Marlene Dietrich may have been the first to put on a men’s tuxedo, but Yves Saint Laurent was, in 1966, the first to put it on a runway — a men’s tux for women. It was called le Smoking, and it was a scandal. At a time when most women were dressing in ultra-feminine maxi-skirts and A-line dresses, the notion of a woman in pants and lapels was unthinkable; indeed many restaurants implemented a no-pants policy for their male clientele’s dates.
“The thing about a tuxedo is that it is virile and feminine at the same time,” said Catherine Deneuve at the time. “It really does make you feel different as a woman, it changes the gestures.” And with that nod of approval, pantsuits were everywhere, leading women into the androgynous seventies. But for reasons not altogether clear, YSL hung up its unisex atelier some time ago. But with Hedi Slimane now at the helm, le Smoking is back, as well as a dedicated studio and tailleur responsible for constructing iconic garment for both the women’s and men’s lines. Slimane has also photographed model Abbey Lee Kershaw in the new iteration, sharper and more streamlined than ever.
As Monsieur Saint Laurent wrote in the catalog of his 2005 exhibit, Smoking Forever, “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.”