Women and suits have a long, curious history, taking in the suffragette suit and the zoot suit. Now, after Hillary Clinton’s 2016 election defeat, the two-piece is getting a rebrand
When Hillary Clinton stepped out during the 2016 presidential campaign in her trademark pantsuit – yes, it is an Americanism, but one that has stuck – the initial feeling in mainstream liberal circles was that here, finally, was a woman ready to take on a job that had always been done by a man. Clinton, who often went for patriotic red, white or blue, said the pantsuits made her feel “professional and ready to go”. The presidency beckoned. Then, as we know, it all began to unravel.
So, news that Clinton may run again in 2020 places this back in the spotlight. In her memoir of the campaign, What Happened, Clinton said that wearing pantsuits helped her fit in with male politicians. She liked the “visual cue” that told her audience, apparently, that she was “different from the men, but also familiar”. Pantsuits have come to be seen as one with women in positions of power. They even spawned Pantsuit Nation, a campaign to get more women elected. But the fact the woman who introduced this uniform into our collective consciousness suffered a crushing election defeat somewhat took the shine off.