Fall's Biggest Trend Is The Anti-Basic Suit

Colette Aboussouan

Stand on the corner of 53rd and Madison and people watch for a few moments. Now start counting: one black suit, three pinstriped, a whole throng of men in navy — all with red, green, or purple ties that pop against the dark lapels of their blazers. Suiting is the required uniform of the businessmen of midtown and Wall street, but for their female counterparts, it's never been so cut and dry as deciding between charcoal and slate. Instead, a the shape of woman's suit ebbs and flows with the season: It starts at the shoulder (padded or flat); moves onto the sleeve (caped, flared, cropped, or straight); drops to the lapel, the breast, the waist, the skirt (or pants); then, lastly, to color, print, and material. It's the calculus to traditional suiting's simple addition and subtraction. It may mean that women need a few extra minutes going from towel-wrapped to out the door, but it also allows for an unmatched freedom — to look purposeful in an oversized blazer, and to not simply rely on a tie for some semblance of color.

Rather than look at the limitless choice with a sense of sartorial paralysis, today's designers are finding ways to infuse what has rightfully been considered a boring or prescriptive outfit option with a new sense of joy — or at least intrigue. If Thierry Mugler can transform a tuxedo into a corseted mesh bodysuit, just days before Miuccia Prada presents a collection of modest suiting separates, it's clear that the modern identity of suiting is more freewheeling than in the past. Today, the power suits of Nancy Pelosi exist in the same universe as Cardi B in Richard Quinn and Thom Browne.

Now, it's time to bring it all back to your life. These aren't your run-of-the-mill trousers and blazers — this is suiting, leveled up.

Chanel jacket, top, skirt, earrings, bracelet; Delvaux bag; Nina Ricci shoes.

Skirt suits don't have to feel stuffy or old school. Style your separates with a shoe that pops in contrast. And to take the look outside of the office, ditch the classic button-down. A cropped top layered underneath, a look straight from Chanel's Resort 2020 runway, immediately adds a relaxed attitude.

From left to right: Fendi blazer, blouse, skirt; Tory Burch scarf; Adam Baisa bag; Falke socks; Fendi shoes. Fendi blazer, blouse, skirt, socks; Maslo earrings; Fendi, bag; Acne Studios heels.
From left to right: Fendi blazer, blouse, skirt; Tory Burch scarf; Adam Baisa bag; Falke socks; Fendi shoes. Fendi blazer, blouse, skirt, socks; Maslo earrings; Fendi, bag; Acne Studios heels.

Traditionally, a suit is made of pieces in the same print and fabric, but modern dressing means making a trend entirely your own. A floaty printed skirt layered with a blazer in a matching hue — like the duo from Fendi above — checks all the right boxes.

Valentino coat, shirt, jeans, scarf; Maslo earrings.

In formal offices, denim isn't often a part of the workwear vernacular, but there's a way to make things work. A trouser-style dark-wash jean paired with structured outerwear is a combo you can make your own.

From left and right: Micheal Kors blazer, blouse, skirt; Emilio Pucci bag; Maslo earrings; Gucci shoes. Versace blazer, bodysuit, blouse, vest, pants; Rachel Comey bag; Versace shoes.

Break with tradition. A houndstooth or classic plaid pairs well with contrasting prints and colors. For a more moderate look, channel the playful skirt suit by Michael Kors and try a polka dot in the same palette. If you want to go wild, choose a bold button-down and sweater vest.

Coach jacket, blouse, skirt; Wolford socks; Delvaux bag; Coach shoes.

The '70s have returned to the runways, but it's not just about bell bottoms and tie-dye. Platform mules and a bomber jacket, like these from Coach, bring a retro feel to your workwear.

Diane von Furstenberg coat, top; Khaite shorts; Sportmax hat, Maslo earrings; Coperni bag; Christian Louboutin shoes.

This season, there's no such thing as too much leather. Thanks to brands like Khaite, DVF, and Bottega Veneta, it's not just about the moto jacket or a pair of slick boots anymore. Sleek loafers along with trench coats and leather blazers are a part of the downtown-polish vernacular.

Dior blazer, pants earrings, tote bag, bag; Manolo Blahnik shoes. Bally hoodie; Tibi blazer; Linder pants; Maslo earrings Nina Ricci bag, shoes. Nina Ricci blazer; Gucci blouse; Acne Studios pants; DEMARSON earrings; Gucci hat box; Acne Studios shoes.

One trend that you can easily replicate with what's already sitting in your closet is the tonal take on suiting. Choose mismatched separates in a similar color story for a cohesive-yet-quirky take.

Dior blazer, pants, earrings, bag; Manolo Blahnik shoes.

Don't be afraid of rich statement prints as an alternative to the classic pinstripe. When it comes to bolder suits, strong tailoring is key, so opt for a sharp, fitted style.

Louis Vuitton, blouse, skirt, jacket; Maslo earrings; Louis Vuitton boots. Ganni jacket, shirt; Misho earrings; Tory Burch bag; Clergerie boots.

The idea of what constitutes suiting has shifted; take advantage of it and layer pieces that fit your individual style. Look to modern brands like Ganni that can transform the traditional into something quirky and fun.

(From Left to Right) Adeam jacket; Joseph shirt, blazer; DEMARSON earrings. Monse coat, top; Maslo earrings. Bottega Veneta coat, jumpsuit; Mara Hoffman sweater; Tory Burch earrings.

If you're partial to simple, neutral suiting, use your makeup and jewelry as the chance to color outside the lines. A bold red lip and oversized hoops make a polished statement.

Photographer: Colette Aboussouan

Videographer: Stephan Cotterell

Stylist: Mecca James-Williams

Hair: Kendall Dorsey for Color Wow at Factory Downtown

Makeup: Jaleesa Jaikaran/Management+Artists using MAC Cosmetics

Manicure: Shirley Cheng using Zoya at See Management

Models: Rori Grenert/RED Model Management, Emily Hazeltine/APM Models, Liyah James/Muse NYC