Inclusive-Size Lines: A Concept Whose Time Has Come (Yet Again)

A tiny blurb in the May 2017 issue of InStyle magazine announced: “Teresa Maccapani Missoni brings her family’s luxe Italian glamour to Eloquii for an inclusive-size line of feminine dresses and separates in a resort-ready palette of white and azure.” Eloquii.com is a fashion site for sizes 14 to 28, and Missoni is its first-ever designer collaboration.

0617 March Vogue Prabal Gurung for Lane Bryant Ashley Graham REV

Designer Prabal Gurung is also receiving a good amount of press for his new collection for Lane Bryant in sizes 14 to 28. The April 2017 issue of Glamour reports that Gurung collaborated with Lane Bryant after he had “no luck getting luxury department stores to sell his line as plus-sizes.” The March 2017 issue of Vogue also spotlighted the collection.

At the same time, in a feature in the April 2017 issue of Glamour, “Hey Stores: Where’s My Size?” writer Lauren Chan and four full-figure fashion bloggers shopped clothing stores in Atlanta, Chicago, Los Angeles, New Orleans and New York, and found no plus-size clothing whatsoever at 41 of the 69 stores.

For many full-figured women, Salon Z at Saks Fifth Avenue (remember the campaign “Saks First”) truly was their go-to choice for professional wardrobe and special-event dressing. Now Salon Z exists on-line only.  Nordstrom’s plus-size focused Encore department at its spanking new store in the large mall near my home had only a pitiful couple of racks of dated sale merchandise in plus sizes when I visited. Despite the increase in demand for plus-size fashion, the demographic is being served more by specialty retailers and boutiques.

0617 June Glamour Nicolette Mason I Am Not an Hourglass REV

There’s an issue aside from sizes, too — full-figured women, like women of all sizes, come in a variety of shapes. “I Am Not a Hourglass” writes Nicolette Mason in the June 2017 issue of Glamour. Mason writes:

“It feel like every day there’s another body-positive headline in fashion–airbrush-free swimsuit campaigns, designer collaborations, New York Fashion Week’s record number of plus-size models–and while those stories represent major strides in size inclusion, there’s one thing that still bothers me:  Almost every time we see a woman above a size 14 in magazines, in advertisements, or on the runway, she’s a perfect hourglass shape.

“Think about the most famous plus-size models:  They have big busts and full hips, with snatched waists and thin arms and legs. Gorgeous–but also, newsflash! That is not how most plus-size women look. Hell, all you need to do is look around on the street to know that many of us are rounder in the ‘wrong’ places, with full faces and thicker limbs.  . . . How progressive is body positivity if we’re affirming only one plus-size body type?”

Mason explains that, despite fluctuations in her size between 12 and 16, she is larger on top with large breasts and smaller hips. She cites Eloquii, Universal Standard, and Los Angeles-based Zelie for She as lines that design for various types.

This is not new, by any means. For instance, plus-size model and image consultant Catherine Schuller introduced a line on one of the home shopping channels some years ago, with styles identified as being appropriate for various body shapes. With few exceptions, plus-size clothing lines do not provide guidance to consumers as to what pieces will flatter which shapes.

0617 July MC model Denise Bidot Big Girl in a Skinny World REV

Look at the regular column “Big Girl in a Skinny World” in Marie Claire magazine. In the July 2017 issue, which features plus-size model Denise Bidot, the column spotlights for her a Vivienne Westwood skirt with a horizontal print (up to size 14), a Stella McCartney dress (up to size 14), and, a choker from Eddie Borgo. The choker has an interior diameter of 4.25 inches. None of these items will fit the majority of “big girls.”

0617 Christian Siriano in People REV

One option, for those who can afford it, is to go custom. Designer Christian Siriano is quoted in the July 3, 2017 issue of People: “My goal is to hopefully change people’s perceptions of what’s beautiful and what women should wear. I include a diverse range of sizes, races and ages on the runway. An then, there’s the red carpet. I don’t go after the young, new It Girl. They’re fabulous, but what’s exciting to me is seeing someone different on the carpet looking amazing, like Danielle Brooks. . .  Honestly I just love that I get to help change people’s perceptions, and I’m proud of what we’re doing. But it took me 10 years to get here, and it will take another 50 years to have my position become a little bit more of the norm. That would be really exciting.”

