Skirt Suit Trend

Fall Fashion Trends 2013 › Skirt Suit Trend

Fashion trend: Skirt Suit Trend

See the trend slideshow »


See all latest posts »

The defining element in the wardrobes of women in the Western world is the skirt. For evidence, you need look no further than the icons on restroom doors, where the silhouette of a simple A-line distinguishes between ladies and gents.

At its most ladylike, a skirt is but the below-the-waist part of a dress, and dresses in the 21st century have enjoyed a prominence unseen since the 1950s. After that decade, they fell from favour. For women who came of age in the 1960s, the dress was too dressy, too much a symbol of suburban Mom-ism. Trousers were the liberated way to go.

In recent years, the frock has made a remarkable return under the widespread influence of Alber Elbaz, who, since taking over as designer at Lanvin in 2001, has demonstrated to millennials that feminine drapery can be every bit as modern and easy as tailored pieces which know no flow.

By now, however, flow has turned to flood, and it seems time for a break from the masses of hair, the heaps of costume jewellery, the explosion of colour, the torrent of prints and the piles of preposterous footwear that were unleashed by the delirious rediscovery of the dress.

Poring over the collections for Fall 2013, you might itch for newness, freshness and simplicity, a longing satisfied by a new appreciation for the skirt, separated from the dress and celebrated as a garment with its own worth.

Paired with a matching jacket, the skirt has re-asserted its power as a component of the suit. This, of course, is not news. Coco Chanel made a signature of jacket and skirt suits constructed from soft tweeds. In her 1994 book Sex and Suits, costume and art historian Anne Hollander hailed Mademoiselle’ s achievement: “These suits suggested the kind of erotic self-possession that has no aggression in it, but rather an element of constant, low-keyed personal bodily delight a costume expressing a purely female sexual independence in the modern world.”

That is to say nothing of the joy of a suit consisting of jacket and trousers—the simple excellence of which became an option for women in the 1960s. Since then, it’s become such a staple that to speak of the new suits of the season it’s necessary to say “skirt suit,” a slow-witted, clunky phrase that doesn’t do justice to the vim and variety of the ensembles that were seen on fall runways.

Effects ranged from urbane to rustic. Vivienne Westwood combined a short, sharp-shouldered jacket with a knee-grazing, peg-topped skirt and a surplice-style blouse in a way that could have been homage to Saint Laurent in the 1980s. Dolce & Gabbana offered suits in countrified tweeds.

In his signature range, Marc Jacobs proposed a suit that was black and severe; at Louis Vuitton he sent out a white suit patterned with pink florets. At Chanel, suits, far from seeming matronly, were girlish affairs featuring short, pleated skirts.
But echoes of Coco go beyond chic combos of skirts and jackets for fall. The season’s other important pairing is of skirts and sweaters (according to Hollander, Chanel was the first to use sweaters “for feminine fashion, not female golf clothes”).
Karl Lagerfeld stayed true to that tradition, pairing a pullover in navy with a vividly coloured, below-the-knee skirt that managed to be modestly understated and unassailably confident all at once.

At Jil Sander, there was another dark pullover, this one worn with a below-the-knee skirt in grey. The outfit was both stern and aesthetically provocative—not a bad payoff for a couple of easy pieces.

Often, the pullovers presented in fall collections were bulky, sometimes as indifferent to shape as a sweatshirt. Other times they hugged the body, like at Burberry Prorsum, where a pullover belted inside a leopard-spotted pencil skirt plied a vixenish vibe recalling old-time Hollywood. At Prada, a plunging, off-the-shoulder V-neck tucked inside a long, full, red skirt looked as if it had stepped off the cover of a 1950s paperback.

It’s difficult for long, full skirts to lose their retro associations, so strongly linked are they to the sock hop and the barn dance. However, in most cases the sweater-and-skirt combos of Fall 2013 appear timeless. They carry no particular period references and have no particular story to tell. Quiet, uncomplicated, appealing, they are nothing without you. 

—By David Livingstone, From the September 2013 print edition

The Latest

See more »