The Suit: A look back at the smouldering Le Smoking

the suit a look back at Le Smoking
the suit a look back at Le Smoking

See the tuxedo suit on the Spring 2013 runways »

Sometimes a woman feels like puttin’ on the Ritz. Whether it’s worn by Marlene Dietrich, Bianca Jagger or Rihanna, a tuxedo suit has the power to ignite a room faster than any little black dress. With its sharp lines, classic appeal and feminine details—a frilly shirt here, a rhinestone bow-tie there—it’s little wonder that fashion houses like Lanvin, Stella McCartney, Saint Laurent and Ermanno Scervino have reimagined this iconic eveningwear look for Spring 2013.

The first haute couture tuxedo suit—a black velvet pantsuit with a matching vest and a white shirt with ruffled cuffs—was designed by Yves Saint Laurent in 1966. Dubbed Le Smoking, this gender-bending look instantly caught fire, and soon afterward the designer launched his ready-to-wear label, Rive Gauche, with more accessibly priced smoking suits. The timing couldn’t have been better, since the second wave of the women’s emancipation movement marched into the history books that same decade. Power dressing after dark was now an exercise in equal opportunity.

When YSL took his final runway bow in 2002, he had played on countless variations of this signature ensemble in his 45-year career. “Fashions come and go, but style is forever,” he once said. May the tuxedo suit always burn bright.