From pantsuits to track pants, or stilettos and kitten heels, the new rule of dressing is that there are no rules.

Portrait of Tammy Strobel

From pantsuits to track pants, or stilettos and kitten heels, the new rule of dressing is that there are no rules.

Celiné spring/summer 2018
Celiné spring/summer 2018


Sometimes the trends that sink deepest into the bloodstream start with a slow drip. That’s how it feels with the pantsuit: A sharp streak of authority that’s been hovering on the periphery for seasons. Sure, a jacket and coordinating trousers looked good on the runway, but track pants and sneakers were a way of life. This spring, the pantsuit strides confidently through scores of collections. Checked and jaunty at Burberry. Slouchy and deconstructed at Céline. Full Canadian tuxedo at Dior, where Artistic Director Maria Grazia Chiuri imagined a cultured bohemian with a bottomless bank account.

The menswear staple is upending the status quo of the average closet. Is this the ghost of Hillary Clinton? Perhaps. It can’t be a coincidence that at a time when women are calling on all their available reserves, maximum cosiness is ceding the way to a silhouette with more… purpose. As Hollywood is discovering, there is nothing that can’t be rewritten or recast, be it a movie (All the Money in the World) or the old rules about dressing.

One strategy for making the proverbial grey flannel suit as compelling as those sweatshirts you have on repeat order, is colour. Lavender at Max Mara, cobalt and pink at Oscar de la Renta… Take your pick and treat it like a sensuous, playful, grown-up sister to the jumpsuit. There’s no law that says the pantsuit has to be boring, corporate, or serious. It doesn’t even have to be matchy-matchy. It’s a suit in intention more than an actual suit.

Chiuri likes to wear her denim Dior Bar jacket with vintage velvet pants and high-maintenance peroxided hair. “Of course I want to feel glamorous,” she says. “But I want to feel relaxed too. That’s modern luxury.” It’s time to mix things up a little. If the ’70s owned glam-rock, in 2018 we have glam-comfort. As Tibi’s Creative Director Amy Smilovic put it to me over a cosy supper in Paris one night during the shows, “no one wants to be constrained by their clothes anymore.”

Separates are a critical element in the new power blend. Spring’s highwaisted pants do everything a good skirt should do but without any of the panty-hose dilemmas, i.e., highlight your waist and skim over your hips and thighs in the most curve-positive way possible (Alexander Wang draped his over leather waist-cinchers). Wear them full-length and flowing, or sliced above the ankle, and pick your footwear accordingly, from gleaming white Stan Smiths to Prada’s velvet platforms.

What goes on top? Anything that defines the waist. Loose, long, tucked-in shirts at Céline or cute iridescent bombers at Coach 1941, where Creative Director Stuart Vevers went for a full-shine, more-is-more effect, pairing them with slim sequinned skirts. Speaking of maximalism and sparkle, add a dose of each to your shopping list because sequins are not only a daytime energy booster but also a big factor in eveningwear, which is back as a high roller for 2018. Pick a decibel—from Versace’s raucous finale moment, when the original supermodels appeared in floorlength gold metal mesh showgirl dresses, to Erdem’s queenly duchesse satin prom dresses—and riff on it at your pleasure.

This is the year that you stop relying on earrings alone to take you from your desk to a party. The earring is still a statement, big and carefully, coordinately mismatched (you buy them that way). But it needs backup. Jimmy Choo booties and glitter shoes from labels like Gucci and Miu Miu are an easy wink to old-school vampishness. And there are a lot of other classic accoutrements to gloss up your game. The decorative kitten heel is back and prettier than ever, with bows and ribbons. So is the stiletto pump (tweed at Balenciaga, studded at Prada) and a delicious posse of summer boots, including Victorian-style lace-ups, stretchy tall boots (corsetry for cankles, calves and knees), and Céline’s paper-bag bootie.

Patterns are another hallmark of the spring closet, to the point where minimalists may want to stay in bed. Florals are more gorgeous than ever, often on dark gothic backgrounds. If you’re going this route, make them sublime. Among the standouts, Giambattista Valli’s sculpted ruffles have architectural presence, while Marc Jacobs’s ditzy daisies are punchy and adorable (and all the more assertive for being accessorised with opera gloves).

This new dressed-up, more-is-more mood doesn’t mean that your favourite Off- White streetwear just became redundant. In fact, Creative Director Virgil Abloh referenced Sloane Ranger poster girl Princess Diana this season. Anoraks have been made over in plastics and leathers; fanny packs are suddenly a delightfully perverse luxurious-fashion thing; track pants are silky, beaded, or both; sneakers are reaching new levels of invention (and pricing); and hoods are peeking out from the chicest of blazers.

This inherent contradiction in the season’s glamour—which has more to do with pleasing oneself than with appeasing the male gaze or playing to the Instagram gallery—is what makes it workable. You don’t necessarily have to wear an item of clothing to invoke its spirit. The return of the pantsuit, eveningwear and stilettos is merely fashion’s immune system kicking in to ensure that our current crush on so-called utilitarian leisurewear doesn’t slide into a couchpotato stasis. I reckon that most women will transition backward and forward between athleisure and glam-comfort, depending on their day. In 2018, glamour is not a rigid prescription but an à la carte buffet with plenty to nourish the soul as well as the body.

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From top: Coach 1941 spring/summer 2018. Alexander Wang spring/ summer 2018. Marc Jacobs spring/summer 2018. Miu Miu spring/summer 2018