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Well drop my trousers and call me Bernard.* I never thought I’d appreciate a skirt suit. I know, I know, I begin a lot of pieces with that train of thought. This time, my reluctance to embrace the skirt suit was not so much borne out of a, “dear God, can I wear that in the street and not get laughed all the way from here to Chinatown,” but rather an antipathy towards what the skirt suit represented: my inner self that I try so hard to mask.

My friend Monica has a theory that all fashion-orientated folk have a ‘soul style’ (soft-bellied, impulse-driven, oft denied) and a ‘surface style’ (what you want and strive to be seen as). Personal style is all about the conflict between the two. Monica’s soul style is preppy tennis club mom whilst mine is Jamie King in Hart of Dixie mixed with January Jones in Mad Men. It’s why I have such a problem with my hair flicking either out or under – it leans too much towards my cutesy Southern belle soul style. Skirt suits, with their dinky uniformity and freshly pressed immaculateness, feed into my inner secretary far more than I am comfortable with. It’s just not what I want to project.

Ready for the volte-face? Skirt suits don’t have to be super-corporate. It was a case of ‘relax, Clipboard Pandy’ (my nickname at university from one male friend, because I was anal and super organised). I’ve re-considered the two-piece, for they are — duh duh DAHHHH — what you make of them.

I was desperate to include a gingham skirt suit in this story and devastated when my search proved fruitless. How, when I wanted one so bad, was so certain of its efficacy, could no one be making a gingham skirt suit? I had a light-bulb moment when I decided to create my own. Take one long-line blazer from Reformation and add one gingham skirt purloined from Topshop. Top tip, as seen here: Add a T-shirt. I wear a blazer almost every day (Isabel Marant Étoile, Prada, Bally, Sandro, Baum und Pferdgarten, Racil and Blazé Milano all do good ones and on the high street, Topshop is brilliant) and I find a T-shirt makes it that much cooler.

If I want to be smarter, I add a vintage ruffle shirt. Another top tip is to avoid skirt suits with a midi skirt. There are a few around this season – such as at Altuzarra – but unless you’re long and willowy and chic on your default setting, like Caroline Sieber or Vanessa Traina, rather than gurning and fluffy like a baby duckling I.E. me, I say avoid like the plague. Also avoid: loads of accessories and ultra femme shoes, like anything with fruit on. I realize that this statement puts me in diametric opposition with the founder of this site.

When I first saw this Gucci suit, I was nervous. It is a mash-up that has a hint of tennis club mom (hi Monica!) coupled with the now ubiquitous ornate-haute-jumble-sale vibe that Alessandro Michele does so well. I stay away from jewel-strewn ready-to-wear (anything with pearls, for instance) because I like a cocktail earring more than the average woman, and if you wear both then you look like a dowager. But if Gucci is doing a skirt suit, then that means that skirt suits are sure to become a Trend with a capital T – and I am therefore duty-bound to give them a whirl.

It took me acres of time to determine how to accessorize this suit. First, I tried lace-up plimsolls and a vintage stripe shirt (see here, for my piece on striped button-downs) before realizing that it felt disingenuous, so then I hovered between the casual and the ladylike, with a Deep End Club tee and slingbacks (my favorite style of shoe because I am an old lady now who cannot handle towering stilettos).

This last look is my favorite. The shrunken fit means that you can get away with wearing zero under the jacket, without making a Bella-Hadid-esque sexy style statement. The linen fabric lends itself to crumple, which gives the pinstripes a slightly lethargic, lo-fi look. I also like, perhaps by dint of the fact that Admise Paris is a Parisian label (doh!), how vintage-driven this suit feels. It’s so light and wearable and summery and with Castañer espadrilles, it feels distinctly Jeanne Damas (a girl can dream, okay?)

This suit also avoids being Fully Fashion — which most other skirt suits do not. I could wear it around my neighborhood to do chores without feeling self-conscious and, during London’s seemingly interminable sweatwave of the now, I can wear it into town with sandals, gold hoops and a low bun, because it’s light enough to do so. In the right incarnation, the skirt suit can be as casual as a pair of jeans, whilst feeling cool and original. A win – for both my soul and surface style.

Photos by Frances Davison; follow her on Instagram @tilfrances.

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  • Sonia

    My favorite of your posts so far! I love this idea of soul style versus surface style. I feel like surface style is something that is ever-changing. As we grow, adapt, and draw inspiration from the cycle of fashion, it seems I am always striving for a new look to show ze world. One second I want to be as polished as Grace Kelly. The next, gimme a bite of that Olsen smorgasbord.

  • Coconut

    Love this! Love your styling!

    I always get excited when I see Pandora posts

    • Pandora Sykes

      Thanks Coconut!

  • FlexMami

    OMFG – the anecdote about soul style vs surface style hits so true to home.

    My soul style is living for a kaftan, headwrap and a chunky necklace but mu surface style is Amish teen on Rumspringa with a *touch* of senorita. Ruffles galore.

    Shook.

    • Babs

      It’s so real! So real that I’m afraid to dig that deep!

      • FlexMami

        The first step is admitting etc, second step is refusing to change etc etc

    • Caitlin Crow

      Amish teen on Rumspringa with a touch of señorita. ::applause::

      • FlexMami

        It only took me my whole life to get to that point!

    • I am all the same except for the ruffles!!

      • FlexMami

        I’ve found my kin! Nice to meet you. Join me for an eternity of ~style denial~

  • Helen

    Bernard, these suits are all sublime. I’m obsessed (sorry, over used ;)) with the final lewk.

  • Hil

    I’ve been eyeing that reformation blazer for months and want it even more now, thanks Pandora. But that last look is also my favorite!

    • additionalmayonnaise

      I have it in white! It’s the best — just size down as it’s v oversized (and I like a loose fit)

  • Meg S

    That Admise suit is amazing. I love that it would be fine with just a tank/shell underneath and that it does the 90s buttons up the front skirt detail.

    My soul style is definitely different than my surface style. Soul style is all flowy clothes and surface style is a mix of structured and flowy pieces.

  • gracesface

    Talbots for the win.

  • Kirsten Rasmussen
  • Wanyizee

    Pandora looks gorgeous in all of these photos! I actually want to buy everything.

  • Maya Tetali

    Jaime King in Hart of Dixie is so under-appreciated yet so freaking good!

  • rachel

    Love this should style/surface style idea. I think my soul style is grungy tomboy and my surface style is fancy grandma (I’m 26 but my favorite item is a boucle blazer so…). Luckily the two looks pair surprisingly well, so it works out.
    Side note: Off to buy that houndstooth blazer now, thanks Pandora!

  • Áine Hegarty

    That Gucci jacket is everything!!! Pained by it’s beauty.

  • Áine Hegarty

    I don’t know what my soul style is (panic?!) but my surface style is definitely wants to be too cool for school teenage skateboarding boy.

    Also, that Gucci jacket is everything!!! Pained by it’s beauty.

  • Mun

    Agh so good!

  • Lilli

    Pandora I absolutely adore your writing I’m so glad you are a contributing editor at MR now!

    the last look is my favourite and I can’t wait for the weather to warm up so I can recreate it!

    • Pandora Sykes

      Thanks, Lili!

  • Vero Smith
    • Pandora Sykes

      That blow out is sublime.

  • LOVE this whole thing–every style–fab-u-lous!!!!!

  • allday_alc

    I just want you to know, I bought the gingham suit outfit within 5 minutes of seeing it here, while still in bed. I’m not sure if it was a moment of weakness or strength.