Seven suit styling tips for women

emma watson
Emma Watson in a white, double-breasted blazer and wide-legged trousers at the US Open - Getty

The look that’s set my heart a-thumping, fashion-wise, this autumn? It’s not a taffeta dress, leopard-print coat or gobstopper earrings. It’s a grey suit.

Something about the suit – its elegance, its refinement, its Scandi cool – means it hasn’t left my mind. Suits have been looking very, very good lately. For proof, see Emma Watson in a white, double-breasted blazer and wide-legged trousers at the US Open. See also Sienna Miller wearing Marks & Spencer – her black three-piece suit, worn with a white T-shirt, trainers and a baseball cap, had gotta-wear-it appeal. There has been a twist away from us seeing suits purely as corporate workwear.

Sienna styles her three-piece suit with a T-shirt in this M&S campaign
Sienna Miller styles her three-piece suit with a T-shirt in this M&S campaign

“There’s been a complete change from how we understood tailoring before,” says Queralt Ferrer, John Lewis’s head of design. “Then it was top-to-toe tailoring, worn for the office. Now it’s becoming a staple part of your wardrobe, much more versatile and easier to wear.”

The right suit for now has an oversized cut to the blazer; pleated, wide-leg trousers and subdued tones. But really, the biggest difference is the attitude with which it’s worn – add a T-shirt, sandals, maybe even that baseball cap. It’s about the feeling.

Normally I’d reach for a dress to wear for dinner. But on Tuesday evening, I swept into Covent Garden wearing a black suit with a grey vest and chunky gold jewellery. The effect was just as swishy and out-out-y as one of my go-to dresses.

New York Fashion Week street style
New York Fashion Week street style - Getty

“There’s a reason why men have been wearing suits for years. They’re almost like a form of protection,” says Maria McManus, the Irish designer whose autumn-winter show at New York Fashion Week included a most convincing cream double-breasted number. “When you put one on, you feel very present and put-together.”

And do you know what? Something tells me my black suit would look just fabulous with a leopard-print coat on top too.

Read on for seven tips on how to wear tailoring now.

Upsize the blazer

This is not the time for a shrunken, cropped, polite little jacket. Look for generous double-breasted cuts that hit mid-thigh – go up a size for extra swinginess. As long as it’s fitted at the shoulder, it shouldn’t swamp you.

Jigsaw
Jigsaw

Jigsaw Double breasted blazer, £270

Any shoe, as long as it’s flat

Nothing work-ifies a suit like a pointed court heel. The 2023 way to wear it is with a flat shoe – a Mary-Jane, say, or a chunky slider or loafer, if you’re after something more substantial. “It’s all about the ballerina and our Mary Janes,” Ferrer says. “This easiness is not going anywhere.”

shoes
shoes

From top: ME+EM Chunky loafer, £295; Birkenstock Cannes, £205; Aeyde Uma Mary Jane ballerinas, £245 

Remix the pieces

Just because you buy it as a suit doesn’t mean you have to wear the blazer and trousers (and waistcoat) exclusively together.

“People are pulling suits apart more,” McManus says. When she wanted to look professional but not stuffy for a recent meeting with a potential distributor, she wore one of her oversized double-breasted blazers with bike shorts and a kitten heel. “The result was put together, but not too serious.”

Maria McManus
A blazer from Maria McManus

At ME+EM, “We always make sure that the tailoring complements the dresses – that there are tones in the suiting that also pick up the tones in the prints and dresses,” says founder and CEO Clare Hornby. “So then you’ve got feminine with masculine as well as smart with casual … The suit just becomes this big, useful jigsaw piece in your wardrobe.”

Universal Standard
Universal Standard

Universal Standard Houston Houndstooth Blazer, £309

Go wide

Cropped, slim-cut and carrot-shaped trousers are all on the table, but the dominant look is wide. Very wide, often pleated and typically long. “I like it on the floor,” Hornby laughs. “I like the wide leg with a bit of drape at the bottom on the floor. And I’ll find a way of getting to work in the rain.”

Mango
Mango

Structured suit blazer, Mango, £109

trousers
trousers

Serena Bute relaxed wide-leg silk trousers, £425

Try it with a tee

Save the blouses and button-downs for the office. All you need to show the casual side of suiting is a T-shirt. Wear it tucked in or layered under a waistcoat for a more modern take on tailoring.

Get into not-so-boring neutrals

This is not last summer’s fuchsia suit. The suits of the moment are black, navy, brown, camel, grey – anything, as long as it’s neutral. (It says something that during the early September heatwave, M&S’s bestselling womenswear product was a brown tailored blazer.)

Getty
So long to last summer’s fuchsia suit: it's all about neutrals now - Getty

“When you open your wardrobe and you see this kind of balanced colour palette, it brings you a sense of ease,” says Ferrer, a fan of a camel suit. “These colours will last for seasons to come.”

Massimo Dutti
Massimo Dutti

Double-breasted blazer, Massimo Dutti, £169

whisltes
whisltes

Taupe blazer, Whistles, £135.20

Add an unexpected extra

Want to know which surprising accessory shouldn’t work with a suit, but somehow does? It’s simple: the baseball cap. Minimal and unbranded, it has a sleek, sporty appeal that can undercut some of tailoring’s lingering formality.

Suit and cap, ME+EM
Suit and cap, ME+EM

ME+EM Herringbone cap, £55