The Sadness of the Pantsuit

I’ve never liked women’s pantsuits.

A feminist to the core, I don’t believe women should be always in skirts with high, frilly necklines. But I also believe we don’t have to mimic men to achieve equality.

Last weekend, on the bimah at a synagogue stood a female cantor leading the congregation in song. Her operatic octaves were nice if you were in for a show but her black pantsuit confirmed her sexless appearance.

That’s what most pantsuits can do for you: eliminate any whiff of femininity, of style, of form.

Yes, clothing is practical but it’s also signature. Clothing is one way we can express our individuality, our style, our taste.

Most women’s pantsuits today are cut straight to de-emphasize curves. Short waists don’t do anyone justice – a jacket eclipsing the top of your waist does little to emphasize form and fit. The pants underneath a trim, cut jacket almost always make butts look big.

Initially designed to allow women to function in the business world in tandem with men, the pantsuit has the derivative effect of making women mannish.

A bit of history on the matter:

The pantsuit was introduced in the 1920s and women went to town mimicking men with monocles, canes and top hats. Andre Courreges introduced long trousers for women in the late ’60s. In 1966, Yves Saint-Laurent introduced something called Le Smoking, an evening pantsuit for women that resembled a man’s tuxedo.

Throughout the last century, many have muttered about the masculinity of women in pantsuits. In the U.S. Senate, women were not even allowed to wear them until the 1990s.

Look at Hillary Rodham Clinton today – her pantsuits do not help her dour look.

Don’t get me wrong – a woman can wear a pantsuit and look terrific. My friend Karen Buscemi, editor of StyleLine Magazine, recently featured a few stunning pantsuits in the February issue – of course the models were a size 0, tall and lanky. Anything looks good on that form.

I’m just saying there are better outfits for women to wear in the work world: pants with a blouse, pants with a jacket that didn’t come with the pants, a sweater, something sleeveless, layers (a tank and a shrug). There are many feminine possibilities for women who prefer pants.

We’re meant to have curves. We like to feel pretty. Even the most ardent among us. It is possible to be pretty AND powerful.

I think it’s time to leave behind the angry-feminist-I-want-to-blend-like-a-man look and adopt something unique and sensational of our own. I’m up to the task. In fact, I think it can make all the difference.

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