I’m thrilled to see that some designers and retailers are once again attempting to serve the 67% of American women who wear a size 14 or above. Stay tuned.

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The Front-Button Gap

Front-button shirts and blouses are a wardrobe staple for many women. Like front-button dress shirts for men, the women’s garments present issues of fit that require thought and attention.

If the shirt has a collar and is to be worn fully buttoned, the fit of the collar around the neck is an important consideration. A collar too big will make the wearer look like a little boy wearing grown-up clothes that are too big for him (consider Melissa McCarthy’s portrayal of Sean Spicer on Saturday Night Live for this effect); a collar too small will find itself straining around the neck or unbuttoned to provide some relief.

A second issue is the lay of the shirt down the front. Curvy women in particular may find it difficult to find shirts that do not gap around the bustline. Look for garments with shorter distances between buttons (i.e., more buttons) to minimize the extent of any gap; also look for placement of a button at the largest part of the bust (a design detail that is maddeningly difficult to find).

050017 oh no front-button gap blouse InStyle REV

While celebrity model Alexa Chung looks adorable channeling Diane Keaton in Annie Hall in a photos spread in the April 2017 issue of InStyle magazine, the clothing selected for her just doesn’t fit. The above photo exacerbates the front-button gap issue with a striped shirt, which pulls across her bust and displaces the stripes for a visually distracting effect.

Some shirts can be worn open over a tank or camisole like an overshirt, eliminating the front-button gap.

Another fix would be to add a scarf , tie or vest (the latter two choices, a la Annie Hall) to cover the front-button gap. This can be an effective way to salvage a blouse or shirt that is otherwise not wearable.

050017 oh no blouse w tie InStyle April REV

A second photo from the InStyle shoot pictures Chung in an ensemble that closely imitates a most iconic Annie Hall ensemble with a tie. But whereas Keaton’s costumes were fit to her body (check the shoulder seams in stills from the movie), here the shoulder seams of the shirt are too wide and the underarm seams of the shirt pull out from the vest, for a most unflattering effect. Add to that the pants that drag on the pavement, and this photo, like the one above, goes into my Oh No! file.

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Cross These Cross-Bodies Off Your List

Cross-body bags are one of my favorite accessories. A beautifully designed bag that appeals to my aesthetic, combined with a strap long enough to cross from one shoulder across my body to the level of the opposite hip, is my idea of a marvelous invention.  Especially wonderful for travel and for taking public transportation, such a bag allows me to keep my handbag safely in view while enabling me to unlock doors, carry packages, wheel suitcases, or do other things that need to be done without leaving my bag unattended.

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A number of high-end designers this season seem to have designed so-called cross-body bags with short straps, showing the bags worn essentially as necklaces. The March 2017 issue of Allure features a model who wears a leather bag and strap by Fendi as if she is wearing a necklace, presumably to show off the workmanship on the strap.  The look works because the model has a small bust, with no curves to disrupt the line of the strap. The handbag emphasizes her boyish figure.

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A current ad for Dior emphasizes the androgynous effect of a cross-body with a wide strap. Although worn to the side, the bag strap has little length to accommodate curves.

0417 short cross body D&G ad 0417 Elle REV

As for this current ad for Dolce & Gabbana, showing a structured leather bag with strap worn as a necklace, my initial reaction was “ouch!” — that pointed edge of the bag seems to be hitting in a rather awkward spot on the curvaceous model.

Bags with shorter straps, such as the Dolce & Gabbana, can be worn as classic shoulder bags, draped over one shoulder, the bag falling to the side of the wearer. Wearing a bag in this fashion likely requires some adjustment from time to time to keep the bag strap up on the shoulder, and, since the bag can easily be slipped off, this style is much less secure for travel.

