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The Evolution of Women's Tuxedos

Women’s tuxedos are still making a bold statement in 2016. They’re edgy, fashion-forward pieces that tend to generate hype whenever they are worn by a famous face or seen at a high profile event. For the last couple of years, women’s tuxedos have been commonplace on fashion runways. Inspired by the designer brands, high street stores are also stocking and selling tuxedo jackets for women among their formal wear collections.

It might seem as if women’s tuxedos are a new trend. There certainly is a new era of popularity for the tuxedo jacket right now but the concept of women wearing tuxedos is anything but new! The first note-worthy appearance of a woman wearing tuxedo in history is in the 1920s. Dorothy Mackaill was one of the first to wear a tuxedo on set and in a film; she did this for her role as the main character in the ‘The Crystal Cup’, a movie made in 1927.

Just three years later, Marlene Dietrich stunned audiences in a tuxedo and a top hat in the movie, ‘Morocco’. Marlene’s role – and outfit – shocked audiences and the movie has gone down in history as an important piece that pushed boundaries of modern cinema and defied the social norms of the time. Despite these appearances on the silver screen, women wearing tuxedos hadn’t yet hit mainstream fashion nor would the high street have dreamed of promoting tuxedos to women. Scandalous as Marlene’s outfit seemed to be, the general public accepted this as part of the film and didn’t envisage the tuxedo having a place in a women’s wardrobe in the real world.

In 1966, tuxedos for women entered the fashion world when Yves Saint Laurent debuted the ‘Le Smoking’ tuxedo jacket for women. While it did receive some praise, some critics thought that it was a misplaced item; that a tuxedo wasn’t what fashionable women would want to wear. Despite this initial confusion and resistance to the new idea that a tuxedo could be a great fashion piece for women, the ‘Le Smoking’ tuxedo jacket did take off. In 1975, the photographer Helmut Newton helped the ‘Le Smoking’ tuxedo jacket secure its place in fashion history with his iconic monochrome photographs for Vogue magazine.

This was a key moment in the history of tuxedos. They had been featured in movies prior to this time but this was seen as part of the fiction of a movie; wearing a tuxedo wasn’t something an ordinary or fashion-following woman would do. However, with Yves Saint Laurent making a tuxedo jacket specifically for women and Vogue featuring it in their magazine, the world began to see women take this item of clothing and claim it as a powerful statement of their own.

A man wearing a tuxedo is seen as powerful and influential, but a woman who has taken a man’s tuxedo and included it in her own ensemble is seen as even more powerful and influential; it gives people who see her the sense that she sees what she wants and she takes it. It also adds a sense of mystery around the woman: who would be so bold, so daring as to wear a tuxedo? A woman wearing a tuxedo exudes confidence – she is confident in being seen and has ensured she will be noticed with her outfit.

Many women may still feel unsure about wearing a tuxedo – particularly if they’re considering swapping a gown for a tuxedo to wear to a formal event. But there are some great reasons to try it:

  • The tailored fit of a tuxedo is flattering for a woman. You can accentuate or cover up as you wish.
  • Accessories determine the overall look that you achieve with your tuxedo. For example, if you need a glamorous outfit, you can wear luxury statement jewelry and elegant shoes.
  • A tuxedo is practical. Avoid tripping over your long, trailing gown with a classy but comfortable tuxedo.

If you’re still not convinced, browse back over the red carpet outfits of the last couple of years. Tuxedos exploded on to the red carpet in 2014, when famous faces such as Angelina Jolie, Kim Kardashian and Cara Delevingne all rocked the tuxedo in their own unique ways. They showed us that a tuxedo was a powerful item of clothing for a woman; it can represent her strength and business prowess. Each of outfit was also carefully balanced with eye-catching shoes and glamorous accessories, showing that a tuxedo can be dressed up as a feminine and sophisticated alternative to a gown.

So, what are you waiting for? Channel the boldness of Dorothy and Marlene, try on a few tuxedos and find one you love and that fits well – and then dare to wear it to the next event in your diary. Some say diamonds are a girl’s best friend. We say: diamonds worn with a tuxedo are a girl’s best power outfit!