Women’s tuxedo: fashion trend

The women’s tuxedo has been blurring the gender divide for years. Some call it an evening gown alternative, while others have tagged it as sophisticated glamour. Thanks to Yves Saint Laurent, who gave birth to le smoking in the 1960s, this androgynous ensemble has now become a womenswear classic and very much a wardrobe staple. But not one that is without the potential for reinterpretation.

The women’s tuxedo trend trumpet last blew out in 2008 when we saw a fountain of celebrities donning the look. Now, with 2012 on the horizon, we’re seeing the trend make a flashing comeback with a whole lot of mischief, seduction and femininity – but this time it’s different. It has evolved.

Read on to see how to master this look and find out which pieces are worth investing in so you don’t look like you’re living 2008 all over again. Don’t forget that if you’d like stay updated with all the latest trends and how to wear them, you can subscribe to Fashionising.com’s newsletter or RSS feed.

women's tuxedo
Women’s tuxedo at Ruffian A/W ’11

Women’s tuxedo for fall 2011 & 2012

We’ve all seen Helmut Newton‘s iconic image of YSL’s Le Smoking: a model with slicked-back hair, cigarette clutched casually in hand, becomes a statuesque, androgonous fixture on a Parisian street. The whole look is pristinely tailored; the pants are high in the waist and wide in the leg, but the blouse underneath the jacket is soft and finished at the neck by a bow. It’s the epitome of feminine-meets-masculine, and it’s exactly where the women’s tuxedo trend has returned to in 2011 / 2012.

When we last saw the tuxedo as a full-force trend back in 2008 it was a powerful statement that kept mostly to the glaringly sexy side with skinny cuts, tight fits and plenty of high-sheen satin. Since then, men’s tailoring has relaxed and so too has women’s. Like Le Smoking, the women’s tuxedo is once again about that effortless androgyny that’s stitched up in immaculately tailored yet lightly relaxed pieces, minimalist silhouettes, and that all important hint of 1970s glamour.

ysl le smoking helmut newton
Helmut Newton’s iconic photo of Le Smoking, 1975

So what does that mean exactly?

It means you’re best off leaving behind these attributes from 2008:

  • Women’s tuxedo jackets with pointed or puffy accentuated shoulders.
  • Skimpy tux-inspired outfits that look like they could belong in the costume section of a lingerie store.
  • Overly glamorous head-to-toe tuxedo looks that involve heels, bow-ties, and top hats all at once.
  • Satin ruffle blouses (opt instead for cotton, lightweight silks or sheer fabrics).

Instead, for 2011 and into 2012:

  • Take cues from the 1970s with wide, peaked lapels.
  • Don’t just stick to traditional black; while 2008′s skinny jeans and a black dinner jacket combo can be updated for today, there are also other more interesting ways to stand out in the trend.
  • For a different take there’s also the option of embellished, sparkling women’s tuxedo jackets or pants that scream 70s glam rock; or the ultra-luxurious all-over velvet tuxedo a la Tom Ford.

tom ford womens tuxedo
Velvet women’s tuxedo from Tom Ford Women’s A/W 2011 collection

For more ideas of how to wear the trend in 2011 / 2012 read on to the sections below.

The tuxedo for spring / summer 2011

For those fashionisers in the southern hemisphere yet to experience spring / summer 2011, don’t fear: even though wearing heavy winter fabric seems unimaginable for sultry summer months, there’s still plenty of scope for this trend to seep through. All it needs is clever styling, like some serious blocks of colours and light, clingy fabrics. Pair a women’s tuxedo jacket with well-fitted shorts or a body-hugging skirt to avow a sophisticated summer look. Another perfect option is a full white dinner suit in a relaxed summer cut.

tuxedo trend spring
Spring / summer take on the women’s tuxedo jacket: Jenni Kayne Resort ’12

Complimentary trends

Don’t be surprised if you see the women’s tuxedo hanging out with complimentary trend buddies like plunging necklines, sheer fabrics, and even the year’s revival of flared pants. Relaxed and effortless it may be, but that doesn’t mean sexiness has to go out the window: an open neck or sheer shirt are the perfect ways to add a dash of sex appeal, while a slim-cut flare over a high heel adds a different type of seductiveness.

Alternatively a wide leg pant, either a tuxedo pant or a tailored pant paired with a tuxedo jacket, can lean either to the 70s or the 1940s, while a slouchy pant cut can offer a hint of tomboy cool.

alexander wang tuxedo
Relaxed tuxedo at Alexander Wang, pre-Fall ’11

How to wear the tuxedo trend in 2011/2012

This autumn / winter, the easiest way recreate this look in your own wardrobe is by playing with it. Here are our tips on how to master the tuxedo trend:

  • Investing in a tuxedo shirt is a great way to create the ‘tuxedo’ effect even when worn without a jacket.
  • If you want to stand out, stay clear from the obvious interpretation and hunt for pieces in different fabrics like, tweed, cashmere, satin, wool, silk and velvet.
  • Another way to stand out is by way of pants that sport a contrast stripe or a trim down each leg. Alternatively pants with wide legs and a cummerbund work the look perfectly, and keep the statement below your waist.

cummerbund waist pants
Tuxedo pants with cummerbund at Prabal Gurung A/W ’11

  • For uniformity, swear by one colour from neck down and it doesn’t have to be strictly black or white.
  • To stay on the masculine side of the fence, accessorize the look with a bow tie, chiffon neck tie, or suspenders.

leather bow tie
The bow tie for women: Yigal Azrouel A/W ’11

  • Brave the plunging neckline and go shirtless underneath. Instant sexiness guaranteed!
  • Flirt with the options of an underneath shirt – a sleeveless sheer chiffon top or a lacy silk blouse.
  • Embrace the 70s trend and flaunt high waisted flare-leg pants, paired with a structured dinner jacket.
  • There are no real boundaries when determining the length of the tuxedo jacket, other than what best flatters your height and figure. It can either end at the waist or go all the way down to the knees.
  • Leather brogues worn with cropped pants and a double-breasted dinner jacket can garner a successful attempt at androgyny.
  • Beauty wise, contrast with bold lips and nails; berry, coral and pink are on-trend. Keep the hair simple in an up-do with a centre-part – try a chignon or topknot.

Tuxedo trend updates


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