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July 20, 2024

Minnie Mouse’s newest outfit: The pantsuit, and its evolution

Ruhi Gilder 
A frilly, full skirted, red and white polka-dot dress, with puffed sleeves and a matching bow conjures up the image of none other than the legendary Minnie Mouse. Disney’s much-loved character, however, is due to get a fashion-forward makeover, courtesy, Stella McCartney. The British designer is giving our favourite mouse a pantsuit-clad alternate avatar, in honour of Women’s History Month, International Women’s Day and the 30th anniversary of Disneyland Paris. Minnie will not be forsaking her signature polka dots, instead she will be switching to a navy-blue tailored suit with black polka dots, bows on the pockets, along with a patterned coordinated bow in her hair, with black pumps. 
Photo Courtesy: Stella McCartney / Instagram
Photo Courtesy: Stella McCartney / Instagram
Minnie will make a debut in this fresh look on March 6 at Disneyland Paris. The British fashion designer was handpicked by Disney due to her “legacy of female leadership, sustainable pioneering and directional fashions,” says McCartney’s brand in a press statement.  
Stella McCartney is known for her ethos of sustainability; hence Minnie Mouse’s tuxedo will be crafted using responsible materials. The collaboration will also be immortalised with a limited-edition collection of organic cotton t-shirts featuring Minnie with the phrase “Divine Feminine”. This t-shirt will be available for purchase on International Women’s Day (March 8). Designer Stella McCartney said of the collaboration, “Minnie has always had a special place in my heart. What I love about her is that she personifies our shared values of happiness and optimism, self-expression and authenticity.”  
Photo Courtesy: Minnie Mouse / Instagram
Photo Courtesy: Minnie Mouse / Instagram
The pantsuit has received divisive opinions. Candace Owens, a right-wing pundit on Fox News, expressed dismay over the change. ““They’re making her more masculine,” she said, adding that Minnie Mouse’s new outfit is an attempt to “destroy fabrics of our society.” 
Hillary Clinton White House portrait, Photo Courtesy: White House History
Hillary Clinton White House portrait, Photo Courtesy: White House History
If you trace the history of the pantsuit, it has controversial beginnings and jubilant wins in its journey into the mainstream. When one imagines a pantsuit, Hillary Clinton most certainly pops into mind. The only first lady to ever wear the two-piece outfit in her White House portrait, it comes as no surprise then that she’s also the only first lady to ever run for president, unless we’re counting the fictional ones in Shonda Rhimes’ Scandal. In a 2008 speech, Clinton also once referred to her presidential campaign staff as “The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pantsuits,” alluding to Ann Brashares’ hit novel, The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants. During the 2016 US elections, many women even went to the polls wearing the pantsuit in support of Clinton’s bid to the White House. 
Malaika Arora in a neon pant-suit by Mandira Wirk
The association of the suit with men in boardrooms is so powerful that the silhouette of it also gives the wearer and viewer a sense of confidence. Says Aaina Mahajan, Creative Director of prêt wear brand, MellowDrama, “it is a great combination of fashion and power; I would wear an oversized blazer with crop pants and a pair of heels.” “I think it’s definitely a power move and I think it’s also paying respect to women who stand up for themselves,” concurs Reshma Dalal, the founder and creative director of Indian prêt-a-porter label, ‘tara & i.’ Dalal’s label creates pantsuits that prioritize versatility, a burgundy silk shawl shall lapel jacket and ankle length trousers with a silk pleated waistband can be worn with a t-shirt and sneakers for a day look. A shirt can be tucked in for a work-appropriate ensemble or thrown on a dress for a casual day out.
tara and i
tara and i
Having researched pantsuits extensively while designing for her brand MellowDrama, Mahajan says that when it comes to this ensemble trends do not come into play. Oversized blazers with loose pants, loose blazers with cropped pants are all popular. “Women buy pantsuits mainly according to their body type and personality,” reveals Mahajan. 
Power dressing 
The idea of power dressing originated in the second half of the 1970s and developed in the 1980s, when women started establishing themselves in the traditional workforce. While the term may be less commonly used now, the style is still very much in vogue. Post-lockdown, sentiments to return to work impeccably dressed have been high. While a more casual style has prevailed, women are looking for suits that are “somewhere between a casual chic and dressed down formals,” says Dalal.
tara and i (1)
tara and i
Slightly structured cuts made in fluid fabrics like cotton or denim that suit the Indian weather are being made by several homegrown fashion brands. MellowDrama, the name itself an oxymoron, creates statement pieces that are precisely that. Twists on classics, Mahajan designs denim on denim pantsuits, silver sequinned head-to-toe ensembles; the brand even plays with prints to give women more playful options.  
MellowDrama
MellowDrama
Made in France 
According to Dalal, while stiff, padded and broad-shouldered suits were all the rage in the ’90s, a more casual look, paired with sneakers and sometimes even a t-shirt is worn now. Part of the charm of the women’s suit is its evolution through the years, exactly why McCartney has chosen it for Women’s History Month. Fashion trailblazer, Coco Chanel set the ground for the pantsuit as we know it as today. Boxy separates of a button-down jacket and knee-length skirt were introduced by Chanel in 1923, as an outfit suitable for women in the workforce. French designer, Marcel Rochas was one of the first to pair a blazer with pants in the year 1932. Then in 1939, Italian fashion designer, Elsa Schiaparelli, designed a wool pantsuit for her winter collection. An outfit from this collection which has been on display at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, where its description mentions, “only the most unconventional designer would offer a straightforward pantsuit, and only a fearless woman would wear it.” 
Photo Courtesy: YSL
Photo Courtesy: YSL
Over the decades 
Even so, in the 1930s few women wore pants, Hollywood icons Marlene Dietrich and Katherine Hepburn were the handful that embraced them. However, the 1960s changed everything, and so did French designer, Yves Saint Laurent. In his Spring-Summer 1967 collection, he adapted the traditionally masculine tuxedo for the female body. The ensemble consisted of fitted sleeves, a belted waist, and wide pants, while the model wore a necktie, felt hat with heels and jewellery. Even designers like the British Foale and Tuffin and Luba Marks embraced the trouser suits in their collections during the 60s.  
Photo Courtesy: YSL
Photo Courtesy: YSL
In the 80s, fashion houses like Giorgio Armani, Versace pushed the power suit to the racks of stores. These versions of the pantsuit had broad shoulder pads, bigger lapels, and sharper cuts to shift the focus on blurring gender roles. The pantsuit even played a role in women in politics. Until 1993, women in the American Senate were forced to wear only skirts. Senator Barbara Mikulski and female staffers in the Senate, one morning showed up to their workplace in pants, in defiance of rule. This move prompted a change in the rule later that year, allowing women to wear pants on the floor of the Senate, if accompanied by a jacket, this taking one step forward for women in the traditionally male-dominated environment. From being regarding as a symbol of power, pantsuits are also now a fashion trend. And according to Mahajan, an important one, “Pantsuits have and always will be a part of every collection we do at MellowDrama.” 
Mellow Drama
MellowDrama
Whatever your opinion may be on the pantsuit, it is role in history is undeniable, and as for the fervour surrounding McCartney’s design, if it draws attention to Women’s History Month and equality, we’re all for it. And this suit isn’t the end, just the first in a series of upcoming collaborations, which will be announced shortly. 
Also read: 
The highlights from Paris Haute Couture Week
Milan Men’s Fashion Week goes hybrid

Ruhi Gilder

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