Women have been fighting their way into the workforce for decades. What began as the struggle for the right to have a life outside of the home, became the fight for equal opportunity and respect. For as long as women have been climbing the corporate ladder, women’s suits have been there to meet their changing needs. Here are five ways that women's suits have changed in the last five decades:

1. The Pant Suit Is Born

In the 1960s Yves Saint Laurent introduced the first pant suit. For the first time in history women could ditch the skirt and opt for pants instead. It was a look which basically copied men’s suits but scaled them down to fit a woman.

The pant suit was met with a degree of confusion. The world had trouble agreeing if they were an insult to femininity or empowering to women. Nevertheless women flocked to buy them. After all, pants had already been incorporated into the casual aspects of their lives. It made sense that women start to wear pants in a more formal style.

2. Ties For Women

The masculine pant suits got a bit of a makeover in the 1970s giving them a somewhat more feminine look. Women were making the pantsuit their own by pairing them with blouses worn with a loose bow tie. Pantsuits were further softened with rich colours for the winter and pastels in the summer.

The look was flowy, fluttery, and feminine underneath the lines of a masculine suit. Women wore soft fabric blouses such as silk and the oversized bows ties they paired them with were full and ruffled. It seemed like at least in this decade women were opting for a softer look but big changes were on the horizon.

3. The Power Suit

The 1980s were the decade of the power suit. My fave!! Women were entering the workforce in larger numbers and were no longer content with secretarial and clerical work. The power woman wanted to be seen as an equal to her male counterparts and shoot her shot. The power suit mirrored this change in attitude.

At this time women’s fashion was all about taking the focus off gender and creating the feeling of authority. Shoulder pads and loose pants became the norm in women’s suits. But the power suit wasn’t just for the office. The look was quickly spreading beyond office walls as women everywhere were becoming more assertive.

4. The Power Skirt

In the 1990s the power suit got a bit of a makeover with a more feminine look. Skirts returned to women’s office attire with hem lines that were shorter then ever. Shoulder pads lost their appeal and women began pairing their suits with softer shirts. Pinstripes, silk, and lace became the fabrics of choice.

These changes reflected the shift in women’s attitudes. Women were opting for a more self-assured look rather than aggressive and domineering. As more women were finding their way into the executive offices their need to fight their way to the top no longer seemed so desperate. They could now begin to own their style and shape their careers as they chose.

5. Personal Style

The confident and self-assured women of the 1990s continued to make strides that would ultimately empower women to decide their style for themselves. Today power suits have reached an age of “anything goes”. We can decide for ourselves what is appropriate and what demands respect.

The modern woman can select a business professional suit with its clean lines and either pants or a skirt. For casual Fridays or evenings out we can go for a business casual look and pair a bold colored jacket with jeans. The adventurous type can opt for the fashion forward suit that is dressy and formal while being fun and trendy. Of course each of these suit options can be accessorized to the tastes of the individual because modern women don’t fit into any one mold.

While we are free to enjoy our current freedom of style, let's take a minute to acknowledge all of the brave, strong, and assertive women that came before us and helped us get to where we are today!

What does your ideal suit look like?

Sierra E is a Los-Angeles based trial lawyer and entrepreneur. She became partner at her law firm in 2015 and has made numerous appearances as a guest legal correspondent on CNN. In 2018, Sierra launched SuitKits, an online shopping service that allows women to custom design suits and separates to fit their exact measurements, style, color and cut. Through her career, her writings, and her company, Sierra hopes to help women from all backgrounds achieve both personal and professional success for the benefit of themselves and their families. You can find her on Twitter/Facebook/IG @SuitKits

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