Chanel Brings Back the Power (Skirt) Suit

In the Trump era, Karl Lagerfeld's vision of the future of how powerful women dress is decidedly retro.

Forget for a minute that Donald Trump is president. Remember, back during the campaign, all that chatter about how a powerful woman should look?

In a New York Times column, Kathleen Kennedy Townsend questioned our use of outdated gender perceptions. Vogue admonished Trump for his "alarmingly retrograde" views on women's looks. The Huffington Post wondered why television shows shove high heels down our throats each time a strong woman appears on screen.

Now it's time for Chanel's take.

At its haute couture fashion show in Paris on Tuesday, designer Karl Lagerfeld showed off looks that radiated both authority and femininity—retro pastel skirt suits reminiscent of the outfits executive women donned like armor in the 1980s.

Chanel Spring Summer 2017

A look from Chanel's Tuesday show.

Photographer: Stephane Cardinale/Corbis via Getty Images

The tailored looks brought forth structured shoulders and chunky belts, delicate yet decidedly corporate. One suit, soft pink and textured with a matching hat, recalled former first lady Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis.

Oh, and then there were the pussy-bow blouses—a not-so-veiled allusion to Trump's 2005 comments about grabbing women that surfaced last year.

Chanel Spring Summer 2017

Another new Chanel look.

Photographer: Dominique Charriau/WireImage

Many American brands are lately wary of wading into politics, especially in the wake of a particularly divisive election. Just look at L.L. Bean, desperate to avoid the topic after catching flak for a board member's political donations.

But it's impossible to ignore the political climate's cultural manifestations, and for European couture designers, there may be greater freedom to acknowledge them. Balenciaga designer Demna Gvasalia demonstrated that last week, when he featured a handful of styles that evoked Senator Bernie Sanders, featuring an adaptation of his campaign logo on Balenciaga's jackets, pins, and scarves.

In recent years, Lagerfeld and Chanel have shown little fear of addressing social issues. Just last year, Lagerfeld held a Chanel show in Havana as politicos buzzed about the United States' relations with the island. He's also nodded to environmental causes, and once, in 2014, his show resembled a feminist street protest more than it did a glitzy fashion event, complete with models hoisting signs advocating for women's rights.

Last year, the German designer made his bluntest comments about his views on the U.S. election when, in a March interview with the Associated Press, he voiced support for Hillary Clinton. "I like the idea," said Lagerfeld. "I think with the first black president, what they need now is the first woman president."

On Tuesday, he didn't go so far as to trot any white pantsuits down the catwalk. But perhaps it's close enough.

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