3 Ways to Wear the Unsung Style Hero of Summer: Skirt Suits

Well drop my trousers and call me Bernard.* I never thought I’d appreciate a skirt suit. I know, I know, I begin a lot of pieces with that train of thought. This time, my reluctance to embrace the skirt suit was not so much borne out of a, “dear God, can I wear that in the street and not get laughed all the way from here to Chinatown,” but rather an antipathy towards what the skirt suit represented: my inner self that I try so hard to mask.

My friend Monica has a theory that all fashion-orientated folk have a ‘soul style’ (soft-bellied, impulse-driven, oft denied) and a ‘surface style’ (what you want and strive to be seen as). Personal style is all about the conflict between the two. Monica’s soul style is preppy tennis club mom whilst mine is Jamie King in Hart of Dixie mixed with January Jones in Mad Men. It’s why I have such a problem with my hair flicking either out or under – it leans too much towards my cutesy Southern belle soul style. Skirt suits, with their dinky uniformity and freshly pressed immaculateness, feed into my inner secretary far more than I am comfortable with. It’s just not what I want to project.

Ready for the volte-face? Skirt suits don’t have to be super-corporate. It was a case of ‘relax, Clipboard Pandy’ (my nickname at university from one male friend, because I was anal and super organised). I’ve re-considered the two-piece, for they are — duh duh DAHHHH — what you make of them.

I was desperate to include a gingham skirt suit in this story and devastated when my search proved fruitless. How, when I wanted one so bad, was so certain of its efficacy, could no one be making a gingham skirt suit? I had a light-bulb moment when I decided to create my own. Take one long-line blazer from Reformation and add one gingham skirt purloined from Topshop. Top tip, as seen here: Add a T-shirt. I wear a blazer almost every day (Isabel Marant Étoile, Prada, Bally, Sandro, Baum und Pferdgarten, Racil and Blazé Milano all do good ones and on the high street, Topshop is brilliant) and I find a T-shirt makes it that much cooler.

If I want to be smarter, I add a vintage ruffle shirt. Another top tip is to avoid skirt suits with a midi skirt. There are a few around this season – such as at Altuzarra – but unless you’re long and willowy and chic on your default setting, like Caroline Sieber or Vanessa Traina, rather than gurning and fluffy like a baby duckling I.E. me, I say avoid like the plague. Also avoid: loads of accessories and ultra femme shoes, like anything with fruit on. I realize that this statement puts me in diametric opposition with the founder of this site.

When I first saw this Gucci suit, I was nervous. It is a mash-up that has a hint of tennis club mom (hi Monica!) coupled with the now ubiquitous ornate-haute-jumble-sale vibe that Alessandro Michele does so well. I stay away from jewel-strewn ready-to-wear (anything with pearls, for instance) because I like a cocktail earring more than the average woman, and if you wear both then you look like a dowager. But if Gucci is doing a skirt suit, then that means that skirt suits are sure to become a Trend with a capital T – and I am therefore duty-bound to give them a whirl.

It took me acres of time to determine how to accessorize this suit. First, I tried lace-up plimsolls and a vintage stripe shirt (see here, for my piece on striped button-downs) before realizing that it felt disingenuous, so then I hovered between the casual and the ladylike, with a Deep End Club tee and slingbacks (my favorite style of shoe because I am an old lady now who cannot handle towering stilettos).

This last look is my favorite. The shrunken fit means that you can get away with wearing zero under the jacket, without making a Bella-Hadid-esque sexy style statement. The linen fabric lends itself to crumple, which gives the pinstripes a slightly lethargic, lo-fi look. I also like, perhaps by dint of the fact that Admise Paris is a Parisian label (doh!), how vintage-driven this suit feels. It’s so light and wearable and summery and with Castañer espadrilles, it feels distinctly Jeanne Damas (a girl can dream, okay?)

This suit also avoids being Fully Fashion — which most other skirt suits do not. I could wear it around my neighborhood to do chores without feeling self-conscious and, during London’s seemingly interminable sweatwave of the now, I can wear it into town with sandals, gold hoops and a low bun, because it’s light enough to do so. In the right incarnation, the skirt suit can be as casual as a pair of jeans, whilst feeling cool and original. A win – for both my soul and surface style.

Photos by Frances Davison; follow her on Instagram @tilfrances.

Pandora Sykes

Pandora Sykes

Pandora Sykes is a contributing editor at Man Repeller, freelance journalist, stylist and consultant of She is also the co-host of the weekly news/pop-culture podcast The High Low. Follow her on Twitter @pinsykes @thehighlowshow and Instagram @pandorasykes.

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