As evidenced by the numerous photographs illustrating my last post, Part 1 of this topic, designers around the world have revived the pantsuit as a chic alternative in women’s apparel this season. As is often the case when a new look is launched, magazine editorial spreads have been slow to venture beyond head-to-toe one-designer looks in showcasing the new style and how it should or might be worn.
In further response to the Elle reader who inquired how to wear pantsuits without looking stuffy, let me offer that accessories are key. Shoes are an important starting point, whether you favor heels or platform wedges or are of the oxford school (pardon the pun), alternatives I reviewed in my last post. Handbags should also be on trend; there are a myriad of stylish choices. Finally, there’s jewelry – the requisite finishing touch. A beautiful piece of jewelry adds personality and style and can elevate a pantsuit into the realm of successful executive dressing, create playfulness for resort wear, or give the pantsuit a sexy edge for evening.
A pantsuit is inherently visually empowering. In her article in the September 2010 issue of Harper’s Bazaar, Kristina O’Neill quotes Hannah MacGibbon, creative director of Chloe: “Pantsuits say, ‘Take me seriously.’” Serious clothing requires serious jewelry. In the business and professional world, this is not the time for insignificant, small items of jewelry. This is also not the time for distracting flash or sparkle, except in tasteful amounts at the ears (stud earrings or non-dangling designs), on a lapel (a tasteful brooch or cluster of brooches), or on a finger (a ring that doesn’t have the scene-stealing effect of a cocktail ring). Bold metal pieces and, for a softer look, classic pearls, are excellent choices.
Illustration: The first page of an ad from Jones New York promoting the Women’s Conference 2010.
From Jones New York comes a two-page ad promoting the Women’s Conference, held in Long Beach this past week, depicting powerful women in black pantsuits, each accented with a different style of necklace (or, in some cases, a collared blouse in lieu of a necklace). This ad presents a marvelous opportunity to look at different styles of jewelry and to assess which work well and which are not as flattering or practical.
Thus in the ad above, two of the women are wearing bold golden bracelets, a nice finishing touch to their ensembles. The woman to the right wears a pair of golden earrings in a design and size that works beautifully with a professional look. The blonde woman second from the left wears a golden necklace of what appears to be matte gold segments that follows the line of her slightly vee-shaped neckline; the effect is very attractive. The women in the center of the image also wears a gold necklace, but the chunkiness of the necklace is, in my opinion, too heavy to flatter her delicate features. Moreover, the roundness of the necklace clashes with the angles created by the slight vee shape of her top. The necklace distracts from the woman. I suggest that the matte gold necklace seen to the left would be more flattering both for her ensemble and, more important, for her personally.
Illustration: The second page of an ad from Jones New York promoting the Women’s Conference 2010.
In the second page of the Jones New York ad, we see one tasteful pair of button earrings to the far right, and four necklaces. To the far left is a three-strand beaded necklace that fills in the neckline of the woman’s ensemble, a very attractive option. The woman in the center wears a simple but not insignificantly sized gold chain that extends over her slightly scooped neckline; the chain dominates the neckline and is extremely flattering to the woman wearing it. This chain is likely akin to the long gold chain Alexis Bittar necklace referenced by Aerin Lauder as part of her preferred uniform (but not pictured) in O’Neill’s article (for her full quote, please see my October 25 post).
The other two necklaces pictured are less satisfactory choices. The woman second from the left wears a golden necklace with an interesting centerpiece that just barely falls over the edge of her neckline. It appears that the heavy centerpiece of her necklace may slip inside her top as she moves about, making the otherwise attractive necklace potentially an annoyance. The double chain necklace second from right is a poor choice. It does not work with the neckline of the blouse and seems to be sitting partially on top of it, likely creating a wrinkled mess right near the wearer’s face. I think the last two necklaces would have worked beautifully had they been swapped.
Illustration: Brooches were chosen to accessorize a pantsuit by Givenchy in this resort look pictured in the November 2010 issue of Elle.
The resort collections present a somewhat more comfortable, less formal take on the pantsuit. The red pantsuit by Givenchy illustrating Anne Slowey’s commentary in the November 2010 issue of Elle presents an option that also works in a professional environment: brooches. Without the brooches pinned to the jacket, the pantsuit would be an uninterrupted and rather uninteresting expanse of red. The three brooches add interest and personality to the ensemble. A brooch or cluster of brooches would have been an interesting choice for one or more of the women pictured in the Jones New York ad.
Illustration: From the September 2010 issue of Town & Country, a slit-elbow blazer, blouse and pants by Michael Kors worn with a rose gold chain with diamond charms from Susie Fox.
The slit elbows of the Michael Kors blazer pictured above, from the September 2010 issue of Town & Country, give it a casual take on a pantsuit and a bit of cheekiness. Accordingly, the charm necklace that draws the eye into the model’s cleavage is not inappropriate for this cocktail hour look. For a work environment, however, a shorter substantial chain or bead necklace would provide a more professional option and would make a more powerful statement than a pendant necklace that draws the eye downward to her chest.
Illustration: A pantsuit from Bottega Veneta pictured in the August 23, 2010 Fall Fashion Issue of New York magazine.
Speaking of drawing the eye downward, wearing a pantsuit without a blouse can be a devastatingly sexy look for evening on the right woman, if the cut of the pantsuit and the lines of her figure allow. Adding a camisole provides a still sexy but more modest evening hours option. The pantsuit from Bottega Veneta pictured in New York magazine’s Fall Fashion Issue is shown sans blouse, accessorized with green shoes and dangling earrings. The alluring style of the earrings is the perfect accompaniment to this evening-only styling of a pantsuit.
That same Bottega Veneta pantsuit would be stunning for daytime worn with a blouse or top and a gold chain necklace or perhaps a cluster of brooches along with a beautiful pair of non-dangling earrings. Well-chosen jewelry lends sophistication and polish to any look.