I’m feeling pretty smug right now. Finally, there’s a trend I may have got to before Victoria Beckham. ‘There’s nothing quite as useful in a woman’s wardrobe as a great trouser suit,’ she told me. ‘When it’s perfectly cut, it can work for so many different things and prove to be a timeless investment buy. I love dressing my favourite suits up for evening with a blouse and down for daytime with classic tee.’
Well, so do I. But honesty compels me to highlight one teensy detail: the trouser suit isn’t quite as straightforward as everyone might lead us to believe. The first navy trouser suit I ever bought was made for me by a tailor – thought I was being so clever, so mature – with zero experience of cutting for women.
There’s a reason why men are called men and women are called women and it’s got nothing to do with Venus. We’re talking shape. You can go to the best Savile Row has to offer, pay Dh30K-plus for something exquisitely cut and have endless toiles run up in canvas, but if your tailor doesn’t know how to handle the chest and hips (in the darts-seams-and-padding sense), you won’t be happy with it, mark my words.
Keep this thought at the forefront of your brainy bits when you go shopping, because
a) the trouser suit is officially your new go-to,
b) it’s everywhere, so you’re going to be bombarded with options, and
c) it’s a big buy – you don’t want to mess it up.
The trouser suit is, finally, everywhere: not just on the catwalks but on influencers. Influencers aren’t, as previously advertised, ‘real’ women (in another era, they’d have been models or muses), so I’m not going to pretend that 400 influencers wearing trouser suits equals a seismic harbinger for your wardrobe. But I am going to cite me, because I’m 5ft 4in and as real as they come (sort of) and if I can wear them, so can everyone.
There are as many moods in trouser suits as there are cuts. From Givenchy’s Chandler-esque femme fatale, to slouchy and so luxurious – at Gabriela Hearst, Giuliva Heritage (which bases its cuts on classic Neapolitan men’s tailoring) and Brunello Cucinelli – they probably feel like jim-jams. Each time I saw a new iteration: unbelievably perfect and square of shoulder, with frock-coat jackets at Alexander McQueen (and designed to be worn buttoned up at all times in order to emphasise their perfection) or cute and velvety at Equipment (the moochy kind you can wear open, over that T-shirt, jumper or toning blouse), I thought ‘hang on to your bank cards, Armstrong, that is the one for you’. I did this about 15 times.
The thing is, the fit and cut have to be right. Take the jacket. You think you want it to cover your bottom and while it’s at it, the tops of your thighs. But unless you’re tall you don’t. A jacket that’s too long makes legs look like two cans of Coke. Half way down your bottom may suffice. You don’t want it stretching and straining over your torso, so opt for a relaxed cut, with working pockets, and wear it as if it’s a cardigan. If you’re tall enough for a long jacket, ensure your trousers are as long as they feasibly can be so as not to foreshorten your legs.
Perhaps you want a bit more body con, in which case sell your home and stomp up for something made to measure (the dream option: Meghan’s black McQueen tux last year, which had almost certainly been altered to fit her). Failing that, something with a bit of stretch in it. Avoid super-tightness – it never looks chic. Think gamine proportions, like a Zara one, or a belted jacket you can adjust depending how much curve you want to show. Keep the cleavage flashing to a minimum (focus on ankles and wrists instead). As Clare Waight Keller says, ‘covering up can feel very powerful and looks extremely refined’.
If you plan to wear your trouser suit with no top underneath, make sure the buttons do up high enough. Or invest in a good-quality camisole. If you’re thinking wedding, or the Dubai World Cup, wear it with a soft, high-necked toning silk blouse. Try a blouse without a collar, that fastens at the back, maybe with a scarf tie. It will sit more neatly under the jacket.
While black and navy might seem safe choices, unless they’re in interesting cuts or lustrous fabrics, they’ll look too corporate. You’re better off in mossy greens or petrol blues. Brights are one option but you don’t have to wear the pieces together, remember. If you’re not sure about wearing pink from neck to ankle, co-ordinate.