Style Police: Prepare to split your suits

The jacket isn't dead. It's just popped a Valium and relaxed, says JAMES SHERWOOD. The new version is a blend of cardi, coat and zip- up crop top

What do we think about the Monica Lewinsky makeover? For her first UK television interview, Monica did the right thing and flattened the bouffy hairstyle. But she missed a trick with the dark tailored trouser suit. Why is it that women who want to be taken seriously always wear what is essentially a man's suit? Particularly when fashion has finally made up its mind: the suit jacket just isn't going to cut it come 2000.

Checking the Style Police archive, we notice the first registered sighting of an alternative to the suit jacket was the zip-front crop top way back in winter 1997. We didn't think women would bite. After all, the jacket was always a cornerstone of the working wardrobe. Then, suddenly last summer, along came the cardigan. It's a great look. It's a cute look. It's a young look. Ultimately, however, it was never going to replace the jacket.

For spring/summer 1999, designers have finally consigned the suit jacket to the fashion trash can. As a concession to real life, however, they have given us viable alternatives. Here's the deal. Jackets aren't dead, they've just popped a couple of Valium and relaxed.

Think of the designers as you would those mad genetic engineers mating the cardigan and the jacket or the coat and the jacket. At Armani that meant elongating the jacket to the knee and ditching the suiting fabrics in favour of violet silk crepe, overlaid with a layer of smoky grey tulle. Even more unstructured were the drawstring-tied tunic tops at Salvatore Ferragamo.

Alternatively, you've still got the zip front but this time round it's in leather (McQueen), suede (Max Mara) or peppermint boucle wool (Versace). We're talking about a body-hugging crop shape with the zip nipping in the waist. Alberta Ferretti provided the ultimate jacket/shirt hybrid in nude jersey. There were also scads of fine-knit cardigan coats but they're all a bit Guardian women's page so they're best left. But the jacket rethink is so strong, and so unanimous, that you cannot underestimate the trend.

Ultimately, it's a good thing. The pant suit in co-ordinating fabric has been big in womenswear since about 1930. Women loved the velvet-trimmed revolution that was cardi time last summer. But it ultimately let them down. Now we have a fabulous alternative to Savile Row drag.


This is not an excuse to look sloppy at work. We're not talking dressed- down Friday. No, best to break this look in gently. If you bought a pant suit in the last four years, do not despair. Look at the pants. Are they slouchy? Are they hipster? Are they cigarette-slim? All the above are A1 OK as separates.

Break up your suiting. Unless the jackets have Mike Tyson shoulders there is hope of salvation. The black single-breasted jacket is still going to work if balanced with a luxe silk viscose maxi or a more evening-oriented pair of pants.

Lift the pieces of suiting with a colour flash or with a texture gear-shift: cappuccino nubuck pants with tailored jacket, black leather button-front jacket with tight white pencil skirt. Ease into the look until you can confidently phase out the tailored jacket.

You've got until autumn so take your time and take it easy.

Where to buy it

Style Police have been shopping for you because we just weren't convinced the high street was on top of this trend. Sorry, guys, but they really aren't there yet.

But there is a starter-pack style everyone has had a go at. It's that single-breasted frock coat so beloved of boy bands and TOTP presenters. It's grey and it's invariably part of a cigarette pant suit. You'll find it in grey wool crepe at Wallis (pounds 80), gunmetal shot silk at Principles (pounds 125) and in dove grey stretch wool at Next (pounds 74.99). They're all good basics if you just buy the jacket.

A much more modern approach to the new tailoring is at Marks & Spencer. Granted, the rest of the store still looks slightly Home Counties, but M&S have cut a killer grey wool and Lycra sleeveless dress and matching long jacket (pounds 175 for the two). The fabric is not dissimilar to Alexander McQueen's suiting last season and the dress-and-coat combo is to-die-for.

One shop that really warmed Style Police's heart was Top Shop. God bless Top Shop for being brave enough to have a go. Yes, they've done the grey flannel frock coat (pounds 65) but have cut it with the all-important concealed buttons. They've also come up with a zip-up cardi/coat (pounds 28), padded shell zip-top in icy blue and baby pink for pounds 25 and experimented with the shot silk hooded nylon coat (pounds 95). Love it.


Marks & Spencer: 0171 935 4422.

