Women Business Suits Guide

Women business suits come in all shapes, colors, and fabrications, and the more you know, the more likely you are to choose the right suit for the job.  Whether you’re leading a company, leading a seminar, or leading a client through your sales process, there’s a perfect business suit for you. I say leading because suits and leaders go together and have for nearly 500 years.  The doublet and hose first appeared in the late 1500’s before giving way to the jacket and breeches of the 1650’s (thanks to Louis XIV), which in turn became the jacket and trousers worn by businessmen in the Western world for the last 200 years.  Women business suits were made popular by actress Pearl White in the movie adaptation of Hazel Kirke (1916). So now that you know how long business suits have been in use, let’s look at the elements that you need to consider when choosing the most appropriate women’s suit for you.

Doublet and hose

c. 1570

Shapes

The most formal business suits have clean, tailored lines that don’t distract from the costume or call attention to body beneath.  All business, no nonsense, focus goes to the matters at hand.  Wear them in legal proceedings, when discussing large sums of money, or when speaking to people in traditional business fields like law, banking, and high finance.

Women business suits with unusual embellishments or artistic cuts are better suited to more creative, less formal businesses like interior design, event planning, fund raising, and the like.  The goal is business with a touch of originality.

Suits with very feminine shapes like fluted skirts and form-fitting cuts are not appropriate for business.  Wear them for social activities instead, like social lunches, christenings, and teas.

Formal Business Style Creative Business Style Social Suit
Tailored Embellished Feminine

Colors

The most formal colors for business are blue, black, brown, and gray.  Red and green may also be worn, but remember that if you’re speaking or moving around a lot (like giving a presentation), bright colors can be hard to look at for long periods of time.  In most formal businesses, the suit is typically one color, where the jacket matches the skirt or trousers.

In less formal, more artistic businesses, fashion colors like plum, teal, rust, and salmon are usually okay.  Just don’t get TOO wild – hot pink and lime green come to mind – or you won’t be taken seriously.  Suit pieces may be matching, or they may be different colors.  Just remember that if you wear one piece of a suit more than the other, still have them dry cleaned at the same time so color remains consistent in both pieces.

Pastel colored suits like yellow, light pink, and lavender are soft and lovely, but not appropriate for business since they are so feminine.  Save them for religious or social occasions like church, weddings, and teas.

Formal Business Color Creative Business Color Social Suit Color
Traditional Creative Social

 

Fabrication

Formal women business suits are typically made from fine natural fabrics like wool or silk.  They may be mixed with manmade fibers, but remember that the higher you climb on the corporate ladder or the higher the caliber of client you deal with, the better the fabrication should be.  People at high levels know high quality fabrics, and they prefer to deal with those who dress like they do.  If you opt for classic silhouettes in fine fabrics, you won’t disappoint.

Suits made of nubby fabrics, cotton, or denim may be worn for creative or casual businesses.  But don’t go overboard – even if you are an artist.  Remember, YOU should shine, not your clothes.  If the suit will detract from the business at hand, wear something else.

Suits made of lace or metallic fabrics are typically not suitable for business. Wear them for social functions instead.

Formal Business Fabrication Creative Business Fabrication Social Suit Fabrication
Formal (Tweed) Creative (Cotton) Social (Metallic)

All women’s suits courtesy of Chadwicks

Learning which women business suits are right for your situation isn’t hard, once you learn a few things.  Match the style, color, and fabrication to the situation, and you can’t help but dress for success.

Want to know which business wear is appropriate for which industry?  Download a copy of Business Wear Magic see how easy dressing professionally can be.

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1 Comment

  • Rebecca

    Reply Reply February 5, 2011

    Hello! I love your business attire fashion blog!
    I currently work for internships.com and we are working on creating a blog called Work It! to give advise and tips on how to dress for the business world. We would love to feature one of your blogs or have you create a blog concerning one of our topics for our site. If you are interested and would like to be featured please respond via e-mail and I will provide additional details. Thank you for your time!

    Best Regards,
    Rebecca Kruse

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