Catch up on shows with The Coast On Demand
Thursday, November 01, 2012 3:00 PM
Clean lines, superb structure, flawless detail – a well-tailored suit speaks volumes.
Coco Chanel once said: “Fashion is architecture: it’s a matter of proportions.” Nowhere is this truer in clothing than with the suit. Cut, fit, length, cloth and texture are the foundations of a good suit and, like constructing a house, every element has to work well together in order to be a success.
However, creating the right balance can be tricky. Choose a jacket which is too long and loose to wear with your trousers and you’ll make your legs look short and your waist non-existent. Opting for a pleated front rather than a flat one can add inches in all the wrong places depending on your body shape. As a rule of thumb, only the tiniest, narrow-hipped and flat-stomached women can get away with a pleated front. A good compromise is to have a sharp crease down the front of the leg and a deeply cuffed hem.
Designer Andrea Moore has been sewing made-to-measure suits through her Suit Yourself service for many years now and in that time has encountered plenty of different body types and style preferences. She says that as well as wanting to look well tailored, women are also looking to express their personalities through their suit choices.
“When you look at what is on offer for woman and what men can buy you realise there is so much more choice for men who work in the corporate world. I wanted to be able to provide more options for my customers through Suit Yourself, especially as they are after clothing which showcases both their individuality and femininity,” she says.
One of the most important features to look for when selecting a suit is good shoulder definition.
“A jacket doesn’t have to have huge Eighties shoulder pads but it does have to have some shape there to provide balance. Lapel shape is also important because it divides the body up and creates a line for the eye to follow, which really helps if you are a little curvier.”
Andrea likens tailor-made suiting to corsetry – it’s all about accentuating the body.
“A suit does have an underlying sensuality if it is well made. There are lots of little tricks we use to elongate lines, create shape or pull lumps and bumps in. Sometimes the most flattering piece of clothing a woman will own is a suit because it has been made just for her.” >> This season, with the 1940s silhouette playing a prominent role, Andrea is also offering a pencil skirt and has reworked a vintage jacket and added it to her collection.
“One of my sales assistants found this amazing 1940s jacket in an op shop and brought it in. It has a gorgeous shawl collar and double pockets. We used that as the basis for one of our looks this season and teamed it with slightly cropped pants. It looks great.”
Fabric is also key and increasingly women are moving away from plain black.
“We use gorgeous wool blends from Savile Row and the most popular is an ink with a red or purple pinstripe. I love pinstripes because they instantly add length to the body and create personality. Your suit will say a lot about you before you even open your mouth.”
Bright jewel-coloured hues are also becoming popular.
“Colour is huge this season but you can’t just let it hang or it becomes too much. With suiting you can tailor it and discipline it so that you wear the colour (and the suit) not the other way around.”
Detailing also makes a huge difference to a suit’s overall appearance and fit. Whether you should have one, two or three buttons down the front of a jacket depends entirely on your body shape. If you are curvy choose more buttons; flat chested, go for less. Pockets can also be an issue. Placed right on the hip they can add inches. Likewise, if they are too flappy you will seem rounder than you actually are. Look for jackets and pants with diagonally shaped pockets as these are more flattering and add a point of interest.
Designer Tanya Carlson has definitely noticed an upswing in suiting sales during the past year.
“It seems to me that people are after a return to formality with their dressing,” she says. “They’re over deconstructed hems and lots of layering. I’m not sure whether it has to do with a response to the times we are living in, but I think there is a more serious approach to dressing at the moment and when you dress in a suit you instantly look well put together.”
Tanya tells her customers not to be shy when shopping for suits.
“They need to spend a decent amount of time trying different styles and sizes to make sure they are getting the best for their investment,” she says.
She asks her customers to do up all the buttons of the jacket and then gets them to sit down just to check they won’t pop (“there’s nothing worse in a meeting”). She then suggests they raise their arms straight out in front and above their heads to check on sleeve length.
“People need to realise that it’s very hard to buy a suit that will fit them perfectly off the rack. Often they will need to have things shortened or taken in to the point where it’s tailored to your body shape properly.”
Tanya likes to use fine wool blends with a small Lycra percentage as these create a narrower fit and will keep their shape more easily than looser weaves like linen and cotton.
She also recommends customers buy more than two pieces of a suit, which while pricy in the short term can be more cost effective in the long run.
“If there is a matching dress or a skirt I think you should really make the investment and buy these as well, or if there are two different styles of pants buy both. Alternating the pants with the skirt or dress will really extend the life of a suit and give you several more options for work or going out.”
Being familiar with your body shape is crucial when purchasing a suit.
Taller, leaner woman are able to make the most of the more mannish and clean-lined suits on offer this season. Worn together with a crisp white blouse, a slim patent leather belt and a pair of spiked heels, the perfect juxtaposition of masculine and feminine is created.
Petite smaller woman need to take care they don’t get swamped by their suits. Aim for a cigarette pant, cropped above the ankle and a shorter jacket.
If you are curvy or take a different size for jackets and pants it’s best to opt for custom made.
Asking your tailor to take the sleeves in slightly and placing buttons closer together on a jacket can create a slimmer line and it’s crucial for curvy or busty women to emphasise their waist.
"Sometimes I design a peplum at the back which cinches everything in and other times it’s all about the shape of the lapels – a deeper “V” works for bustier woman – and the placement of buttons. If you get it right it can be really, really flattering.”
And while there are rules to stick to, Tanya says there are others that can be broken.
“While being all matchy looks great, I also like the idea of wearing different colours and patterns together, like a navy and a soft brown, or a charcoal and a black. It just creates more interest, gives things a twist and can give you a lot of different looks, especially when you play with accessories.”
And as it looks like the suit will be around for a while yet, having options will keep your wardrobe fresh and your bank account healthy for a few seasons to come.
• Always choose a quality fabric; wool or a wool blend is best. If well looked after, a good suit should last up to five years. Expect to pay upwards of $700 for good quality and design.
• Just because it doesn’t fit off the rack it doesn’t mean you can’t have it altered by a good tailor. They should be able to do everything from deepening the shoulders, to cuffing a hem and taking in or shortening sleeves.
• Drycleaning too often will decrease the life of your suit. Try spot cleaning marks, airing your suit out in front of an open window and always hang your trousers and jackets properly.
• Wear heels when trying on a suit as they area good indicator of cuff length and how a pair of trousers will fall.
• Check the suit from every angle in the mirror to ensure all the lines are falling straight down. If the seams look too tight or the jacket is pulling across the shoulders, you need to go up a size.
• Don’t be afraid to try something new. There are lots of different styles around this season from exceedingly mannish (slouchy and oversized) to slightly flamboyant (Jacquard silks in jewel tones).
• Create excitement by adding interesting accessories such as sequinned belts, brightly coloured or floral shirts, glittery jewellery and interesting patent leather, reptile-skin or suede heels.
Thursday, June 20, 2013
Coast has your chance to win a trip for two people, touring with the All Bl ...
Friday, June 14, 2013
Coast proudly presents a new 20 episode locally produced series on TVNZ Hea ...
Friday, June 07, 2013
Welcome to Coast Kitchen, a place to share and enjoy recipes. The Coast Ki ...