Suits with the kecks factor

FOR all its strengths, the trouser suit does not have the glamorous reputation of its older but sexier sister, the skirt suit. But if you’re the sort of woman who prefers to have her legs warmly encased in fabric during the winter months, and who wants to cross her pins without worrying about exposing any excess thigh, then it’s high time you invested in a trouser suit that makes you look and feel powerful, sharp and comfortable.

You just need to follow a few basic rules to pull it off. Amanda Slader, fashion adviser at John Lewis, says the first thing to do is be aware of your shape. If you’re petite, opt for short jackets. And if you’re long in body, make sure your jacket is good and long, with the waist in the right place.

Then, of course, you have to take your build into consideration. Slater reckons that women who carry weight through their tummies tend to have nice thin legs – if you’re like this, buy a cropped “swing-shaped” jacket, which falls straight down from the bust, covering the stomach in a loose, hide-all-sins kind of way but that stops at the very top of your legs to give your pins a chance to shine. If you’re a pear shape, opt for a fitted jacket, which will emphasise your bust and waist – then plump for wide-legged trousers.

Whatever your shape, the golden rules remain: never wear a jacket that’s too tight across the bust or too short or long in the sleeve, and make sure the trouser hem falls just a little bit above the heel – dragging fabric about under your shoe is a no-no, as is a trouser that shows your sock when you sit down. And perhaps most important of all, you must invest in good quality fabric. Slader recommends a hefty one: “I always favour a nice jersey crepe,” she says, “something with a little weight, which gives fabric a good drape.”

To avoid looking awash in dark fabric, you can do several things. One is wear a jaunty or colourful under-jacket camisole: nautical stripes are on trend and work wonders with navy. Or a plain but brightly coloured shirt will add life to a dark suit, and you can do a lot with accessories and a scarf.

Slader notes that the catwalks have been full of pastels and that while strolling into work in a baby pink trouser suit won’t cut it, you can still take your cue from high fashion by opting for a pale charcoal suit (easy on the shoulder pads, though, which were the other big catwalk trend this year). Soft pinstripes can also work well, and – if it’s very subtle indeed – herringbone can look superbly stylish.

So this winter, treat yourself to a comfortable, practical and razor-sharp trouser suit. It’s time to teach that skirt suit a lesson.