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Men’s-Inspired Power Dressing Storms the Catwalk

It’s no longer a man’s world, but men’s wear and masculine tailoring has an undeniable—and seemingly unshakable—influence on women’s fashion.

Each fall season sees the reemergence of suiting-inspired silhouettes and oversized styling. Sourcing Journal caught up with Kelly Helfman, president of the WWDMAGIC, Project Women’s, Micam Americas and Sourcing shows presented by Informa, to discuss the phenomenon.

Bella Hadid struts down the catwalk for Alyx at Paris Fashion Week, January 2020.
Bella Hadid struts down the catwalk for Alyx at Paris Fashion Week, January 2020. Pixelformula/SIPA/Shutterstock

There’s a fearless female movement, and its message continues to be seen in our daily fashion trends,” Helfman said. Women are feeling more bullish than ever about dressing like CEOs and asserting their ambition through their sartorial sensibilities.

A model wears a Dolce and Gabbana ensemble during Milan Fashion Week, February 2020.
A model wears a Dolce & Gabbana ensemble during Milan Fashion Week, February 2020. MATTEO BAZZI/EPA-EFE/Shutterstock

“They will continue to take more and more trends from men as gender gaps and wage gaps begin to disappear,” Helfman claimed. “As it becomes more acceptable to see a woman in a power suit, all the other boundaries will begin to disappear as well.”

A three-piece suit by Salvatore Ferragamo, presented at Milan Fashion Week, February 2020.
A three-piece suit by Salvatore Ferragamo, presented at Milan Fashion Week, February 2020. DANIEL DAL ZENNARO/EPA-EFE/Shutterstock

Men’s wear’s influence is also increasingly being seen in casuals. Cultural icons have shifted away from skintight body-con dresses a la Fashion Nova, opting instead for baggy, barely-body-grazing ensembles.

A plaid, oversized suit by Salvatore Ferragamo worn by a model at Milan Fashion Week, February 2020.
A plaid, oversized suit by Salvatore Ferragamo worn by a model at Milan Fashion Week, February 2020. DANIEL DAL ZENNARO/EPA-EFE/Shutterstock

“Think of Billie Eilish’s style,” Helfman said, pointing to the Grammy Award-winning singer-songwriter known as much for her sized-up streetwear as for her chart-topping hits. “We no longer need to feel the pressure to ‘dress like a lady.’ In fact, it’s just the opposite.”

The evolution in styling may not appeal to the masses, she admitted, but subtracting overt sex appeal substitutes a sophistication factor that fashion-forward shoppers find appealing.

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Model Kaia Gerber wears an oversized coat at the Versace show at Milan Fashion Week, February 2020.
Kaia Gerber models an oversized coat at the Versace show at Milan Fashion Week, February 2020. DANIEL DAL ZENNARO/EPA-EFE/Shutterstock

“In the world of Lizzo and Billie, we are seeing that you can feel good about yourself in all sorts of styles and it’s actually extremely empowering,” she said. “We want to be taken more seriously, and a tailored suit will command a room.”

A tailored pink suit presented by Versace at Milan Fashion Week, February 2020.
A tailored pink suit presented by Versace at Milan Fashion Week, February 2020. DANIEL DAL ZENNARO/EPA-EFE/Shutterstock

Plus, women are prioritizing comfort more than ever. “Who doesn’t love not having to wear something you can’t breathe in?”

The most popular products for fall 2020 will be outerwear pieces, Helfman said. “Statement jackets were all over our last show, and there was a ton of play with color, prints and materials.”

A model walks for Missoni at Milan Fashion Week in February wearing a suit and oversized coat.
A model walks for Missoni at Milan Fashion Week in February layering an oversized coat over a suit. DANIEL DAL ZENNARO/EPA-EFE/Shutterstock

Shoppers can expect to see oversized peacoats and blazers paired with loose jeans, she said. “The turtleneck will also play a major role under jackets and dresses as a layering piece.”

Though men’s wear-inspired styling has cropped up on runways for decades, Helfman sees the current iteration of trends as a resurgence of ‘80s and ‘90s styling. “Those two eras came back with vengeance over the past 24 months,” she said, citing boxy jackets with padded, statement shoulders.