Anatomy of the blazer

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Blazers became popular in the 1970s and are gaining popularity today. Symbolizing women's power, female senators and celebrities are turning heads by sporting these power suits.  Photo by    Bilyana Slaveykova    on    Unsplash

Blazers became popular in the 1970s and are gaining popularity today. Symbolizing women’s power, female senators and celebrities are turning heads by sporting these power suits. Photo by Bilyana Slaveykova on Unsplash

After the hullabaloo of New York Fashion Week these past days, are springing up everywhere. Even in the recent publicity surrounding the presidential primaries, you can see both Senator Warren and Senator Klobuchar sporting power suits with a matching blazer. Although eventually, what is old is new again, why is this staple jacket creeping out of your mother’s closet now?  

The history of the garment stems from England, as they were meant to be worn in boats by rowers at Oxford and Cambridge. Almost equivalent to today’s windbreaker, they were meant to keep rowers warm during chilly, early-morning training sessions. Soon after, rowers started wearing their blazers around their colleges, in the same way letterman jackets were worn as a sort of status symbol. Each rowing club would have their own pattern, often with a white trim. The term “blazer” stems from Cambridge’s Lady Margaret Boat Club’s “blazing red” color, hence the name “blazer.” 

After women wrestled the misogyny of the workforce in the 1970s, a rising number of women working in office settings meant that women were living their lives the way they wanted for the first time in a long time. Shoulder pads soon tacked on to the blazer trend in the 1980s, to give women a kind of workplace armor: a defined and masculine silhouette that exaggerated the shoulders. Obviously copied from the “American Psycho”-esque uniform of the ’80s white-collar worker, the female blazer screams, “I can do it too, and you can’t stop me!” This “power dressing” was then established, and although the bulky shoulder pads eventually went out of style, this masculine wear for women never did.  

Although shoulder pads aren’t exactly going back in style, the oversized blazer we’ve seen at New York Fashion Week shows a big silhouette paralleling the style of the ’80s. However, many are pairing this closet staple with fun, neon colors and patterns, some blazers being a pop of color itself. This is almost a way of bending the norms once again, as the women of the ’80s once did — not just to spite fashion rules but also women’s prescribed role in society.  

In the rising political climate, women have been more involved and accepted at the big kids table, as well as been attacked. President Trump’s presidential campaign and re-election campaign threatened to reduce funding to programs such as Women, Infants and Children (WIC) and Planned Parenthood as well as threatened abortion rights. Celebrity Taylor Swift has been spotted sporting power suits and blazers more than usual, highlighting her song, “The Man,” which depicts how her work as a woman in the workplace would be more respected if she were a man.  

I believe this is the exact reason why this staple has come back around, and for a good reason. With fashion comes a certain power: The oversized blazer has yet again come full circle to reflect this political climate.  


Caroline LeCour is a campus correspondent for The Daily Campus. She can be reached by email at caroline.lecour@uconn.edu.

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