Le Smoking: How A Dinner Jacket Changed Womenswear

“For a woman, Le Smoking is an indispensable garment with which she finds herself continually in fashion, because it is about style, not fashion," Yves Saint Laurent once said. "Fashions come and go, but style is forever.”

It's a sentiment we espouse at Favourbrook. Timelessness trumps trends every time. But it took a maverick like Yves Saint Laurent to shift the paradigm of womenswear, to break it out from a narrow box of perception and to make the world understand that femininity was not going to be bound by the conventions of the past. Saint Laurent held a steadfast view that women should feel empowered in their clothing, a view which reached a seminal point in 1966 when the Algerian-born designer realised 'Le Smoking' - the tuxedo jacket for women with satin-stripe trousers worn with a white ruffled shirt. All the tenets of formal menswear rewrapped in a new view of female empowerment. It was a bold and beautiful change of course. As so often happens in the face of change, it was originally baulked at by many, but now women's tailoring has never been in a better place, with the most recent Paris runways full of sexy, empowering, tailored shapes.

At Favourbrook this season, we have created three of our own unique takes on Le Smoking, embracing the spirit of Saint Laurent and his vision for female empowerment. First up is a stunning black silk velvet lounge jacket featuring a silk shawl lapel. Softly tailored fora relaxed drape, the jacket is embellished with crystal studs, making it a beautiful option for glamorous evening events.

 Lounge Jacket Black Crystal Silk Velvet

Lounge Jacket Black Crystal Silk Velvet

Then we have created two versions of our chic Library jacket. This style is closer in design to a traditional smoking jacket, but is cut in a svelte single-breasted silhouette in silk velvet and features a single-frogging closure at the front. It features a subtle tonal embroidered floral pattern throughout, and is finished with a corded edge, making it an excellent option for elegant eveningwear.

 Library Jacket Black Roosevelt Silk Velvet

Library Jacket Black Roosevelt Silk Velvet

The second version of the Library jacket comes in the same silhouette, only this one features contrasting floral embroidery, with accents of silk and green threads resonating off of the black silk velvet base. What we adore about all three jackets is just how easily they can be styled to create diverse looks, from layering over a black bralette or silk camisole top for a bold contemporary look, to styling with a contrast white silk shirt.


Library Jacket Black Mercia Silk Velvet

When Saint Laurent presented his vision in 1966, It was the first time that any couturier had presented trousers as an option for women's eveningwear. Womenswear had been confined to the male structures of femininity, so to turn this on its head and appropriate an inherently male, sartorial outfit was a step too far for many. And literally so, which many restaurants and other establishments refusing women entry in trousers. When socialite Nan Kempner was turned away from restaurant Le Côte Basque in New York, she removed her trousers and wore the blazer as a mini dress, mocking the establishment’s outdated ideas of what the woman should be. Instead, like Saint Laurent, they should have been thinking about what the woman could be.

Helmut Newton's le Smoking image for French Vogue, 1975

Saint Laurent's premise took full effect in the 70s as Le Smoking was worn by Catherine Deneuve, Liza Minelli, Francoise Hardy, LouLou de la Falaise, Lauren Bacall and Bianca Jagger. Jagger made it her style signifier, wearing a white tuxedo blazer on her wedding day in 1971. Then in 1975, Helmut Newton shot a series of images that would immortalise Le Smoking and change the perception of female sexuality entirely, from something imposed by the male gaze, to a sexuality that defied definition. Commissioned by French Vogue, in one image Newton had an androgynous woman stood nonchalantly astride the curb in a hazily lit Parisian street, her hair slickly parted, wearing a white cravat. With one hand in her trouser pocket and the other cradling a cigarette, she half shrouds a naked model stood behind her, dressed only in stilettos. As a piece of iconography, it was masterful, and would change how the world perceived womenswear forever.