ESC, History of Pantsuits

There's no denying the appeal of a great gown on the red carpet, but it's the pantsuit that gets our attention every time. As much as it is a statement in the world of Hollywood, the two-piece is as essential to women's history as the bra-burning or free the nipple movements.

In the 1920s, Coco Chanel helped change the fashion game as one of the first designers to create less restrictive women's clothing. (Goodbye, corsets. Hello, slacks and skirt suits!) Fashion became another medium for resistance and liberation. Thanks in small part to the pantsuit, today, women can not only look—but feel—as equally strong and sexy as anyone else in the world.

ESC, History of Pantsuits

Although pantsuits were available in the luxury market by this time, they weren't really considered an attainable fashion trend until silver screen stars, like Marlene Dietrich in the film Morocco, popularized the menswear-inspired ensemble.

Following suit, Katharine Hepburn—in her role in Woman of the Year—inspired women to dress the part at work just like their male counterparts. You can thank her character for the padded shoulders trend, which would last for decades to come.

There's no fictional female more closely associated with fashion-forward menswear than the great Annie Hall. Of course, the costume styling wasn't a stark contrast to what Diane Keaton—a style influencer in her own right—wears in real life…even today.

ESC, History of Pantsuits

From the women's liberation movement onward, pantsuits were considered a symbol of strength and blurred the lines of heteronormative style. However, it wasn't until pop icons like Madonna and Janet Jackson started wearing the trend in more risqué ways that the pantsuit was considered sexy.

In 1969, Rep. Charlotte T. Reid (R-Ill.) was the first woman to wear pants on the House floor, opening the door for future elected representatives (Hillary Clinton, we're looking at you) to lead in comfort. In fact, in 2000, Clinton joked about her now obvious obsession with pantsuits for the first time: "And 62 counties, 16 months, three debates, two opponents and six black pantsuits later, because of you, here we are," she said during her Senate victory speech.

In modern times, the pantsuit can still represent a number of things: masculinity, feminism, androgyny, strength, power, sex appeal, even appropriate work attire. However, today, it's really about you how you wear and style the pantsuit that makes the statement. Expert tailoring, color and cleavage are all components to consider. When in doubt, look to boss ladies like Beyoncé and Rihanna for inspiration.

  • Share
  • Tweet

We and our partners use cookies on this site to improve our service, perform analytics, personalize advertising, measure advertising performance, and remember website preferences. By using the site, you consent to these cookies. For more information on cookies including how to manage your consent visit our Cookie Policy.