From Marlene Dietrich’s top hat & tails in the 1930 film Morroco, to the headlines proclaiming “Garbo in pants!” whenever the Swedish actress was seen traipsing about on Hollywood Boulevard in trousers, women of the time were already, way back then, beginning to borrow pieces from their husbands’ closets. A Seventh Avenue manufacturer even created a ladies’ evening-wear tuxedo, but it would not be for another 30 years that the look would finally take off, when one fateful day in 1966, an Algerian-born designer named Yves Saint Laurent created LE SMOKING, [French shorthand for black tie], which was comprised of a tuxedo suit of velvet or wool, and was, essentially, black-tie menswear reinterpreted . . .
Yves Saint Laurent first showed the new tuxedo as part of his autumn/winter “Pop Art” collection in 1966, and yet, it was photographer Helmut Newton who elevated Le Smoking to an iconic status with his shot for French Vogue in 1975, above, taken in a dusky Parisian alleyway–Rue Aubriot–in pure elegant simplicity that remains the epitome of chic to this day.
The history of the suit began when Yves Saint Laurent’s vision came to be in 1966, and since then the Le Smoking tuxedo look has long been synonymous with a certain type of seductive style. It’s perhaps the very definition of, or the answer to, that “je ne sai quoi.”
Above & below : Bianca de Marcias wore an Yves St Laurent skirt suit when she married Mick Jagger in St Tropez in 1971, in what may be one of the chicest wedding outfits of all time.
“For a woman, Le Smoking is an indispensable garment with which she finds herself continually in fashion, because it is about style, not fashion. Fashions come and go, but style is forever.” —Yves Saint Laurent
Le Smoking would not only a mark shift in fashion, but in power. In the words of Pierre Bergé, “It is a well-known fact that Chanel gave women their freedom; years later Saint Laurent brought them power.”
Above, Bianca Jagger in an insanely chic white Le Smoking, with Nathalie Delon.
Le Smoking was a controversial statement of femininity – a sexuality that did not rely on ruffles or exposed skin, but instead smouldered beneath the sharp contours of a perfectly cut jacket and trouser. —Another Mag
Above, Tom Ford’s interpretation of Le Smoking [photography by Anthony Maule]
Above, Ralph Lauren‘s recent interpretation of Le Smoking, Spring 2014 Ready-to-Wear
Above, Charlotte Rampling in Harper’s Bazaar US, April 2014 [photography by Ben Weller]
Above, Yves Saint Laurent & models in Le Smoking, at his final couture collection in 2002
And now, with so much history, Hedi Silmane, current creative director of the French fashion house celebrates this heritage, with the creation of an atelier dedicated to tailoring at the Saint Laurent studios for the creation of tuxedo lines for both the men’s and women’s ready-to-wear, as well the permanent collections.
The designer also presents the modern-day version of Le Smoking, above, as chic as all the incarnations before, but with modern lines and a cool, edgy vibe . . .