The Pantsuit Speaks: Lay off, haters!
Pity me, the pantsuit. Not since the bloody culotte debate of the '80s has an item of womenswear caused so much sturm und drang. I have been branded as polyester armor for aggressive feminists and chastised by stylish snobs as a fashion "uncle." And if that isn't enough, Hillary Rodham Clinton's penchant for choosing me over pencil skirts and frocks has only deepened this cultural divide.
Well, guess what, haters? This pantsuit is hereby out of the closet. Perhaps you saw me and style icon Julie Christie hanging tight -- literally! -- at the SAG Awards. FYI: I was the black trousers and fitted matching jacket she wore over a chic, crisp white blouse. She even sort of thanked me indirectly. When a reporter asked, "Whose pants are you wearing?" she proudly stated: "My own." (We did not rehearse that.) A week later, she had more to say. "I don't understand why women feel the need to wear gowns and chiffon to these events," Christie said. "An awards show isn't a ball. It's a celebration of talent."
Back in 1966, Christie wore me in gold lamé to the Oscars and took home a trophy. Her friend made it for her. Barbra Streisand wore a sequined Arnold Scaasi pantsuit to the Academy Awards three years later and she, too, won. Coincidence? You decide.
Christie isn't my only red-carpet fan. Here in Hollywood, I typically rub elbows with ladies who launch mega-deals. My following includes CBS President Nina Tassler, who usually opts for pastel pantsuits or coordinates in dusky, girlish hues. Anne Sweeney, Disney top exec, prefers me in black or earth tones. United Artists chief executive Paula Wagner rocks me in both black and white at business lunches -- and on the red carpet.
But my heart and seams will always belong to ex-Paramount head Sherry Lansing, who first introduced me to this zany town of tinsel. Back in the early '80s, she bought her first Giorgio Armani pantsuit and pioneered a look that still reigns over at CAA and the studios.
"When I put on a pantsuit, it empowers me," says Lansing. "I can walk faster and take bigger strides. I feel confident and comfortable."
Who knows why I became so reviled? It hasn't always been that way, you know. Some of the sexiest women in history have squired me to the hottest scenes. Lithe, panther-like Bianca Jagger prowled the dance floor at Studio 54 in a sleek, fitted white YSL pantsuit that would make Tom Wolfe salivate. (Oh, if these sleeves could talk!) Angie Dickinson, as Pepper on "Police Woman," took on urban degenerates wearing white coordinating trousers and jacket. Overseas in 1967, Brigitte Bardot paired a pantsuit with a tie in Rome and managed to cause a scooter accident or two.
"The pantsuit is always with us, and we're seeing a return of the white suit for spring and the safari suit for fall," says Ken Downing, senior vice president and fashion director for Neiman Marcus. "It's being paired with a hyper-feminine blouse in poetic organza or lace to balance the look."
Hell, yes. Last Sunday, on "60 Minutes," Sen. Clinton accented me -- her black pantsuit -- with a leopard print blouse and matching pocket square. In my biased opinion, the result was perfect: boardroom meets bedroom, Eleanor Roosevelt crossed with Elizabeth Taylor. A skirt-wearing Katie Couric looked jealous, I do believe. On "David Letterman," she even said: "In my White House, we'll know who wears the pantsuits."
I couldn't have said it better.