Tailleur mon amour
The story of an outfit that signals freedom and seduction in the name of style

It imbued women with power and symbolised a refusal to choose between career and seduction. This is the tailleur.

Created by a man in the late 19th century, the name of this outfit for women comes from the fact that it was originally made by men’s tailors – tailleur in French. Initially it consisted of a short jacket and a very long, heavy skirt, and was worn for horse riding.

A more modern version did not come until the First World War, but in 1917 the tailleur was revolutionised by Coco Chanel. Mademoiselle used jersey, because there were few other fabrics available in the postwar period; the knitted fabric follows the shape of the body, flattering without constraining. It’s practical yet seductive.

In 1947Christian Dior launched his first collection, Corolle, with wasp waists and accentuated busts. The symbol of this renaissance of the female body was the Tailleur Bar, with its generous flower-like skirt.

This was the beginning of a quarrel fought with scissors: after Dior, in 1954, Coco created a new version of her tailleur, this time in tweed and consisting of three main components: a jacket, a straight skirt and a blouse. A must-have ensemble that’s been in fashion ever since.

In 1966 it was the turn of Yves Saint Laurent, who took inspiration from Marlene Dietrich and her famous tailleurs to create the iconic “Le smoking” tuxedo worn by Penelope Tree, and Bianca Jagger’s suit for her wedding with Mick.

The boom came in the 80s, when the very young Giorgio Armani deconstructed the jacket and paired it with loose trousers. The image that symbolised an era is Sigourney Weaver in Working Girl.

In the 90s eccentricity became the norm, especially for Versace and Dolce&Gabbana, with their ultra-short skirts and flashy gold accessories.

And so we come to the present day: “back to work” is the tailleur’s most frequent introduction. But it’s actually worn at any time of day: oversized and colourful, it has shed its formal air and become an item that’s dynamic and extremely youthful.

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