To find the perfect cross-body purse, do a bit of planning. Determine the ideal length of a strap for a cross-body bag that fits your body, and use this strap measurement when selecting a new bag. You can confidently cross the other “cross-bodies” off your list.

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The Brooch Is Back

There’s something special about a look when you can personalize it and make it uniquely your own. Whether professional wear suiting, bold graphic designs, military-inspired khaki, or pretty floral dresses are your cup of tea, a quick way to add pizzazz to your look is with a brooch. Stylists have been adding brooches to add interest to fashion photographs over the last several months, and this trend holds strong this spring.

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For instance, the February 2017 issue of Harper’s Bazaar has a 10-page spread devoted to bold, graphic prints, and adorns four of the black and white looks with brooches. Above, a bold polka dot dress from Dolce & Gabbana serves as the backdrop for a fabulous De Beers Diamond spray brooch.

0317 brooch Feb HB Lynn Ban brooc on Stella McCartney REV

In the same issue, a “message” dress, top, leggings and shoes by Stella McCartney receive added edge from earrings and a Maltese cross style brooch from Lynn Ban.

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The February 2017 issue of Marie Claire features a selection of two-tone metal brooches from Buccellati in a feature focusing on retro floral prints.

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The January 2017 issue of Elle suggests that “Sparkly pins are more punk than prim when they veer off jackets and onto rocker tees.” The brooches spotlighted in the piece vary in price from a message brooch in rhinestones from BAN.DO at $10 to a $22,700 flower clip from Van Cleef & Arpels.

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The April 2017 issue of Real Simple demonstrates how to wear a brooch on the lapel of a trench coat or jacket. In the photo above, a jacket from J. Crew is accented with a pin from White House Black Market.

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In the December 2016 issue of Marie Claire, models Doutzen Kroes, Imaan Hammam, Fernanda Ly and Constance Jablonski demonstrate a variety of ways to wear a spectacular elephant head brooch from Tiffany & Co. The brooch, based upon an archival Jean Schlumberger design, was re-issued by Tiffany & Co. in support of the Elephant Crisis Fund, which raises awareness of the plight of those magnificent animals killed for their ivory tusks.

0317 brooch antique Dec-Jan HB REV

The December 2016/January 2017 issue of Harper’s Bazaar recommends in its selection of what to buy now, an antique brooch. Pictured is a lovely piece from Cartier, but all manner of exquisite budget-minded designs are readily available on eBay. Considering the extraordinary versatility and sheer delight of these lovely pieces of wearable art, whether fine or faux , I couldn’t agree more.

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Dressing for Respect

A pair of articles in the February 2017 issue of InStyle magazine spotlight the power of dressing purposefully. How one chooses to dress can send a message of inspiration, and can communicate a demand for respect.

In a thought-provoking article in the February 2017 issue of InStyle, Eric Wilson asks: “Can fashion be feminist? With their spring collections, designers clearly had power and politics on their minds as they created wardrobes for modern working women. As the world continues to change in unpredictable ways, however, that message of strength may be more important than ever.”

0217 Can Fashion Be Feminist REVPictured in the 2/17 issue of InStyle, Kendall Jenner imagined as Rosie the Riveter, from campaigns from the Independent Journal Review and Rock the Vote, fall 2016.

Wilson writes that “we are entering a season in which clothing can play an unexpected role in how we communicate our viewpoints to the world. Wearing a pantsuit or a pussy-bow blouse suddenly becomes a political act, open to interpretation.” He continues: “The cause of feminism, in particular, benefits when fashion embraces the imagery of strong women, much as Stella McCartney and Donatella Versace have done in their recent collections, because clothing is, in a way, a universal language. And it is becoming less of a stigma for smart women to talk about fashion or embrace feminine clothing in the workplace rather than dress like men to get ahead.”

Tucker describes how designer Gaby Basora, the founder and creative director of Tucker, “often considers how specific items of clothing can be empowering, even if the sense of strength is only what we ascribe to it in our minds. ‘Ultimately, fashion can be a way to express things about yourself that are more meaningful than just a blouse,’ she says. ‘It’s fascinating how we create illusions.’” Basora, Wilson writes, “like to think about . . . a family friend who, as a successful educator with a taste for immaculate clothes, made a point of riding the bus to work every day so that young women might see her and begin to imagine having important jobs of their own.”

