How to look ‘Le smoking’ hot

Last Monday at the 58th Grammy Awards, American artist Zendaya (actress, singer, dancer, and model….seems they can do everything this days) was seen wearing an AW2016 Pre-Collection Dsquared2 Napoli suit (tuxedo style).

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This was not the first time for the artist as she wore D2 Tuxedo shorts before.

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The tuxedo or dinner suit is one of the forte of the Caten twins, however we tend to associate it with menswear. What about women in tuxedos?

To begin, women wearing men’s clothes is nothing new; however this used to be perceived as a form of rebelious act, and these forward-thinking women were often shunned by good society. We could mention French novelist Georges Sand in the 19th century, who on top of her masculine name wore men’s outfits and smoke cigars.

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In the first part of the 20th century, Marlene Dietrich caused sensation wearing full white-tie and tails evening suit in the film Morocco, and seenibgly off-screen helped (alongside other celebrities like Katherine Hepburn) make it acceptable for women to wear pants.

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During WW2 many British women started wearing their husband’s clothes to work while he was away fighting the enemy. They began ordering freshly made ‘men’s’ clothes – tailored for them – as the ones they wore started to wear out, and by the summer of 1944 the sales of women’s trousers were five times more than in the previous year.

Women’s trousers in fashion really took off in the 60’s with designers like Courreges…and obviously Yves Saint Laurent who we are going to talk about soon. Note that in the 1960’s America women could still never have gone go to work wearing trousers. High end restaurants would refuse them service, and this even in New York!

All along, standard eveningwear still meant evening dress. Attempts at a tuxedo for women by Emilio Pucci and Courreges remained anecdotal. That is until 1966.

The aforementionned young French designer whose name’s acronym is the brand-friendly YSL created the first women’s specific eveningwear inspired by the male attire for his 10th couture collection. He called it ‘Le smoking‘ (French for ‘Tuxedo’ or ‘Dinner jacket’).

Drawing of teh first le smoking - Foundation Yves Berger
Drawing for ‘Le smoking’. Foundation Pierre Berge
piece phare portee par Ulla - foundation Pierre Berge
‘Le smoking’, the original, worn by model Ulla – Foundation Pierre Berge
Hardly anyone paid attention at first, the focus that year was on colourful outfits. Only one person would actually order it, a woman name Mme Kenmore.

However a few months later Saint Laurent would open his first pret-a-porter boutique in the 6th arrondissement of Paris, making high-end fashion accessible to average – and younger – women. ‘Le smoking‘ which had been a flop during the fashion show became a sensation once brought to the high street. Its price was 680 francs, the equivalent of 100 dollars, much more accessible than couture items. French celebrities like singer Francoise Hardy adopted it, but its most well-known fan would be actress Catherine Deneuve (seen below with the designer).

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Note the difference with what Marlene Dietrich had a third of a century earlier: this time it was not about looking masculine and androgynous. It was about femininity and seduction, while at the same time appropriating masculine symbol of powers and influence for what until then the ‘weaker sex’.

Saint Laurent would then create a tuxedo dress, which led to him suing Ralph Lauren when the American designer produced a similar dress for the AW91-92 collection ( winning a total of $395,090 for “counterfeiting and disloyal competition”).

The French couturier stated in 1981: “If I had to pick one model amongst all the ones I created, it would be ‘le smoking’ without the shadow of a doubt“.

Le smoking‘ would then be part of every YSL collection to this day, but a myriad of other designers jumped on the band wagon, and today a tuxedo jacket is a staple in a stylish woman’s wardrobe.

The Caten twins love their tuxes. Dsquared2’s dinner suits been available in several women’s collections, in various colours, fabrics and styles, from wool and silk blend to velvet cotton, single breasted, double breasted, lined or unlined….It was sold in the AW15-16 collection as ‘Sergeant suit” (impossible to figure out where the name comes from or what it refers to).

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Pre-fall 2012
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AW16-16 ‘Seargeant suit’
So ladies, if you want to look powerful yet sexy, opt for a D2 tuxedo!

Beware of the Lord’s wrath though: ‘The woman shall not wear that which pertaineth unto a man, neither shall a man put on a woman’s garment: for all that do so are abomination unto the Lord thy God.” Deuteronomy 22.5 (King James’ bible).

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