The suit has been very much associated with men and has become one of the most recognisable symbols of men’s fashion. However, throughout the 20th century, the suit has been appropriated by women and those of other genders for various reasons: to rebel against constricting and complicated attire, to be free to perform sport and tasks once exclusively in the domain of men, to assert equality in the workplace or on the street, or to shock and play with the binary definition of gender.

Although male designers are often celebrated for giving women ‘power uniforms’, female designers have been innovative and subtle in their response to the needs of their fellow women. Their shared experience of femininity has allowed them to cater to the needs and desires of the women of their generation, using the female body to make a statement through fashion’s key components: construction, volume, fabric and detail.

One of the first names that come to mind is Lucy Christiana, alias Lady Duff-Gordon and known to the fashion world as ‘Lucile’. Working in the early 20th century between Europe and America, the British designer became known for her elegant evening wear. But it is in her approach to daywear that her feminist views become more manifest: her simple tailored suits symbolised a new approach for women, confident to stride forward and campaign for their rights.

Coco Chanel is widely acclaimed for her streamlined and elongated silhouettes, but it is her groundbreaking work on textiles that demonstrated her innate understanding of the feminine body and comfort. Her suits, cut in bouclé wool but above all in elastic jersey, are an ode to the carefree, almost brazen feminine attitude of the 1920s and 1930s.

Elsa Schiaparelli and her witty interpretation of surrealism in fashion showed women how to turn a suit into an exploration of their inner-self, and of the reality surrounding them.

The 1980s saw suits for women spreading across the world. Designers such as Giorgio Armani are said to have taken inspiration from masculine wardrobes to furnish women with an attire that could help them in their everyday battle to gain power and equal prominence in society.

While broad shoulders and rigid shapes were omnipresent in the designs of Armani, Thierry Mugler and Ralph Lauren, women designers started questioning the so-called ‘power suit’ and began playing with its characteristic details. Talented designers as Anne Marie Beretta and Popy Moreni proposed their ironic take on ‘strong’ suits, showing women that they did not necessarily need to abandon their own identities in order to succeed and get what they wanted – and deserved.

These women designers are examples of the ways in which feminine sensibility and first-hand experience made its way into the fashion system – a realm that is very much still in the hands of men, yet mostly aimed at female consumers. Recovering these experiences through the objects kept in heritage collections allows us to unveil relevant stories that can help to rewrite history and turn it into herstory, or at least to propose a nuanced version of what we (think we) know and often take for granted.

Źródło artykułu: Europeana Foundation. Licencja CC BY-SA 4.0.
Definicje i przykłady zdań pochodzą ze słownika Cambridge Dictionary.


appropriate /əˈprəʊ.pri.eɪt/ – to take something for your own use, usually without permission;

rebel /rɪˈbel/ – to refuse to obey rules or people in authority; to react against a feeling, action, plan, etc.;
buntować się, odmawiać posłuszeństwa

constrict /kənˈstrɪkt/ – to become tighter and narrower, or to make something become tighter and narrower; to limit an action or behaviour;
uciskać, zwęzić, ograniczać swobodę

attire /əˈtaɪər/ – clothes, especially of a particular or formal type;
strój, ubiór

assert /əˈsɜːt/ – to do something to show that you have power;
bronić (swoich praw), upominać się (o swoje prawa)

binary /ˈbaɪ.nər.i/ – relating to or consisting of two things, in which everything is either one thing or the other;

cater to sb / sth /ˈkeɪ.tər/ – to satisfy a need or to provide what is wanted or needed by a particular person or group;
zaspokajać, spełniać

alias /ˈeɪ.li.əs/ – also known as; used when giving the name that a person is generally known by, after giving their real name;
znany także jako; przydomek, ksywa

tailored /ˈteɪ.ləd/ – used to describe a piece of clothing that is shaped to fit a person’s body closely;
dopasowany, szyty na miarę

stride /straɪd/ – to walk somewhere quickly with long steps;
chodzić zamaszystym krokiem

acclaimed /əˈkleɪmd/ – attracting public approval and praise;
uznany, podziwiany, budzący uznanie

streamlined /ˈstrim·lɑɪnd/ – improved or made simpler; designed or arranged in a way that makes movement easier through air or water;
uproszczony, sprawniejszy, opływowy (o kształcie)

elongated /ˈiː.lɒŋ.ɡeɪ.tɪd/ – longer and thinner than usual;
wydłużony, pociągły

groundbreaking /ˈɡraʊndˌbreɪ.kɪŋ/ – original and important; showing a new way of doing or thinking about things;
przełomowy, prekursorski, nowatorski

innate /ɪˈneɪt/ – (of a quality) which you are born with, or which is present naturally;

ode /əʊd/ – a poem expressing the writer’s thoughts and feelings about a particular person or subject, usually written to that person or subject;

brazen /ˈbreɪ.zən/ – obvious, without any attempt to be hidden;
bezczelny, bezwstydny

witty /ˈwɪt.i/ – using words in a clever and funny way;
bystry, dowcipny, błyskotliwy

prominence /ˈprɒm.ɪ.nəns/ – the state of being easily seen or well known
wysoka pozycja, wybitność, ważność

rigid /ˈrɪdʒ.ɪd/ – stiff or fixed; not able to be bent or moved;
sztywny, niezmienny

omnipresent /ˌɒm.nɪˈprez.ənt/ – present or having an effect everywhere at the same time;

abandon /əˈbæn.dən/ – to leave a place, thing, or person, usually for ever;
porzucać, opuszczać

realm /relm/ – an area of interest or activity;
dziedzina, zakres, sfera

aim /eɪm/ – to intend;
mieć na celu, zamierzać

heritage /ˈher.ɪ.tɪdʒ/ – features belonging to the culture of a particular society, such as traditions, languages, or buildings, that were created in the past and still have historical importance;

unveil /ʌnˈveɪl/ – if you unveil something new, you show it or make it known for the first time;
odkrywać, wyjawiać

herstory /ˈhɜː.stər.i/ – history written from the point of view of women, and giving importance to their experiences and activities;
historia w ujęciu feministycznym

nuanced /ˈnjuː.ɑːnst/ – made slightly different in appearance, meaning, sound, etc.;
zróżnicowany, pełen niunasów

take sth for granted /ˈteɪk ˈsʌmθɪŋ fə ˈɡrɑːntɪd/ – to believe something to be the truth without even thinking about it
brać coś za pewnik, zakładać coś z góry