Episode 86: How to Rock a Pantsuit Like (or even better than) Hillary Clinton
Today is Election Day! And if you live in the United States, regardless of who you are voting for, I hope you exercise your right to vote. Since we have a candidate who is known for wearing a signature type of clothing, I thought I would dedicate this episode of Beyond the Business Suit to a specific kind of business suit: the pantsuit.
You may have heard about the secret Facebook group called Pantsuit Nation (which is pretty cool, by the way), and how many women across the country will be rocking their pantsuits in support for Hillary Clinton. So in anticipation, I wanted to share my tips on how to rock a pantsuit like, or even better than, Hillary Clinton. Before I get there, I want to address what you may already be feeling. You may be saying, “I don't like pantsuits!” “They can look stuffy, too conservative, too masculine, frumpy, dated.” But done right, they can make you look and feel powerful, confident and dare I say — chic! Hopefully these tips and options will help you revive a suit you already have or at least give a pantsuit a second thought.
1. Make sure the fit is right. As I have mentioned many times on this podcast, you want to make sure you look polished and professional at work. And when a suit doesn't fit well, it could look frumpy or worse yet: tacky. Something you can do to get the best fit from a suit off the rack is to make sure it fits your largest parts, then have it altered to fit everywhere else. For instance, I have larger hips and thighs, so regardless of the size, I need to make sure that the pants fit me well in those places first. Then, I can go to a tailor to get the rest of it altered, including the pant length since I'm petite.
2. Make sure the silhouette is right for your body shape. I've been asked several times, if you were to dress Hillary Clinton, what would you have her wear? Well, I would take her through my image strategy methodology (which is a whole other podcast episode), but one element of it that I would need to know before making an assessment is her body shape. She keeps her body so covered up that it is hard to see what her body shape is, but from doing some research it looks like she is a “bell” body shape which essentially means that she has a small chest and shoulders, short waist and thick legs and thighs. So it's no wonder we often see her wearing colorful blazers since they can bring balance her bottom half. So when you are looking at a pantsuit, you'll want to keep balance in mind. If you have a larger top half than bottom, you will want to go for a colored pant and a darker blazer. If you're a curvy girl with a wide frame, vertical pinstripes could be your friend. If you have a short waist, you'll want to stay away from cropped jackets and blazers, and if you have a long waist, you'll want to stay away from longer blazers.
3. Make sure your shoes and accessories are right. You may have read my article on “3 Types of Shoes Hillary Clinton Could Wear Instead of Kitten Heels” which was inspired by seeing her on so many debate stages in the wrong shoes. (Sidebar: if Hillary Clinton wins the election, I may even turn that into a podcast episode this week!) Wearing the wrong shoes can kill an outfit or at least make it fall flatter than if you were wearing the right shoes. So what shoes do work with a pantsuit? Well, it depends on the type of pant and your height and body shape. For instance, if you are a tall woman with a larger top half and a straight legged pant, wearing a block heel pump may work. If you are a shorter with a skinny pant, a stiletto pump may be a better option. And, wearing the right accessories is incredibly important. They can dress up or dress down a suit and can also help you bring in your personal style so that you don't look like a stuffy businesswoman trying to wear a masculine pantsuit. Though not exactly in the “accessory” category, the shirt you wear under your suit jacket or blazer can act as an accessory since it can help to create the look you are going for. You can use the shirt or blouse color, detailing and textures to bring in some feminine touches, your personal style and flair.
4. Make sure that you feel good in it. I often talk about the link what you wear and how you perform. One study that zeroes in on the impact of wearing business suits is from California State University where those who wore formal business attire — essentially something they would wear to an interview — were more likely to feel powerful and perform executive tasks better. That being said, not every suit will make you feel powerful. But more likely than not, if all of these other elements I've mentioned are in place, you will not only feel good wearing it, but you will feel powerful as well.
5. Make sure it fits your work environment. If you are looking to make a pantsuit a permanent part of your wardrobe, make sure it fits the culture and dress code of your office. For instance, if you work in a creative agency, a conservative Ann Taylor pantsuit may not be the best option for you, but maybe a more styled, less conservative one from Zara could be better. Below I have a link to some pantsuit options that could work for different work environments, whether you work in one that's on the casual side of business casual, one that's more conservative or even in a creative or tech field: