Evening trouser suit, Yves Saint Laurent, 1985

WAG 2014.23.1


Born in Algeria, then a French colony, Saint Laurent moved to Paris at the age of seventeen. There, his fashion sketches brought him to the attention of Christian Dior. Following Dior’s death in 1957, Saint Laurent took over as head designer at Dior, before opening his own couture house in 1961. In 1966, Saint Laurent produced his revolutionary tuxedo suit for women, known as ‘Le Smoking’. His design drew upon the lesbian culture of Paris in the 1920s and 30s. At that time, lesbian women such as Romaine Brooks (born in 1874, died in 1970), living in the French capital, embraced the historical trend of lesbian cross-dressing, by donning sharp suits, monocles and top hats. Saint Laurent’s design also tapped into the 1960s fashion for androgynous dressing that was popular across Europe, America and Britain. Its androgynous styling made a huge impact on the world of fashion. The design proved so popular that it continues to be made today and has inspired many other interpretations.