Formerly, the prevailing fashion for women included some form of coat, but paired with a skirt or dress—hence the name pantsuit.
André Courrèges introduced long trousers for women as a fashion item in the late 1960s, and over the next 40 years pantsuits gradually became acceptable business wear for women. In 1966, designer Yves Saint-Laurent introduced his Le Smoking, an evening pantsuit for women that mimicked a man's tuxedo.
Pantsuits were often deprecated as inappropriately masculine clothing for women. For example, until 1993, women were not permitted to wear pantsuits (or pants of any kind) on the United States Senate floor.   In 1993, Senators Barbara Mikulski and Carol Moseley Braun wore pants onto the floor in defiance of the rule, and female support staff followed soon after, with the rule being amended later that year by Senate Sergeant-at-Arms Martha Pope to allow women to wear pants on the floor so long as they also wore a jacket, thus allowing pantsuits, among other types of clothing.  
Proponents name several advantages, including comfort, modesty, and removing the need for pantyhose.
Prominent pantsuit adopters
- Angela Merkel, the current Chancellor of Germany is widely known for wearing a number of trouser suits
- Hillary Clinton, who is well known for wearing pantsuits, and once referred to her presidential campaign staff as "The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pantsuits" (in her August 26th, 2008 speech at the Democratic National Convention), a play on The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants. 
- Helen Clark, former Prime Minister of New Zealand
- Dana Scully, fictional Special Agent in The X-Files
- Juliet O'Hara, fictional detective in Psych
- Leslie Knope, fictional mid-level bureaucrat in Parks and Recreation
- Alexander, Hilary. "Smoke Without Fire." The Telegraph (Dec. 12, 2005).
- Robin Givhan (20 July 2007) "Hillary Clinton's Tentative Dip Into New Neckline Territory" Washington Post
- Courrèges' pantsuit, from the Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco
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