Vive le smoking: how YSL invented the female tuxedo
Thursday 06 October 2005
This show is devoted not to the designer's nicotine habit but to le smoking, the French for tuxedo, and one of the designs that Yves Saint Laurent did best - for both sexes.
Derived from the original English term "smoking suit" - a suit intended for indoor use - it was originally a term for menswear. But, with his Spring/Summer Haute Couture collection of 1966, the French designer turned the fashion world on its head. His legendary smoking redefined the female silhouette and created a new wardrobe staple for generations to come.
"Yves Saint Laurent transformed woman into a queen who, in her smoking, dares to check the king," explained the show's organisers.
Helmut Newton's 1978 photograph of Catherine Deneuve and Yves Saint Laurent himself captures the attitude of the exhibition, with the young designer gripping the lapels of his jacket and the actress looking outwards with a steely gaze. All at once, France's most feminine starlet has become predatory, androgynous, and irresistibly elegant. Deneuve is quoted as remarking that her smoking, first worn in the early 1980s, "really does make you feel different as a woman, it changes the gestures".
Newton's iconic image provides a striking backdrop to the first roomful of the silhouettes, set against black walls and placed on a chessboard floor.
Yves Saint Laurent's androgynous creations changed the way women saw themselves. As Jean-Pierre Derbourd, the former technical director of Yves Saint Laurent's couture house, explained: "We never pinned sleeves according to an arm hanging down, but on to a bent arm, hand on hip."
This gesture of power goes hand in hand with the smoking. Playing his own part in the sexual revolution, Yves Saint Laurent emancipated women with his clothes.
Though the designer established himself as a couturier under the ultra-feminine New Look, his love-affair with the dinner jacket seems to have been inspired more by the label's arch-rival, Coco Chanel. Chanel gave women freedom, seems to be the message of the exhibition, but Yves Saint Laurent gave them power.
sportLiverpool 5 Norwich City 1: Uruguayan striker has now scored 11 league goals against the club
arts + entsOlivier-nominated actor and singer is set to star in Lloyd Webber's musical about the Profumo affair
filmWith more than 70 per cent of early films lost, archivists are scouring the world to preserve the precious examples that remain
sportThe coach of Chalfont St Peter's under-10s football team was relieved of his duties after he sent an email to parents that said: 'I am only interested in winning'
techA piece of new hi-tech kit aims to get us scribbling again
indybestMake getting out of the wrong side of bed on cold winter mornings a thing of the past with our selection of night-time covers
life + styleClarissa Baldwin is the brains behind the slogan 'A Dog is for Life not just for Christmas'
North Korea: Kim Jong Un 'sacks powerful uncle and has his aides executed'
What made Charles Saatchi grab my throat, by Nigella Lawson - as she accuses him of threatening to 'destroy' her with drug claims
Is this the scariest advert ever? Japanese tyre commercial comes with its own disclaimer and health warning
Food poverty in UK has reached level of 'public health emergency', warn experts
Tom Daley's 'boyfriend' revealed to be screenwriter Dustin Lance Black
- 1 The hardwired difference between male and female brains could explain why men are 'better at map reading'
- 2 Is this the scariest advert ever? Japanese tyre commercial comes with its own disclaimer and health warning
- 3 UK chef creates world's most expensive ready meal - a fish pie costing £314
- 4 Food poverty in UK has reached level of 'public health emergency', warn experts
- 5 I’m sure Kate Moss doesn't care about posing for Playboy. But I do
£50000 - £70000 per annum + London: Harrington Starr: Senior Automation QA Eng...
£35000 - £50000 per annum + Benefits : Harrington Starr: SQL 2008 R2/2012 Deve...
£38000 - £45000 per annum + Benefits: Pro-Recruitment Group: Creative Audit Se...
£45000 - £50000 per annum + Benefits: Harrington Starr: SQL Developer (TSQL, P...