Yves Saint Laurent did not invent the tuxedo for women!


We’ve been enjoying a fashion comeback of tuxedo styles for women over the past few seasons, bolstered by the passing in June 2008 of famed designer Yves Saint Laurent. It’s true, in the 1960s and 70s, YSL was responsible for  re-popularizing suit and tuxedo styles for women, in particular his 1966 creation, “Le Smoking”, a tailored tuxedo suit with a long, slender 1960s silhouette. But, with all respect, it’s ridiculous to say he was the style’s inventor!

I caught Elle Magazine with this little diddy from last year: “It’s no coincidence that in the week when fashion designer Yves Saint Laurent, the man who designed Le Smoking (the first tuxedo for women) passed away, the A-list are paying their respects in a way he would have loved- by wearing tuxedo jackets at every opportunity.”  And even my beloved Wikipedia has this to say: “the Le Smoking tuxedo suit for women was the first of its kind to earn attention in the fashion world and in popular culture.“  What’s going on here? Yves Saint Laurent did NOT invent the tuxedo for women, and the 1960s was not the first time women fashionably wore suits and tuxedos. Every swing girl knows this!

Above and below, we have Marlene Dietrich, who wore this tuxedo in the film Morocco in 1928. In the scene she sings and even kisses a girl…

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And here we have Josephine Baker, Gloria Swanson, Anna May Wong and Katharine Hepburn in the 1920s, 30s and 40s…

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Rant aside, it’s brilliant that the look has been having a fashion comeback (even with mistaken origins). Here are a few celebrities, mostly care of Fashionising.com, who have been toying with the trend. We have Ashley Olsen, Diane Kruger, Naomi Watts, Anne Hathaway, Rihanna, Blake Liveley and Dita Von Teese.

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If the Fall 2009 and Resort 2010 collections are anything to go by, it seems as if the trend will be with us for a while longer. Viva Le Tuxedo!

6 thoughts on “Yves Saint Laurent did not invent the tuxedo for women!”

  1. Great post! I really wish that the people working for the fashion magazines were a little more careful about what they throw out there in print. Maybe if they took a little more interest in their jobs and did some research, the glossies wouldn’t be hurting as much as they are.

  2. oh, le smoking… def. around before YSL but nice of him to popularize it.
    important historical perspective to be reminded of; thanks!

  3. Great article but whilst Marlene Dietrich popularised wearing men’s suits she wasn’t the first to do it, Adaah Isaaks Menken, a prominent actress of the time wore men’s suits back in the 1890’s.

  4. I hate to burst your bubble, but in those pictures, Marlene Dietrich is not wearing a tuxedo: she is wearing a tailcoat. The same is true of the other women (except for Miss Hepburn, who is wearing some sort of suit).

    A tuxedo has a jacket similar to a suit jacket, and the waist is covered with either a black vest or a black cummerbund. The bow tie gives the tuxedo one of it other names: black tie. In contrast, the tailcoat is short in the front (which cannot be buttoned) and long in the back; it is worn with a white vest and a white bow tie (hence the alternative name “white tie”).

    Please take a look at “The Black Tie Guide” for more.

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