Suit yourself: Re-thinking the power suit for modern women

The power suits. Even uttering the phrase ignites a vision of shoulder pads, a perm and purposeful walking while holding a clipboard.
As the idea of what power looks like morphs, it now comes to manifest itself in a variety of ways. Patrick Johnson of P Johnson Tailors, based in Sydney with showrooms in Melbourne, London and New York, will launch a range of made-to-measure suiting for women in July this year, P Johnson Femme. Women have been asking him to do so for years. It’s not that the demand was never there, but that the voices are being listened to.
For Johnson, it’s not about creating a men’s suit for women (although plenty of women have been fitted in men’s suits) but making suits relevant for how women live and work now.
“Women’s suiting is different to men’s, in construction, in the body shape, but women also wear the clothing differently. The rules for men’s tailoring don’t apply,” says Johnson.
The made-to-measure suits will have two base trouser designs in a high-waisted, double-pleated version and a slimmer cigarette style with an array of choices when it comes to cut, fabric and colour. The idea is that the suits will be comfortable to allow women the same kind of freedom in having a “uniform” that suiting has long given men and the pieces will re-imagine the idea of the suit and how it is worn.
Johnson had input from the women in his life over the two years he’s spent planning the brand. Ultimately, he says, it’s about “empowering” women by giving them modern suiting which allows for a little personality, character and a boss attitude.
The new direction in suiting runs parallel with one of this year’s biggest trends, the chic boilersuit (the fashionable version of the kind worn by mechanics and Rosie the Riveter), a softer power suit is a workwear all-in-one and more ‘woman on the run between a busy job, a parent-teacher meeting and drinks with her friends in a fashionably tiny inner-city wine bar’.
As Pulitzer-winning fashion critic Robin Givhan wrote of the suits seen on the runway at the likes of Givenchy, Thom Browne and Dries Van Noten in February: “Women have had pants in their closet for a long time, but it hasn’t been that long since they began to reap some — not all — of the benefits of wearing them. Bundled up in all the smart tailoring and dramatic shoulders are the question of what the suits really do for women.”
What they’re doing more than ever, with the focus on fluid tailoring, sharp shoulders, unexpected volume and shapes, is giving them modern-day armour that can take them anywhere.
The multi-faceted lives of her customers are something fashion designer Rosie Assoulin, known for her punchy colours and exaggerated proportions, factored in when launching a new range of shirt and suit separates this week. The range, By Any Other Name, came about because she has “an aversion to ‘corporate wear’ or ‘mummy wear’.
In fact, perhaps a functional yet playful aesthetic is about the most modern a way of dressing you can hope for.

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