0217 Rosie Huntington-Whiteley in Balmain poncho REV

Illustration:  Rosie Huntington-Whiteley, pictured in the 2/17 issue of InStyle wearing Balmain.

The February 2017 issue of InStyle  also contains a profile of supermodel and style icon Rosie Huntington-Whiteley, calling her “The Chicest Lady at the Airport.” Writer Stephanie Trong writes that Huntington-Whitely as “emerged as the foremost trendsetter” of “airport style” and quotes the model: “People probably think I’m overdressed for the airport . . . [but] that’s just me–a great outfit is my armor. I feel confident and ready to face the world.”

Consider how Huntington-Whiteley is an “influencer,” someone whom others choose to emulate, just like the impeccably dressed educator on the bus.  Consider how fashion  can serve as armor, and how fashion can convey a message of strength — a message that commands respect.

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Recognizing Your Personal Design Aesthetic

Inspiration may strike anytime, anywhere. So too may recognition of styles or motifs that resonate on a deeply personal level.

I was struck by the common elements of the designs pictured in the February/March 2017 issue of Traditional Home magazine in its Curated column entitled “Style, With Love: This season’s hottest furniture signs off with X’s and O’s.”

0117 design aesthetics Traditional Home Feb Mar Xs Ox REV

Consider, for instance, this page of designs from the article: a chandelier of golden rings from Gabby; an X-base ottoman from A. Rudin; a side chair from Chaddock; an end table with asymmetrical “X” base by Jonathan Charles, and metal circles that playfully interlock on the “Nasir” objet from Made Goods. Studying this page gives me pause to consider which elements of which of the designs are my personal favorites and, taking it a step further, why they are my favorites.

As you look at the designs, consider:  Do you prefer a very structured, symmetrical look, or something more free-form and interpretative? Do you prefer a spare design or something that suggests abundance? Do you prefer visually light designs or those that make a more profound statement?

When it comes to personal style, what you find pleasing in home design may provide clues as to what you will find most pleasing to wear, and vice versa. Chandelier earrings may inspire you to look for a particular style of chandelier. Or perhaps a page of designs that incorporate X’s and O’s remind how charming it might be to wear these symbols of kisses and hugs, especially as Valentine’s Day approaches.

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New Resolutions for the New Year

As the New Year approaches, I was delighted to read Martha Beck’s article in the January 2017 issue of O, the Oprah Magazine, “You Say You Want a Resolution. . . . ”

1216 Martha Beck resolutions article entire REV

Beck notes that her resolutions for 2016 were almost identical to those she made back in 1987 and asked herself two questions: “Do these goals resonate with me? Are they really what I want most in the entire world?” She concluded that it was time for new resolutions, which, I note, on their face look to be the polar opposites of classic New Year’s resolutions.

Among her new resolutions:  “spend more” (. . . positive attention to what she already has); “be self-involved” (and distance herself from people she doesn’t trust), and “forget what I’ve learned” (releasing misperceptions). She encourages her readers to compile their own new resolutions: “You may want to underachieve. Oversleep. Fritter away more of your days.”

My favorite on her list is the first resolution: “Gain weight.” Beck writes: “For so many people, January 2 is D day–diet day, that is. Losing weight can be a laudable goal, but this year I’m going to think about weightier matters–weighty as in ‘of great importance,’ a definition that does not apply to dress size.” Beck notes that it absolutely did not matter what Florence Nightingale, Rosa Parks or Malala Yousafzai weighed when they made their marks on the world. And so, Beck writes, start asking “What would really make me happy right now?”:  “Whenever body shame creeps up on me, I resolve to refocus on adding meaning to my life.”

