Upon entering the Yves Saint Laurent museum at the Pierre Berge Foundation in Paris, the first garment you’ll lay your eyes upon is the designer’s most controversial creation - Le Smoking. At a time when women wearing trousers was still a hotly debated topic, the French designer put a model in a suit for his ‘Pop Art’ haute couture collection in 1966. Consisting of straight-legged pants, a white ruffled organza shirt, a bow tie, a satin cummerbund and a jacket with silk lapels, this was the first suit created by a man for a woman - a chic alternative to the LBD or an evening gown.
The bold move caused a stir not just in the fashion industry, but shocked Parisian society and the world. It was perceived by many as ghastly or obscene. ‘A woman in a suit? Gender confusing and a perversion of the natural order,’ cried conservative critics. Since then, the style has become a signature of the Parisian fashion house, with everyone from Alber Elbaz and Tom Ford, right down to Hedi Slimane and Anthony Vacarello, ensuring Le Smoking has remained a part of each of the Maison’s collections through time.
Catherine Deneuve was one of Anthony Vacarello's first muses
One of its earliest adopters was French actress and style icon Catherine Deneuve. While it was created as an alternative to evening wear, it soon became the uniform of liberated women. Model Bianca Jagger wore an all white version to her wedding, when she married Mick Jagger in 1971. When socialite Nan Kempner was refused entry at a restaurant in Manhattan while wearing the tux (their dress code prohibited women from wearing pants), she slipped off her trousers and turned the jacket into a minidress.
Bianca Jagger sporting a Saint Laurent jacket for her wedding
To own a Saint Laurent jacket is to own a piece of history. After over half a century of empowering women, the current creative director Anthony Vacarello’s versions can be sported sans blouse à la Naomi Campbell, or even with bike shorts and heels for a pared down look.
Naomi Cambell in an iteration of the classic Le Smoking jacket
Celebs in Saint Laurent jackets: