The Black Pantsuit

Photo By Chris Chapman

Working for major fashion retailers, these five women could reach for just about any trend that tickles their fancy. But with busy lifestyles and jobs that take them from sales floor, showrooms, power lunches, business meetings to dinner and the ballet, they all opt for that sartorial workhorse that goes from morning to night – the black pantsuit.

In the past few seasons, fashion has been rife with graphic prints and a riot of colour. The return of the black pantsuit stands as a welcome and soothing retreat from the kaleidoscopic cacophony.

The comeback of this classic two-piece trouser suit could be traced to two French fashion labels that installed new designers last year: Raf Simons at Christian Dior and Hedi Slimane at Saint Laurent Paris. Heralding new eras at these two historic houses, both designers championed the black pantsuit in their debut collections for this spring.

But it was screen legends like Marlene Dietrich and Katharine Hepburn who broke the gender divide in svelte black suits back in the 1930s. And when Yves Saint Laurent created Le Smoking tuxedo suit in 1966 for women, it  paved the way for the powerful yet sexy black androgynous suit to be adopted by professional women climbing the corporate ladder.

To wit, one of the world’s most influential women, Hillary Clinton, in her 2000 New York senate seat victory speech, thanked her “six black pant suits.”


(Photographed above, from left to right)

“The beauty of a black pantsuit is you can wear it anywhere. Just change the underpinning and shoes.”  —TERESA MAZZEI, 56, owner of Corbó Studio, Toronto. Jacket, $695; pants, $330; blouse, $295; all Acne, Corbó Studio

“This is a new take on the black suit. It’s pajama dressing; soft, easy to wear and comfortable. I can wear it and bike to work.”  —ADRIENNE SHOOM, 53,
style director, Joe Fresh. — Blazer, $69; pant, $29; silk blouse, $49; all Joe Fresh

“When buying a suit, lean toward a more expensive fabric. It will not pill or lose its shape and look for a jacket that you can wear separately.”  —ALISON COVILLE, 49, senior vice-president private brand design and development, Hudson’s Bay Company — Jacket, $1,795; pant, $850, both Narciso Rodriguez; shirt, $295, Barbara Bui; all The Room, the Bay

“When I’m attired in my black suit, I feel quite pulled together, along with an added sense of confidence and inner strength. At the same time, I always want to feel approachable and natural without looking too contrived.”  —CARRIE RICHMOND, 51, co-owner TNT — Jacket, $880; pant, $540, both Isabel Marant. Blouse, $965, by Brunello Cucinelli; all TNT

“Invest in a nice lightweight wool that is seasonless, and you can wear it all year round.”  —ELIZABETH MONIZ, 46, store operation manager, Marlowe — Jacket, $1,395; pant, $965; cashmere sweater, $865; clutch, $645; all Marlowe