After years of being relegated to the boardroom, the tailored pantsuit is back in the spotlight thanks to fashion’s most trailblazing icons, says Becky Sunshine
Yves Saint Laurent’s infamous "Le Smoking" tuxedo, photographed by Helmut Newton
Coco Chanel first wore one in the 1920s, then Marlene Dietrich in the ’30s. Katharine Hepburn adopted the look in the ’40s. Together, these women made the tailored pantsuit a wardrobe staple and revolutionized the modern dress code. Fast forward to spring 2013, where designers such as Frida Giannini at Gucci, Hedi Slimane at Saint Laurent and Stella McCartney are creating new pantsuit silhouettes, ranging from strict and mannish to soft and draping, spawning a new generation of chic women taking the look not only to work, but off duty
and even on to the red carpet.
The androgyny of tailoring has always encouraged a feeling of empowerment: a structured jacket makes us stand taller; our hands thrust audaciously into the pockets of tailored pants. From Chanel’s revolutionary first foray – a practical solution for playing tennis – to the rebellious Hepburn who refused to wear dresses, the pantsuit represents steely determination and effortless style. In the ’60s and ’70s Lauren Hutton and Bianca Jagger became the poster girls for Yves Saint Laurent’s iconic "Le Smoking", whilecredits
Photograph: © The Helmut Newton Estate