Next: 0345 100500

Principles: 0990 233343

Top Shop: 0171 291 2332

Wallis: 0181 910 1333

Life and Style
Arts and Entertainment
Diana from the Great British Bake Off 2014
tvProducers confirm contestant left because of illness
Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie reportedly married in secret on Saturday
peopleSpokesperson for couple confirms they tied the knot on Saturday after almost a decade together
Joan Rivers has reportedly been hospitalised after she stopped breathing during surgery
people81-year-old 'stopped breathing' during vocal chord surgery
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Life and Style
ebooksA superb mix of recipes serving up the freshest of local produce in a delicious range of styles
Life and Style
ebooksFrom the lifespan of a slug to the distance to the Sun: answers to 500 questions from readers
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs General

    Scrum Master (Agile, Java, team recruitment)

    £45000 - £60000 Per Annum + benefits: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd: Scrum M...

    Junior Asset Manager

    £25000 - £35000 Per Annum: The Green Recruitment Company: Job Title: Junior As...

    Investment Analyst

    £33000 - £40000 Per Annum Discretionary profit share: The Green Recruitment Co...

    Supply teachers required in Cambridge

    £21000 - £35000 per annum: Randstad Education Cambridge: Supply teachers requi...

    Day In a Page

    Israel-Gaza conflict: No victory for Israel despite weeks of death and devastation

    Robert Fisk: No victory for Israel despite weeks of devastation

    Palestinians have won: they are still in Gaza, and Hamas is still there
    Mary Beard writes character reference for Twitter troll who called her a 'slut'

    Unlikely friends: Mary Beard and the troll who called her a ‘filthy old slut’

    The Cambridge University classicist even wrote the student a character reference
    America’s new apartheid: Prosperous white districts are choosing to break away from black cities and go it alone

    America’s new apartheid

    Prosperous white districts are choosing to break away from black cities and go it alone
    Amazon is buying Twitch for £600m - but why do people want to watch others playing Xbox?

    What is the appeal of Twitch?

    Amazon is buying the video-game-themed online streaming site for £600m - but why do people want to watch others playing Xbox?
    Tip-tapping typewriters, ripe pongs and slides in the office: Bosses are inventing surprising ways of making us work harder

    How bosses are making us work harder

    As it is revealed that one newspaper office pumps out the sound of typewriters to increase productivity, Gillian Orr explores the other devices designed to motivate staff
    Manufacturers are struggling to keep up with the resurgence in vinyl records

    Hard pressed: Resurgence in vinyl records

    As the resurgence in vinyl records continues, manufacturers and their outdated machinery are struggling to keep up with the demand
    Tony Jordan: 'I turned down the chance to research Charles Dickens for a TV series nine times ... then I found a kindred spirit'

    A tale of two writers

    Offered the chance to research Charles Dickens for a TV series, Tony Jordan turned it down. Nine times. The man behind EastEnders and Life on Mars didn’t feel right for the job. Finally, he gave in - and found an unexpected kindred spirit
    Could a later start to the school day be the most useful educational reform of all?

    Should pupils get a lie in?

    Doctors want a later start to the school day so that pupils can sleep later. Not because teenagers are lazy, explains Simon Usborne - it's all down to their circadian rhythms
    Prepare for Jewish jokes – as Jewish comedians get their own festival

    Prepare for Jewish jokes...

    ... as Jewish comedians get their own festival
    SJ Watson: 'I still can't quite believe that Before I Go to Sleep started in my head'

    A dream come true for SJ Watson

    Watson was working part time in the NHS when his debut novel, Before I Go to Sleep, became a bestseller. Now it's a Hollywood movie, too. Here he recalls the whirlwind journey from children’s ward to A-list film set
    10 best cycling bags for commuters

    10 best cycling bags for commuters

    Gear up for next week’s National Cycle to Work day with one of these practical backpacks and messenger bags
    Paul Scholes: Three at the back isn’t working yet but given time I’m hopeful Louis van Gaal can rebuild Manchester United

    Paul Scholes column

    Three at the back isn’t working yet but given time I’m hopeful Louis van Gaal can rebuild Manchester United
    Kate Bush, Hammersmith Apollo music review: A preamble, then a coup de théâtre - and suddenly the long wait felt worth it

    Kate Bush shows a voice untroubled by time

    A preamble, then a coup de théâtre - and suddenly the long wait felt worth it
    Robot sheepdog technology could be used to save people from burning buildings

    The science of herding is cracked

    Mathematical model would allow robots to be programmed to control crowds and save people from burning buildings
    Tyrant: Is the world ready for a Middle Eastern 'Dallas'?

    This tyrant doesn’t rule

    It’s billed as a Middle Eastern ‘Dallas’, so why does Fox’s new drama have a white British star?