Like many of you reading this, I have never had any need to be a trouser-suit wearer. My various jobs as ice-cream kiosk attendant (true story; seven glorious summers of my life on the Isle of Wight), call-centre training manager, TV production accountant and, more recently, fashion editor have never required a particularly smart uniform, so my usual work attire is smart jeans, a nice jumper and (very clean) trainers. But, a few years ago, I came into possession of a navy-and-green tartan trouser suit from Hobbs. “It might look a bit bonkers, but it will be great for fashion week!” I chirpily thought to myself. I didn’t expect to wear it on any other occasion, if I’m totally honest, particularly after my husband once commented that I was wearing my “Miles Hunt from The Wonder Stuff suit”, even if he did mean it as a compliment. Little did I know that, years later, it would have become one of my favourite outfits in my wardrobe.
The Hobbs tartan trouser suit did indeed serve me well at fashion week in London, Milan and Paris. Suddenly, I appreciated just how easy men have it when it comes to looking put together – just add something underneath and a pair of shoes, and you’re good to go. My suit, of course, has the added bonus of a statement print for added wow factor. But it went well beyond being that easy outfit for the shows. It’s become my go-to look for important meetings, casual parties and gigs alike. In fact, I was wearing it when I met one of my Britpop heroes, Gaz Coombes, and I’m pretty certain he appreciated my sartorial nous when we posed for a selfie. I get more compliments on the suit than virtually anything else in my wardrobe, but have to disappoint people when they ask where it’s from, with the sentence “I bought it years ago”.
It went well beyond being that easy outfit for the shows. It’s become my go-to look for important meetings, casual parties and gigs alike
Fast forward a few years, though, and the trouser suit is having a moment. Head to pretty much any high-street store and you’ll find it has a version of its own. If you’re after a statement, like my one from Hobbs, Topshop’s offering is a rock ’n’ roll black-and-red humbug-stripe number, which would look smashing with a pair of Teddy Boy creepers. For a more subtle stripey suit, try Kitri for its oversized-fit chalk stripe. Zara has loads of options too, including a primrose-yellow double-breasted version with cropped trousers, which appeals to me as a shorter person – getting the length of your trousers is key to making the suit work, and I always think a flash of ankle makes it easier to wear.
If being on trend in a trouser suit isn’t quite on trend enough for you, though, pick one of the many checked designs around right now. Of course, Zara has lots, but I really love Mango’s Prince of Wales print, as you can also add a matching waistcoat for bonus tailoring points. That said, there is much to love about a simple, plain-coloured suit. I bought an olive-green one earlier this year in COS (there’s this similar one available now) and it’s a lifesaver because it goes with absolutely everything. I like to wear it with a simple T-shirt underneath and look-at-me shoes or checkerboard, slip-on Vans.
So, now you’ve got your suit sorted, here are five ways to get the most out of wearing it.
Dress it down
One of my favourite pictures of David Bowie is of him wearing a white suit with a pair of adidas Stan Smiths. Sportswear looks brilliant with tailoring – I like classic styles like Converse All Star high tops or adidas Gazelles.
Jazz it up
It’s easy to style your suit up for party season as an alternative to dresses. Find something lacy for underneath and add a luxe shoe, like the Maje velvet embroidered slippers, before finishing with a red lip.
Layer it on
Don’t forget that your suit comes with its own outerwear. For crisp autumn days when it’s not quite cold enough for your winter coat, I like to pop a roll-neck sweater under my wool suit and add a pair of sturdy ankle boots. Ideal for days when you’re spending most of the time outside but want to look put together.
You can give your suit a whole different vibe just by adding a belt over the jacket. I’m partial to wearing a black-and-white striped elastic belt over my tartan suit, while a black embellished one would look fab with my olive-green COS suit.
Split it up
Of course, being a suit, I’ve worn the trousers and the jacket as separates more times than I can remember. That nice jumper and trainers? Perfect with the plaid pants. Something snazzy to pop over an LBD? Hello, tartan blazer.