With the New Year, I resolve to be ever grateful for the increasing strength of my body as I enjoy more activity (including my rediscovered love of swimming); for already owning a wardrobe filled with flattering clothes in a range of smaller sizes in which I can “shop” as my shape reflects a fresh focus on fitness; and for my health, all within the context of the love of my husband and all those family members, professional colleagues and friends who are dear to me. In short, I resolve to gain weight (in the Martha Beck sense) and, by gaining weight, to lose weight in a healthy sense as well.

I resolve to concentrate on “what would really make me happy right now.” In that light, let me share a few images that resonate with me and make me smile — perhaps the inspiration for future resolutions. Happy New Year!

1216 J. Crew ad woman fishing with her dogs outdoors REV

1216 Cartier Paris store jewelry in window REV

1216 kitty cat and soft yarns REV

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There’s a High Price for That Low Price

I was going to write this month’s post on quite a different fashion-focused topic, when an article in the November 17, 2016 edition of the  Los Angeles Times caught my eye.

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This year, the U.S. Labor Department investigated 77 local Los Angeles garment companies that were supplying some of the biggest clothing stores in the nation, writes reporter Natalie Kitroeff, and found that many of these factories pay workers much less than the state minimum wage. “Investigators uncovered labor violations in 85% of the cases, the department said, and found that the companies cheated workers out of $1.1 million.” While even Nordstrom and Macy’s had ties to garment makers that did not pay minimum wage, “the retailers with ties to companies that had the most offenses were Ross Dress for Less, Forever 21 and TJ Maxx. Workers were paid as little as $4 an hour, and they got $7 an hour on average–$3 less than the state minimum wage. . . .”

Although the garment companies and some manufacturers that act as intermediaries between the factories and the retailers were ordered to pay $1.3 million in lost wages and damages to workers, the retailers “avoid any repercussions for hiring factories that violate labor laws. The Labor Department can only penalize companies that directly employ workers.” Keeping their distance from the factories by working with several layers of suppliers, the business model shields the retailers from liability.

Ruben Rosalez, a regional administrator with the Labor Department, said that the problem is “that retailers have not increased the rates they pay manufacturers in years. ‘The retailers are setting the prices. They’re saying, “Make this shirt for this amount,” but it’s the workers at the end of the chain that are getting screwed,’ Rosalez said.”

According to Rosalez, retailers “hire monitors to make sure their suppliers abroad are following the law but don’t do the same level of inspection in the U.S. . . . The stores ‘want to be able to meet demand on a quick basis. It’s cheaper to do it here as long as no one is looking,’ he said.”

Spokespersons for Ross Dress for Less and Forever 21 both responded to the reporter by email that they take these labor issues “very seriously” and are cooperating, as Ross puts it, “to make sure that suppliers understand the law.” Representatives of TJ Maxx did not return a request for comment. Kitroeff reports, “It is not clear whether the retailers are still doing business with clothes makers that underpay workers.”

Next time you consider buying that $18 jacket or $9 dress, consider how it’s possible for something new to be sold that cheaply. There’s a high price for that low price.

All is not lost. If you’re on a strict budget or enjoy scouting for bargains, shop online instead and head to eBay, where you can find all manner of brand new items with their original tags, purchases made that have never been used, from vendors all across the United States (yours truly included).

Judy Hornby silver pink dress 1

For instance, among the big trends of this season are 1980s styles, padded shoulders included, along with floral prints, ruffles and metallics. I have a vintage $1,215 Judy Hornby Couture pink and silver metallic silk dress with a ruffled hem, purchased at Marshall Field’s, brand new with tags, listed for under $200.

You can find the dress at http://www.ebay.com/itm/JUDY-HORNBY-COUTURE-1215-Pink-Silver-Foiled-Floral-Silk-Dress-80s-NWT-38-B-/171021327963?ssPageName=STRK:MESE:IT

I would love for the dress to be worn and enjoyed this holiday season.

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The Return of Matchy-Matchy

After years, if not decades, of the fashion world turning up its nose at the concept of wearing suites of matching clothing or accessories, matchy-matchy has come back into style in a big way.

“When it comes to this season’s brightest prints, don’t be afraid to double up” advises the September 2015 issue of Harper’s Bazaar.

