

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  33. I have not worn a suit in years, though I do love them. Me too, I work in an "artsy environment" and people would think I was interviewing on my lunch hour.

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  34. Yea, Yea, Yea!! Oh, that photo was the one that stood out to me in the September issue of Vogue... I LOVE the ankle socks! And camel colour! And bikes! And the knitted cape (I am inspired to make one for myself)...
    Anyway, lots of ways to make a suit less corporate and more feminine and stylish. That jacket pattern, for instance, is just lovely. Would be very interested to see what suit you might end up sewing. Good luck!

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  35. I love suits! I confess I haven't made any in awhile because I just love Tahari suits. I buy them at the outlet for a steal. They fit me perfectly and are so well made. I was in Macys last week and they had sale on suits 2/$99. I didn't buy anything, I have plans to use some fabric from my collection to make at least two winter suits. I work in an office and we are contact with the executive stass quite a bit, so I wear suits a lot to work a lot.

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  36. I give the 40's-50's tailored suit a big, fat YAY. SO classy.

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  37. I know I'm a late commer to post comments on this blog, but I only just read it this morning. A very stylish, classy older woman I know, who for most of her life was an Air Force Officer's Wife, once told me that suits were the most important outfits in her wardrobe!!! Always suitable, wherever, whenever, even, if caught without an evening gown, at a formal affaire!!! Now her life and mine are quite different, still, I do think often of the wisdom of her advice.

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Thanks for your comments; I read each and every one! xo Gertie

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