Why You Should Wear A Suit To Work (Especially If You Don’t Have To)

The first and last suit I bought was because I had to. A requirement to join the high school speech team, the suit had three buttons with sleeves that came down to my knuckles, and the accompanying tab-front trousers were low-rise. (This was the only requirement I gave the patient salesperson at The Limited, because I was confident that such an adult item deserved a modern, timeless touch. Also: I was delusional.) The suit was by far the most expensive article of clothing I had ever purchased, and I felt incredibly grown-up wearing it. In reality, I looked about as professional as I was: a high-schooler playing dress up. And, I'd venture to guess that my experience wasn't unique. For most women, buying a suit is a box you check off on your way to adulthood. Whether it's for your first interview out of college, or for your first job that comes with a 401k package, a suit is always the fulfillment of an expectation. How you feel in it doesn't seem to matter, as long as it's what you think other people expect from you. Far too often, that means you end up with something that makes you look professional but feel invisible.
Photographed by Tory Rust.
So, imagine my surprise when a Lucca Couture of Wildfang suit made me pause during my daily e-commerce trawls. It was traditional but not stiff, with a modern cut in a classic fabric. It even came with a lower price tag than the suit I had bought more than a decade ago. Plus, it didn't hurt that the model wore hers with sneakers and a lip ring. Suits always represented a career and a life that never really spoke to me, but this suit was speaking — "I'd look great on you!" A suit has never been required dress in any office I've worked in, and I've never chosen to wear one. I work in an industry where standing out in the boardroom for my ideas is not counteracted by standing out with my outfits, and where I'm encouraged to try out new workflows and strategies as well as new trends and shapes. (I know, I'm lucky!) But, something about how unexpected it would be for me to wear a suit was really exciting. And, when I wore the Wildfang to work, I was surprised at how simple the whole thing was. With a graphic tee and low-pro Docs, it was comfortable, it was simple, it was cool, and — best of all — it felt like me. It's funny that wearing a suit to the office was one of the more subversive fashion moves I've made, but there you go. For women whose corporate environments are a bit more strict but still allow for some creative fashion choices, there are so many options these days for donning a suit without sacrificing your personal style. There are great cuts in dramatic shapes featuring culotte trousers a la Maiyet, vest versions a la Adam Lippes, and matching sets in suiting fabrics that barely even count as suits from fast-fashion brands like H&M. Wearing them, you'll feel professional and put-together, but never, ever invisible. As for me and my Lucca Couture suit, I'm already plotting out the various ways I'll wear it again to the office (with a black turtleneck and Chelsea boots for a Serge Gainsbourg vibe, and with a crazy lace tunic for something a little more Sacai). Plus, I'm planning on bringing it with me to Fashion Week to wear with faux-fur jackets and bustier tops, and then packing it straightaway to wear with heels for an upcoming wedding in March. An added benefit of a suit is that all you need to swap is the shirt and shoes to create an entirely different look. How's that for hardworking?

More from Styling Tips

R29 Original Series