Monday, September 8, 2014

Yves Saint Laurent's Le Smoking Jacket

At this time in Paris it was forbidden for women to be seen in the street wearing pants, they are restricted merely to skirts and dresses. This law was only taken out a few years ago when it was found still written as a law in Paris. Saint Laurent was an inspiration to woman due to the creation of a tuxedo style jacket, Le Smoking, that was still form fitting and sexy for women.  Le Smoking Jackets are printed in Vogue throughout the years, and these photos are crucial in explaining the change of a simplistic yet symbolic jacket. Vogue explains, “But one day in 1966, the Algerian-born designer Yves Saint Laurent dropped le bomb with le smoking, a tuxedo suit of velvet or wool-black-tie menswear reinterpreted for the female form. Although Saint Laurent’s masculine alternative to the Little Black Dress was done up with frilly white shirts, cummerbunds, and satin lapels it did ruffle a few feathers” (vogue). Saint Laurent’s design was bold but he wished to take a step outside the societal norms and create something that could make women feel beautiful without compromising their comfort and ability to move. Although Saint Laurent created many feminine accents to the tuxedo it was still seen brash for the time period.

Le Smoking jacket, as well as, the entirety of Yves Saint Laurent’s tuxedo for women was extremely influential in helping the feminist movement. Linda Grant explains Yves Saint Laurent’s success in her article for The Guardian, Forget burning bras- feminism was built on the trouser suit. Grant states, “Le Smoking, the tuxedo for women that would become a permanent feature of his collections and would morph into the single most transformative piece of women's wear since Chanel created the little black dress”, Although Chanel’s little black dress was also extremely influential during this time, Saint Laurent introduced a trouser that women adored and wore. Although women in the 20s had begun to wore pants, they were for casualwear, worn on their down time on the weekends. Saint Laurent’s trouser could be worn for work; it was dressy. In terms of Feminism, Grant expresses that the trouser allowed for men’s gaze to be focused on the face, instead of bare legs. Saint Laurent’s trouser still allowed women to look beautiful and even extended the line of the leg. Therefore causing men to listen, rather than be distracted by a short dress or mini skirt, giving women power, causing men to listen.
Not only was Yves Saint Laurent influential to Feminism in general. Saint Laurent also began to break through race barriers. After Saint Laurent’s passing in 2008, Naomi Campbell was interviewed about her relationship with Saint Laurent. Campbell spoke kinds words explaining that Yves Saint Laurent wanted her to be the cover on French Vogue and she believed they would not allow it because of her skin color, Saint Laurent said he would take care of it and find a way to make it happen. Keeping his word, Naomi Campbell was placed on the cover of French Vogue.Capmpbell continues to express her appreciation for Yves Saint Laurent and his other contributions to the fashion industry, stating, “He was the king of fashion.”  Saint Laurent is known for giving African and Asian models the opportunity to be seen on runways and magazine covers that has previously been for white models. 
Yves Saint Laurent, Le Smoking Jacket, created a sense of mystery within the women; it was new different, unchartered territory within the fashion world. The pants were alternative for the time period, creating a great deal of controversy. Catherine Deneuve, who was a close friend of Yves Saint Laurent, explained that he “designs for women who lead double lives” (Catherine Deneuve). Saint Laurent’s designers were for women that enjoyed fashion, luxury, shopping and all of the lifestyle that relates directly to those interests, but these women were also much more than that. Saint Laurent’s designs were suitable for women who worked. There were pieces other than Le Smoking that Yves Saint Laurent designed for the luxurious working women including: leather jackets, fedoras, pea coats, and peasant blouses. Estella Shardlow from Business Insider wrote,

Few respectable restaurants or hotels allowed female guests to wear them inside. Nan Kempner was famously turned away from Le Cote Basque in New York while wearing her YSL tuxedo suit. Yet in the defiant style befitting this androgynous, no- nonsense look, she removed the bottom half and waltzed into the restaurant wearing the jacket as a thigh-skimming mini dress instead. The manager later said that for formal dining attire trousers were as unsuitable as a bathing suit.

Women were breaking through boundaries. Taking leaps forward in order to allow all women to be able to wear what they wished into any public space.

In 1930 Marlene Dietrich, an actress, appears on screen wearing a top hat and tails, a look that seemed extremely masculine during a very early time period. This was her first Hollywood Film and definitely left some viewers in shock. After many had seen the film, in 1931 Women’s Wear Daily responded that French women were seen sporting menswear that was tailored to fit a women’s physique. Women’s Wear Daily told readers that many women, whom were intelligent, arrived back to Paris after visiting the French Riviera in tailored menswear. This later resulted in many women going to their husbands tailor shops to get their new outfits fitted.  Women’s Wear Daily then questions in 1933 whether or not women were going to be seen wearing trousers. In 1966, Yves Saint Laurent Introduced his first Le Smoking that was a trouser suit, done up with heels and a hair bow. The suit had velvet tripped along with a white ruffled blouse. A month later, in September 1966, Paris’s Left Bank becomes home to Yves Saint Laurent’s Rive Gauche read-to-wear store. Saint Laurent offers lower price Le Smoking suiting at his Rive Gauche boutique, and therefore the demand for Le Smoking rises. Only a few months later in December a Washing Post headline reads “Le Rage in Paris Is Le Smoking Jacket.” With only months gone by and the word has already spread about the popularity about Saint Laurent’s new contribution to fashion. French vogue even released a section about Le Smoking that was six pages long, including black velvet Le Smokings.Two months later in Febuary of 1967 Saint Laurent released new collections including,
“Gangster-striped, wide-leg trouser suits, complete with vests, watch fobs, hankercheifs, and fedoras. The new smoking is a cropped black alpaca tuxedo jacket with a shawl collar and an open, square neckline. A frilly white organdy skirt tucks into a wide cummerbund; a black ribbon forms a bow tie. (Ruffled white bib-front black smoking-ish dresses are offered for the less daring.”

