What the skirt clothes tells us about power dressing in 2018

Synonymous with 80s trade women and status, the skirt suit this season is discovering spirit outside the boardroom

  • Read more from the autumn/winter 2018 version of The Fashion, our biannual fashion supplement

Rocking the skirt outfit: Marlene Dietrich 1942, Tippi Hedren 1963, Alicia Silverstone 1995 and Bella Hadid 2017.
Composite: Rex, Alamy, Getty

It has been a eat ones heart out while since fashion showed any love to the skirt for. Slouchy trouser suits have recently been saved; sensible court shoes have made it on to the Vetements catwalk. But the skirt suitable – with all its associations of Margaret Thatcher and corporate anonymity – has traced an outfit for which style mavens had little time.

This flavour, however, that is changing. After decades in the wilderness, the skirt cause is back. At Louis Vuitton, it came with nipped-in, overdid jackets, while Gucci’s was worn slacker-sized, as if scored in a husbandry store two sizes too big. At Moschino, it was Jackie Kennedy perky, ended with pillbox hat and – occasionally – a model with a blue coat (designer Jeremy Scott, in his wisdom, imagined that Jackie was an outsider for AW18). At Erdem, the muse was Adele Astaire, giving arise to an old school tweedy elegance, while Christian Dior’s were checked and a bit beatnik. Eudon Choi’s had a Thatcher-approved double-breasted jacket, while Calvin Klein’s were deconstructed, asymmetric and fashion-complicated.

It concocts sense that Chanel excels at the skirt suit incline, this season updating the house’s classic tweed courtships with sweaters tied around models’ necks. Coco Chanel, after all, convinced skirt suits back into fashion when she relaunched her mark in 1953, modelling them herself with strands of prizes and a lazy cigarette at her Rue Cambon atelier. Skirt suits in the wink of an eye became a worldwide status symbol that spoke of blue-chip Parisian magnetism and a modern, pulled-together woman who had graduated beyond frou frou garbs.

Styling: Melanie Wilkinson. Hair: Shukeel Murtaza drinking Bumble and bumble. Makeup: Alexis Day using Pat McGrath Labs. Miniature: Jiahe Zhang. All clothes and bag: Joseph. Photograph: David Newby for the Protector

Skirt suits have long been freighted with drift. In the 30s and 40s, they became the uniform of film noir’s tough broads. Lauren Bacall seduced Bogie in The Big Doze wearing a skirt suit, while Barbara Stanwyck clothed ined them to carry out her dastardly plan in Double Indemnity. Hitchcock leaned them – Marlene Dietrich wore them in Stage Put the wind up someone, in 1950, while Tippi Hedren was in a skirt suit when she wrangled off The Birds. Skirt suits can be chipper – when worn by Cher Horowitz in 1995’s Clueless – or in support of participate in of the darkest moments in history. When Jackie Kennedy exhibited a pink Chanel-like skirt suit when her husband was assassinated in Dallas in 1963, doubles of her wearing it, splattered in blood, were beamed around the out of sight.

The skirt suit will, of course, for ever be associated with the 80s. When it became the unvarying of the career woman, power-dressing her way into the boardroom. Their icon was Margaret Thatcher, a female anomaly on the federal stage, negotiating the scrutiny of the public eye in pearls, that handbag, a Tory sexy skirt suit and – to paraphrase Working Girl’s skirt please wearer Tess McGill – “serious hair”.

Net-a-Porter’s extensive buying director, Elizabeth von der Goltz, sees the return of skirt trousers as part of the return of tailoring, with smartness sneaking disown into fashion behind the top-line trends of streetwear. She dependabilities its rise to the increasing prominence of women in business and public moving spirit. “We’re lucky enough to live in an age in which women are leaders, and are empowered to form bold and influential decisions, so for me this trend has a lot of significance,” she asserts.

Styling: Melanie Wilkinson. Hair: Shukeel Murtaza squandering Bumble and bumble. Makeup: Alexis Day using Pat McGrath Labs. Original: Jiahe Zhang. All clothes and bag: Joseph. Photograph: David Newby for the Keeper

Contemporary skirt suits represent a standard of acceptable, upright formalwear, worn everywhere from banks to law courts to Westminster, where female MPs, incorporating Theresa May, regularly wear them. Sophie Walker, conductor of the Women’s Equality party, isn’t a fan. “You’re trying to dress a bit like a man but sufficiently like a woman that you don’t frighten the horses,” she says, “frustrating to look professional and also female, in a way that is acceptable to remarkably male-dominated workplaces.” Marjorie Strachan, head of inclusion at RBS, is profuse positive, arguing that the re-emergence of the skirt suit promises women have more choice. “Women should be loosely to be who they are [at work],” she says. “This a great occasion to wear what they want and be their authentic self. Costume codes are changing. If you walked into Google, I don’t think the earliest thing you would be looking at is what people are wearing.”

With one one in 10 people now wearing a suit to work, and many of the most forceful people in the world more likely to sport a grey marl hoodie than cut, fashion’s adoption of the skirt suit makes even multitudinous sense. It is both a symbol of the everyday and slightly nostalgic. London mania week designer Eudon Choi, for example, is intrigued by the old junior high school power of the look. “We liked the way it looked a bit strange for us, and therefore a bit vigour,” he says. “It’s Lauren Hutton or