The basics of women’s suiting are very much the same as men’s – two-piece and tuxedo. While three-piece suits can be found these remain relatively rare and are mostly custom made. Two-piece suits are exactly as it sounds, consisting of a jacket and pants or skirt. This style is the blueprint for all suiting, with details such as jacket style (see below) and trends in fit dictating the final look.
A good jacket is always a measure for the quality of tailoring. It should fit smoothly across the shoulder, with the seam sitting where the arm begins. It should neither gape nor pull across the front, and instead sit comfortably over the chest.
There are three basic styles of jacket:
Single-breasted, two- or single-button jackets are the most common, lending itself easily to all body types. This jacket is favoured for its versatility, transitioning easily between work and weekend wear.
While double-breasted jackets are somewhat less common in womenswear, they are still an option for occasions that require something more eye-catching. This style is worn cinched at the waist to accentuate the figure.
The third style of jacket is the tuxedo, which comes with a more structured shoulder and satin fronting on either a peaked or shawl lapel and traditionally reserved for evening events.
A jacket’s primary feature is the lapel, the flap of fabric that folds back over the chest.
A notched lapel is, like the single-breasted jacket, the most common style. Simple and chic, it has a simple 75-95 degree angle cut into the collar, creating a “notch” cutaway effect.
Peak lapels, which point upwards towards the shoulder, are more formal in style and generally reserved for double-breasted jackets or tuxedos, and in the latter case always made finished with satin.
Shawl lapels are normally reserved for tuxedo jackets, but womenswear is much more flexible and many casual blazers also use this style. A continuous curve with no break, this lapel is often made using satin if found on a tuxedo.
There are several factors behind why one would choose either a skirt or pants as part of their suit. Temperature, comfort, the occasion all influence preference – but body type also has its place. Pencil skirts are incredibly flattering for hourglass figures as they accentuate curves and elongate the leg. These should finish just above the knee and follow the natural curve of the hips.
Leaner body types, however, can benefit from a flared pant as a way of balancing out the upper body. While both single- and double-breasted jackets are easily interchangeable with pants or skirts according to taste, a tuxedo jacket is always worn with pants. This should be a cigarette- or tapered-style leg that finishes just at the ankle to reveal the shoes.
Photography Courtesy of Gabriela Hearst | Illustration Barry Allen Patenaude