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Featured examples of the matchy-matchy look  in the September issue of Bazaar  include a floral print skirt and matching boots from Balenciaga;

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. . . a skirt, bag and boots from Chanel;

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. . . and, my personal favorite, a tweed dress and bag from Loewe.

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The August 2016 issue of Vogue features a smaller-scale ballerina print on a matching frame bag and bow-necked dress from Marc Jacobs. Jewelry lovers, please note the exquisite watch from Vacheron Constantin in a fan shape that echoes the shape of the ballerina skirts in the print — fabulous!

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Aside from prints, matching the color of one’s shoes or boots to one’s ensemble is also making fashion news. People magazine featured celebrities who matched their shoes to their frocks in the August 15, 2016 issue.

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The September 2016 issue of InStyle features monochromatic coat and boots ensembles.

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The September 2016 issue of Elle goes further, labeling the new trend “monochromania.”

A matching ensemble is the most expensive way to dress, but when the color or print is one you absolutely love, it’s the perfect time to double or triple up on your purchases to incorporate these favorites into your wardrobe. With proper care, you’ll be able to enjoy the print or color well into the future mixed with other pieces in your wardrobe, even after the matchy-matchy trend has once more waned.

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All Hail the Return of Pantsuits

As Ingrid Schmidt wrote in the Image section of the September 11, 2015 Los Angeles Times, “A revival of women’s power suits may be a fashion bonus to emerge from this tumultuous presidential election season. With the potential of having the first female U.S. president, sharply tailored suiting somehow feels right right now in womenswear.”

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Hillary Clinton, a self-described “pantsuit aficionado” has a well-documented wardrobe of pantsuits in a rainbow of colors and textures, which she has favored since serving as Secretary of State. You’ll recall that her predecessor in that role, Madeleine Albright, had a similar uniform of tailored suiting with skirts in lieu of pants. For a professional woman, no look carries more authority than one topped with a tailored jacket. As Schmidt notes, celebrities including Beyonce, Rihanna, Rita Ora and Kirsten Stewart have also been photographed in suiting looks, proving that this professional woman’s staple has moved into the realm of fashion.

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Illustration:  “The Hillary Effect” documented in the September 2016 issue of Glamour.

Let’s consider some of the many reasons why pantsuits are such a wonderful option:

Footwear Choices:  Pants allow for comfortable low-heel shoes and give the wearer a long lean look without high heels. For someone on her feet a lot, this is no small benefit. I’ve written many times on the subject of “shoe sanity” —  the reasons to favor low-heel shoes.

Legwear Choices:  Hosiery, or rather, the fashion world’s view that hosiery is tacky, becomes a non-issue. Bare legs with a skirt suit or dress works well for women with shapely legs and excellent skin; not so well for everyone else. With pants, one may wear hosiery or bypass it. With appropriate low heel shoes, trouser socks too may be an option. A peek of hosiery at one’s ankles does not cause fashion followers to cringe.

Adaptability:  Having a removable jacket as part of one’s ensemble is a wonderful feature when one is moving in and out of different environments. Pants are warmer than skirts — a benefit when one is traveling on cold airplanes or sitting in cold offices, irrespective of the weather outside. And if the temperature is warm, a jacket can come off. As a bonus, the jacket from a pantsuit may mix with other wardrobe pieces, including skirts and dresses.

Accessories Change the Look: A small wardrobe of pantsuits combined with a wardrobe of blouses or tops plus scarves and jewelry create a multitude of looks. Color and pattern catch the eye. Tasteful jewelry adds authority and sophistication.

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Illustration: “The New Suit” with accessories featured in the September 2016 issue of Harper’s Bazaar.

Figure Flattery: The long, lean monochromatic look of a pantsuit, well chosen, flatters every figure. Schmidt quotes celebrity stylist Kemal Harris: “Luckily, pant legs are definitely wider and waists are moving higher, which is great news because this drapey, flowing style is universally flattering.”

A well-tailored pantsuit is a worthwhile investment — authoritative in appearance and comfortable to wear. That’s something that every professional woman , whatever her political leanings, can support.

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