As spring approaches, Mireille Darc features a Saint Laurent Rive Gauche summer smoking in French Vogue. And when summer hits velvet knickers and white silk ascot shirts become the rage in terms of summertime le smoking style. 

In the beginning of 1968 Yves Saint Laurent shows his “cropped passementerie-trimmed toreador jacket, worn over a tailored white silk shirt and a long black maxi skirt, cinched at the waist with a bide belt.” Saint Laurent didn’t fail at reinventing his Le Smoking, each time giving women something new to wear by still allowing them to feel empowered and strong. In March of 1968 Saint Laurent pushes his designs even further, showing off a new transparent chiffon top, even shown with Bermuda shorts that still embodied the tuxedo-like stylistic form and accents. Although black tights were still worn underneath this was extremely daring for the time period. 
            By 1971 Yves Saint Laurent and Le Smoking was still prevalent upon the luxurious society. Bianca Perez Morena de Macias is seen getting married in Saint Tropez wearing a cream Le Smoking jacket by Saint Laurent. This jacket was worn with nothing underneath and paired with a long skirt as she Married Roller Stone’s Mick Jagger. 

Yves Saint Laurent was not the only one who helped influenced the evolution of the suit and tuxedo for women. In 1966 Yves Saint Laurent introduced Le Smoking, which Vogue even says was the “first male-inspired couture, evening suit with pants for women”.As time progressed a book called, Dress for Success was published, along with Giorgio Armani creating a line of suiting made in neutral colors. In September 1976 Vogue’s New York magazine features a collection of suiting for women with different silhouettes   and materials. Vogue described this as “Brand new-super-suiting”. A year later in 1977 Theirry Mugler and Claude Montana release their collections of suiting that accentuate the shoulder, making them large and noticeable. As 1978 approaches the man-style of suiting sweeps the business world. Calvin Klein, annoyed, gave Vogue a comment, claiming that women did not need a uniform and shouldn’t need to look like a man. Saint Laurent would argue that he was not trying to make women look or feel like men, but be feminine, yet comfortable, beautiful yet powerful. In April of 1980, subway worked of New York City decide to strike, therefore workers are not able to take the subway to work, making walking necessary for getting to work. Suits begin to be worn with white socks, over nude tights and even paired with white sneakers in order to make the commute to work comfortable. A year later, in the 1981, Nany Reagan, first lady of Ronald Reagan, wears a skirt suit created by Adolfo and Galanos. In 1984, Donna Karan creates her own independent fashion line for professional women such as Diane Sawyer. Two years later in 1986, Vogue reports that women may be dressing too powerful and therefore putting the success of your life in jeopardy because people will think you have been “too successful”. Outlooks change as 1990 comes; Casual Fridays become common among American workplaces. Karl Lagerfeld for Chanel states “There is not only a change in fashion going on, but a change of mind”. Karl Lagerfeld explains that not only was the fashion changing and women wanted to wear pants and more casualwear, but the mindset and outlook on women, especially working women was changing and progressing, and fashion worked directly with that change.

Work Cited
1.  "Dress for Success: Who We Are." Dress for Success: Who We Are. Dress for Success, n.d. Web. 23 Aug. 2014.
2. "Le Smoking." - Voguepedia. Vogue, n.d. Web. 22 Aug. 2014.
3. "Le Smoking." Dazed. N.p., n.d. Web. 26 Aug. 2014.
4. Lepore, Meredith. "The History of the Power Suit." Levo League. N.p., 06 Mar. 2014. Web. 22 Aug. 2014.
5. "Power Suit." - Voguepedia. N.p., n.d. Web. 22 Aug. 2014.
6. Shardlow, Estella. "How Yves Saint Laurent Revolutionized Women's Fashion By Popularizing The "Le Smoking" Suit." Business Insider. Business Insider, Inc, 08 Aug. 2011. Web. 22 Aug. 2014.
7. "Yves Henri-Donat-Mathieu Saint Laurent." Bio. A&E Television Networks, 2014. Web. 18 Aug. 2014.
8. "Yves Saint Laurent." - Voguepedia. Vogue, n.d. Web. 22 Aug. 2014.
9. "Yves Saint Laurent's Le Smoking through the Ages." Fashion Galleries from Catwalks to Celebrities. N.p., n.d. Web. 26 Aug. 2014.

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