TREND The men’s suit entered women’s wear in the 1960s. Now the dress is influencing it

Almost five decades ago Yves Saint Laurent conscripted himself to fashion history books with the Le Smoking. Many things have changed since. His fashion house is now headed by a new creative head (Hedi Slimane, who had a bit of a controversial debut last month), the label name’s been changed to Saint Laurent Paris, and androgyny no longer raises eyebrows. And the men’s suit has continued to enjoy its stay in women’s wardrobes.

It’s been the quest of many a design house to search for that one silhouette that it could turn into a signature. (Case in point being Chanel’s ‘Little Black Jacket’ exhibition that’s now on at the Grand Palais in Paris.) Now, the men’s suit is being tweaked. In Raf Simons’ ready-to-wear debut at Christian Dior for Spring/ Summer 2013 at Paris this September, the coat dress became the most talked-about shape, along with the mini gowns. (In a strange play of fate, it was at Dior that the late Yves Saint Laurent started his design career). The suit, a silhouette that brought in power dressing to women’s wear, is now being made feminine — it came in as an alternative to dresses, but has instead become one. Most recently, actor Marion Cotillard was seen in Paris wearing a black tuxedo dress from Dior’s Autumn 2012 couture line.

Simons doesn’t get sole credit. Miuccia Prada deconstructed the suit into women’s wear at Prada’s Fall/ Winter 2012-13 ready-to-wear show in Milan early this year. (The show that also made purple the colour of the season.) Former Bond girl Gemma Arterton sported a sleeveless coat dress from the collection at the Song for Marion premiere in London recently. Hussein Chalayan’s Spring/ Summer 2013 featured coat dresses, too.