There’s a picture of Natalie Portman that I can’t get out of my head. It’s the image running alongside every single critical review of Jackie, the autobiographical film in which Portman stars as Jackie Onassis, then Kennedy, in the aftermath of her presidential husband John F. Kennedy’s death.
You know the one — she’s in a cotton candy-pink two-piece, with a little pillbox hat resting ‘pon that trademark flicky do, lips parted. It’s not Portman’s usual sartorial fare; you’re more likely to see her in some low-key ensemble of sensible trainers, jeans and puffer jacket as she runs to and fro about her chores. The image jars, a little, for that reason.
And yet this image of her, as Jackie, whirls around my head even more than Emma Stone, in her primary colored brights in the dreamy La La Land. It isn’t because I like a boucle suit (I really don’t) or a pillbox hat. It’s because she’s wearing a pink suit. And when once upon a time this would have been my absolute bête noire, my persona non weareth, I am a woman obsessed. Why does the pink suit, so unwearable to those of us who aren’t a Kennedy (and then an Onassis), entice me so?
It is particularly strange that I am so hooked because until last year, I could not abide the color pink. Or, more accurately, banned myself from wearing it. Why? Because cool girls don’t wear pink. I wore pink solidly from ages two to 14. When I hit 14, I looked down at my sugar mouse-pink Gap fleece whilst holding a fuchsia-pink feather boa that trimmed my ornamental shelf and eyeing my bubblegum-pink Groovy Chick duvet cover, and realized that I had murdered it. I felt overwhelmed. I didn’t want to be associated with that cutesy femme Barbie hue anymore. I wanted to be cool. And so, I assumed no more pink.
Call it the emoji pink lady effect (those ladies have serious cultural clout outside of their minuscule finger-tapping keyboard); call it post-truth fashion, where we are led by our emotional gut and seek uplifting fashion that rejuvenates us and distracts us, momentarily, from *those* political results; or, perhaps, call it a woman (me) discovering that fashion can be anything you want it to be. And that cool girls can, and do, wear pink.
What appeals to me so much about the pink trouser suit (a skirt misses the point) is that it is the perfect conflation of practical and fanciful, androgynous and feminine. Suits have been enjoying their time in the limelight of late, as unisex clothing becomes the norm rather than the exception. The pink suit became me, very me in fact, when I realized the power in contradiction — and once I realize where the tension lies in an outfit, it becomes a favorite. For instance, this Altuzarra suit is pure Joan Smalls, tailored and a bit sexy, a total knock-out with strappy stilettos and a lace bralette underneath an open jacket (as Smalls would inevitably opt for). But, full disclosure, I’d done a pink suit and heels before. The suit was a fabulous Pallas number, but the black Balenciaga heels made it feel overdone and fussy. I was in boiling-hot Paris, dressed like a desperate flamingo at a cocktail party, hating every second of it.
Two years on and I realized the missing link: footwear! Or more specifically, non-obvious footwear. Plus garish jewelry and geeky socks (a hoodie feels too try-hard Vetements for me). With a logo tee (this Gucci one is the ultimate basic bitch of logo tees, veritably hogging Instagram feeds), athletic socks and a pair of grubby, old sneakers, the pink suit, even with ostentatious metal buttons and a double-breasted jacket, became something to run around town in. To swing into meetings in feeling a little bit eccentric but certainly not uptight. The vulgar combination of a pink suit plus chunky gold earrings, or an oversized chain bracelet, makes it feel a bit Lock Stock — the perfect foil to its Legally Blonde subtext.
Another way to make it work, I realized, is to go overboard. When a suit is this pink, why not add even more pink into the mix? It might just be me, but I’ve found the best way around excessive use of color is to tonal block i.e. add even more in. Peter Petrov is a rising star in the fashion world for many reasons and this brilliantly cut bubblegum-pink suit, with its strategically placed gold hardware, is one such reason. It feels modern because of the white boots (and yes, I’m doing that thing that every single fashion magazine does in telling you that a white boot is ‘modern’ when really it’s no more modern than a patent mini skirt). The slightly flared cut of the trouser and the utilitarian zips up the center throw the whole thing slightly off — and duly earn Petrov his crown.
I didn’t expect to fall head-over-heels for the pink suit. But really, it was never pink that was the problem. And love Portman as I do, neither was it about her turn as Jackie. It was about finding the right shoes. And the ‘chood to make it my own.
Formerly the Fashion Features Editor and Wardrobe Mistress columnist at London’s The Sunday Times, Pandora is a freelance journalist, brand consultant, stylist and co-host of pop-culture show The Pandolly podcast. Read Pandora’s work at pandorasykes.com or follow her on Instagram @pandorasykes and Twitter @pinsykes. Shot by Eva K. Salvi at The Roost.