Designer women's trouser suits found their origin in the garment of choice for men of business and leisure throughout the 20th century and decades before. The perfectly balanced jacket and trouser combination providing a conduit to express style and status though cut and cloth. However, this simple and smartest of masculine styles was masterfully adopted by women of the 20th century as they explored gender notions of femininity and androgyny through fashion. When it comes to wearing vintage women’s trouser suits, there are only two names you need in order to learn nearly everything you need to know: Marlene Dietrich and Yves Saint Laurent.
When you think of a female tuxedo, surely no image comes more clearly to mind than the direct gaze, curling cigarette smoke and blond coiffure beneath a jauntily cocked top hat of Marlene Dietrich in her 1930 film ‘Morocco.’ Marlene was just one of many women of the time in Europe and America who were playing with masculine styles, foremost amongst them Coco Chanel and Greta Garbo. But as an international Hollywood star, Dietrich adopted not only trousers as leisure wear as in the 1920s, but full wide legged men’s tailored suits both on and off screen. Though critics accused her of wearing suits merely as a publicity stunt, Dietrich maintained that, for her, a perfect trouser suit offered practicality, comfort and stylish lines which no other garment could. Since then, her 1930’s style has been held up as the perfect example of the balance between masculine and feminine, with many conceding that, possibly, her female frame carried her tailoring better than many men of the time.
This flowering of designer ladies trouser suits remained a popular style of the 1930s. However, when it reappeared in the 1960s, it was almost as revolutionary as it has been 30 years earlier. Inspired by his artist friend Niki de Saint Phalle, who wore her suits with heels, Yves Saint Laurent launched his iconic ‘Le Smoking’ trouser suit in 1966 with its satin lapels, white ruffle shirt and wide satin cummerbund. In 1966, to wear Le Smoking as evening attire was to cause a stir. Women were turned away from restaurants and Yves Saint Laurent accompanied Françoise Hardy to the Opera in Paris were they were met with gasps and hollers. Its effect has earned it status as a symbol of female emancipation in the mid-20th century and Yves Saint Laurent has included a version of the suit in every collection since. It also ushered in a new choice for women which was quickly adopted with the sleek and power styling of the 1970s. Practical, simple and smart, these vintage trouser suits have led the way and have never gone out. Today beyond office wear you can find designer trouser suits for weddings can be a great choice for bride or guest and an equally chic option for parties of all seasons. Just as for men, the trouser suit is not a matter of fashion but of style.