THE SKIRT-SUIT HAS BEEN A FASHION STAPLE since some time after Eve and Adam left The Garden—yes, that long ago. In the 1970s, it was the centerpiece of every fashionista’s wardrobe: the skirt and jacket also were offered with a coordinated pair of trousers and, if you wished, a waistcoat for under the jacket. You could dress it up for nighttime and dress it down for daytime and the office, simply with a change of blouse and jewelry. The 2021 Fall/Winter catwalks promenaded skirts-suits by virtually every international couture house—and these five in particular caught our attention.
From Chanel’s Fall/Winter 2021 Collection
The House of Chanel was founded by French couturière Coco Chanel in 1909, when she was 26-years-old and known as Gabrielle, the daughter of a laundrywoman and an itinerant street vendor. Her first salon was a millinery shop on the ground floor of 160 Boulevard Malesherbes, Paris, home of socialite businessman Étienne Balsan, her lover. When Coco died in 1971 at the age of 87, she left behind an empire that today is estimated at €11 billion (over $12.5 billion.) Her colorful life has been portrayed in film by Shirley MacLaine and French actress Audrey Tautou, among others, and on Broadway by Katherine Hepburn, in the musical, Coco. English actress Keira Knightley has been the face of the “Coco Mademoiselle Chanel” fragrance for 10 years and French actress Marion Cotillard is the face of Chanel No. 5, arguably the most popular fragrance in the world. The late fashion designer Karl Langerfeld led the House of Chanel from 1983 until his death in 2019, preserving the Chanel stamp of refined elegance while imprinting his own mark after 55 years as design director of Fendi.
Two Chanel classics have withstood the test of time—more than a century, to be exact—and that is the Chanel skirt-suit and Chanel No. 5 parfum. It is no surprise, therefore, that Chanel’s Fall/Winter 2021 ready-to-wear collection featured the basic Chanel suit, which remains little-changed, down to the fabrics. Virginie Viard, the brand’s artistic director since Langerfeld’s death, married traditional, sturdy tweeds with delicate chiffons—inspired, as Hamish Bowles, the European editor-at-large for Vogue wrote in his review of the collection, “by the legendary style of the late Stella Tennant, a Chanel icon for so many years, and a woman who embodied the chic of a certain school of aristocratic negligence as shrugged a hefty tweed coat, built for the Scottish moors. Over a delicate evening dress.”
From Sacai’s Fall/Winter 2021 Collection
Japanese fashion designer Chitose Abe (née Chitose Sakai) launched Sacai in 1999 and her keen eye, avant-garde edge, and technical knowledge acquired while working as a pattern cutter for Comme des Garçons’ Rei Kawakubo and Junya Watanabe, catapulted her to the upper echelon of couture. Twenty years later, her signature knitwear, jackets, skirts, dresses, and trousers remain classically innovative, defying convention, and taking the skirt-suit to a new, uncompromising level. Vogue magazine has identified Sacai as the design house that has been “influential in breaking down the dichotomy between casual and formal clothing.” Chitose Abe refers to her “design language” as complex and sophisticated, reflecting “the multidimensionality of modern women.”
From Burberry’s Fall/Winter 2021 Collection
Burberry was established in 1856 when a 21-year-old draper’s apprentice named Thomas Burberry opened a store in Basingstoke, England, that sold outdoor attire. Since then, the label that since defined the “country set look” with its tweeds, wools, waterproofs, and gabardines, has become a leader among luxury brands, ranking 73rd in Interbrand’s Best Global Brands report next to Louis Vuitton and Prada, with sales of $3 billion and stores in 59 countries. Worn by crown and commoner alike, “Burberry Check,” the brand’s trademark beige-red-black-white plaid fabric—whether as a scarf, coat lining, or in any number of apparel designs—is a fashion statement unto itself. Among the celebrities who sport Burberry are actresses Demi Moore, Emily Blunt, Gwyneth Paltrow, and supermodel Kate Moss.
From Michael Kors’ Fall/Winter 2021 Collection
American fashion designer Michael Kors was the first women’s ready-to-wear designer for the French fashion house, Celine, from 1997 to 1981. A graduate of New York’s Fashion Institute of Technology, he left Celine to launch his eponymous label at Bergdorf Goodman. Sublime elegance describes Kors, whose designs have been worn by actresses Nicole Kidman, Olivia Wilde, Dakota Johnson, Blake Lively, Kate Hudson, Jennifer Lawrence, Angelina Jolie, among many others, and the likes of Michelle Obama and Melania Trump. In 2010, he was awarded the Geoffrey Beene Lifetime Achievement Award from the Council of Fashion Designers of America, the youngest recipient ever, and in 2013, he was selected for The Time 100, Time magazine’s annual list of the 100 most influential people in the world.
From Saint Laurent’s Fall/Winter 2021 Collection
Founded by Yves Saint Laurent in 1962, “the most consistently celebrated and influential designer of the past 25 years,” according to fashion historian Caroline Milibank, in 1985, “can be credited with both spurring the couture’s rise from its 1960 ashes and finally rendering ready-to-wear reputable.” Born in Oran, French Algeria, in 1936, he died at the age of 71 of brain cancer in Paris, in 2008, but his brand lives on. Inspired by menswear, he designed the “power suit” for women and feminized masculine designs for women; in 1966, he opened the Rive Gauche string of stores in Paris, London, and New York, gearing his popular ready-to-wear fashions to younger women at affordable prices. He was among the first to use black models—among them, supermodel Naomi Campbell, who was the first black model to appear as the cover of Vogue Paris. A friend of artist Andy Warhol, he had a fearless penchant for pairing dissimilar colors with disparate textures—features that to this day, brand the Saint Laurent collections.