“Le smoking” is the single, unique, uncomplicated, perfect, never-think-twice-about-wearing, indémodable — ever in-style, never-out-of-style — “uniform” for women of every age forever.
When Yves Saint Laurent sent out his first tuxedo-clad model during his 1966-1967 haute couture collection he revolutionized la mode. He said he wanted to liberate women. At the same time he expanded the possibilities of dressing for comfort, for power, for freedom.
In my opinion, every woman should own her own version of le smoking. YSL offered the template some 45 years ago and since, he, and just about every designer on the planet, has played with the theme. No matter a woman’s birthday, morphology, coloring. . . le smoking is, as fashionable French women say, a “valeur sûre,” you can’t go wrong.
No one needs to own a vintage YSL, or one with any designer label for that matter. In fact, it’s great fun to invent one’s own Little Black Tux (LBT) for the simple reason that when the disparate parts are assembled they can be of the cuts and combinations that best suit our figures.
For example, I made one of mine by combining my workhorse large, flow-y black satin pants teamed with a fitted Dior tuxedo jacket with a wide shawl collar in grosgrain, long enough to cover my umm, derriere; worn usually over a stretch lace top — either in white or black — I found years ago at Banana Republic. I have a collection of cummerbunds in a variety of colors. Sometimes I wear a silk vest under the jacket; sometimes a pleated, wing-collared men’s tuxedo shirt.
I have two or three other versions, one with a classic tux jacket and the satin strip down the side pants to match. I mix them up regularly. I’ve been know to switch off my black satin pants for red or ivory. With the red, the black lace; with the ivory, ivory or black lace, or a black and ivory satin waistcoat.
You get the idea, endless, and I haven’t even discussed wearing the jacket over dresses, white, tee-shirts, with jeans — particularly black jeans — the pants with just about anything.
Ines de la Fressange likes her tux with Converse high-tops, but then again she can get away with anything.
Details are vitally important in order to balance that oh-s0-subtly-sensual masculine/feminine vibe created with le smoking, to wit:
1.) Take care with your hair. Nothing too strict (or, if you like slicked-back, soften with accessories as above).
2.) If you wear nail polish, now’s the time. At the very least, the look requires a perfect manicure and pale pink polish works with everything.
3.) Perfume. Well, obviously.
4.) Shoes are your call — high and haughty or ballerines or, I suppose if you dare, tennis shoes of one sort or another.
5.) A cummerbund, ribbon, smashing statement wide, soft gold leather belt, something jeweled — something!
6.) If you’re girly by nature, add a bow to your tresses; major jewels; a ruffled shirt; lace; rich, jewel-colored or metallic sandals. (If your toes peek out make sure they are a bright, look-at-me hue.)
7.) You know this, but it can never be repeated too many times: buy the best you can afford, either in a preconceived whole or two parts that make your whole. You only need one.
8.) Makeup must be impeccable. Take the extra time to make sure it is. It can be dramatic if you are so inclined. I can’t wear red lipstick, something bizarre happens to my face, so I go for the eyes.
9.) Keep your evening bag feminine and small. It can be colorful, glitzy or black.
10.) Feel the confidence that comes from wearing le smoking, walk tall, head high, strut past all the frou–frou and smile.
Never forget you are above and beyond la mode, you are indémodable. In le smoking, it truly is all about you, not all about the dress.
**All of les smokings are from YSL, except perhaps the one on Eva Herzigova in the center. I liked the black on black, but not exactly the same black, look and therefore included it, but can’t verify the designer.