It’s difficult to forget your very first trouser suit. The muscle memory of how you felt wearing it tends to last, just like your first kiss, hangover, or therapy session. The stylist Elizabeth Saltzman, who works with Jodie Comer, Phoebe Waller-Bridge, Sandra Oh, and Saoirse Ronan, remembers the first garment she saved up for. ‘Because I was born in the 1960s, my mother, a professional lady, wore Saint Laurent pant suits,’ she explains. ‘She was the person I looked up to.’
After eventually purchasing a Le Smoking tuxedo, Saltzman had it stolen on his way to a Vogue photo session in Los Angeles. ‘I was driving with all of the cases in my car when I decided to pick up some white shirts.’ ‘Everything was stolen,’ she chuckles. ‘I’ve never been able to find a suitable replacement for that jacket. It was the most amazing outfit I’d ever seen.’
Caroline Issa, the founder of Tank magazine and a lifelong tailoring lover who admits to having “many, many” pant suits, has a less dramatic, but no less important, story. Her ‘first’ was a brown Jil Sander trouser suit that she purchased with her second pay packet from her first full-time job as a management consultant in 1999. ‘Back then, you had to wear navy, black, or brown pants or a knee-length skirt, and they had to be navy, black, or brown,’ she explains. ‘The outfit consisted of a long, slim-fitting jacket with three buttons and stretch pants.’ When I wore it to key client meetings, I felt like Superwoman.’
Saltzman commissioned Bella Freud to design five identical black velvet coats for her work’uniform, which she currently shops at Petar Petrov, Dior, Racil, and Barbara Casasola. Tailoring has officially become a perma-trend, as seen by both women’s wardrobes. ‘You can see it on everyone, whether it’s Jodie Comer or Gwyneth Paltrow, if you go through my style work over the years,’ adds Saltzman. It may be trendy now, but it’s a wardrobe essential for me.’ Tailoring is undeniably having a red carpet moment this season. Nicole Kidman in Altuzarra, Margot Robbie in Mara Hoffman, and Charlize Theron in Givenchy made up the Bombshell cast for the LA premiere. The royals have taken notice as well. For the final day of the Pakistan visit, the Duchess of Cambridge wore a Beulah London cinched-waist tuxedo coat.
It’s understandable: after all, tailoring is already a must-have on the runway. There isn’t a season that goes by without a deluge of trouser suits, skirt suits, and even short suits pouring in. A/W ’19 saw Chanel’s bouclé two-pieces in eye-popping primary hues, Agnona’s trouser suits with incredibly sumptuous slouch, and Alexander McQueen’s nipped-waist blazers with pointed, power-shoulders. A similar narrative will be told in the next season. Celine’s fitted pants were largely flared and paired with longline jackets, while Burberry presented whip-smart three-piece suits. Hugo Boss, known for its no-nonsense approach to tailoring, presented us with oversized jackets, wide-leg pants, and color combinations such as soft caramel and primrose yellow, aqua and black.
Hugo Boss’ new chief brand officer, Ingo Wilts, believes that tailoring has established itself as an evergreen style since its resurgence five seasons ago. Wilts presented his debut collection for the company during Milan Fashion Week in September. ‘Everything was lot more informal before,’ he says. ‘These days, a suit is something a lady feels extremely comfortable in.’ Hugo Boss is known for his tailoring – “If you ask any lady what Boss stands for, she’ll undoubtedly reply “a suit,” says Wilts – but this season he experimented with contrasts. He comments, “You have the union of feminine and masculine.” ‘I’ll wear an enormous jacket with a slim pant or a short blazer with wide-leg trousers on occasion.’ This is what gives the Boss a style that goes beyond a business suit.’
Is it necessary for every woman to have one in her closet? ‘Absolutely,’ says Wilts, who sees the ladies he works with at Hugo Boss often pairing their suits with T-shirts and shoes. ‘I want her to feel secure,’ he adds of his suit-clad customer. She should be at ease, yet I want her to be seductive and feminine.’ A trouser suit, he feels, is one of the most adaptable pieces of apparel you can own. ‘It provides you with two key components.’ The yellow blazer would look great with white jeans and shoes, while the pants would look great with a leather jacket.’
Clearly, women are at ease when it comes to tailoring. According to Net-A-global Porter’s buying director Elizabeth von der Goltz, who has raised the quantity of trouser suits offered by 150 percent over last year, 50 blazers are sold every day. ‘Tailoring is an important element of modern woman’s wardrobe,’ she explains. ‘With elegant forms and double-breasted styles, brands like The Row and Gabriela Hearst embraced the trend, while Balenciaga and Acne Studios offered us powerful shoulders. We also like Wright le Chapelain’s sleeveless wool vest jackets and wide-leg pants, and we’ve recently launched our Korean Collective, which includes We11Done and Andersson Bell’s excellent tailoring.’ Von Der Goltz mentions Kwaidan Editions, whose shirt suit sets are a twist on classic tailoring, and Totême’s tonal take on the three-piece suit with a coat instead of a waistcoat as this season’s changes. ‘Labels like Peter Do and Wright le Chapelain, who create traditional designs with a twist, have proven to be particularly successful,’ she says.
There’s no replacement for trying on a variety of styles and seeing what works when it comes to getting the appropriate fit and shape. Belted blazers will create a waistline, longer pants will extend the leg, and it’s essential to consider the balance you’re attempting to strike, adds von der Goltz. She advises, ‘You might want powerful shoulders.’ ‘Or a cinched waist.’ To make myself look taller, I usually lift up the sleeves of my jacket.’
To obtain a suit that will last this season and next, you don’t have to go custom or even designer. Massimo Dutti offers various suits with ankle-length trousers that show off the narrowest point on the leg – and statement shoes – while Arket has boyish blazers that aren’t too cut at the waist and pants in a range of lengths made of 100 percent wool.
If you’ve never bought a suit before, you won’t realize how fantastic a perfectly-fitting, pin-sharp style will make you feel. They’re one of Elizabeth Saltzman’s go-tos since they’re both comfy and confidence-building. ‘A pink suit was one of the first looks I made with Phoebe [Waller-Bridge].’ It was a watershed moment. It’s my thing to make folks feel good about themselves. It’s not that wearing a suit makes you feel more powerful or manly. It’s just that she looked fantastic, and it worked for her.’ It’s even easier for Caroline Issa. What does she think about a suit? ‘As if I can get anything done.’
ROSETTA CAMPAIGN FASHION has trimmed and shortened the interview.