All about pantsuits

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Hillary Clinton wearing a pantsuit as she is sworn in as Senator

A pantsuit or pant suit, also known as a trouser suit outside the United States, is a woman's suit of clothing consisting of trousers and a matching or coordinating coat or jacket.

Formerly, the prevailing fashion for women included some form of coat, but paired with a skirt or dress—hence the name pantsuit.


The pantsuit was introduced in the 1920s, when a small number of women adopted a masculine style, including pantsuits, hats, and even canes and monocles. However, the term, "trouser suit" had been used in Britain during the First World War, with reference to women working in heavy industry.

André Courrèges introduced long trousers for women as a fashion item in the late 1960s, and over the next 40 years pantsuits gradually became acceptable business wear for women. In 1966, designer Yves Saint-Laurent introduced his Le Smoking, an evening pantsuit for women that mimicked a man's tuxedo. In Britain a social watershed was crossed in 1967 when Lady Chichester, wife of the navigator Sir Francis Chichester, wore a trouser suit when her husband was publicly knighted by Queen Elizabeth II.

Pantsuits were often deprecated as inappropriately masculine clothing for women. For example, until 1993, women were not permitted to wear pantsuits (or pants of any kind) on the United States Senate floor. In 1993, Senators Barbara Mikulski and Carol Moseley Braun wore pants onto the floor in defiance of the rule, and female support staff followed soon after, with the rule being amended later that year by Senate Sergeant-at-Arms Martha Pope to allow women to wear pants on the floor so long as they also wore a jacket, thus allowing pantsuits, among other types of clothing.


Proponents name several advantages, including comfort, modesty, and removing the need for pantyhose.


  • Angela Merkel, the current Chancellor of Germany is widely known for wearing a number of trouser suits
  • Hillary Clinton, who is well known for wearing pantsuits, and once referred to her presidential campaign staff as "The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pantsuits" (in her August 26th, 2008 speech at the Democratic National Convention), a play on The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants.
  • Helen Clark, former Prime Minister of New Zealand
  • Dana Scully, fictional Special Agent in The X-Files
  • Juliet O'Hara, fictional detective in Psych
  • Leslie Knope, fictional mid-level bureaucrat in Parks and Recreation

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