A Tribute to Marlene Dietrich and the Tuxedo


A Tribute to Marlene Dietrich and the Tuxedo

Recently, I was presented with a tuxedo, as a gift from a designer friend Ewa Godun. Its look is quite theatrical and we joked, that it would clearly lead to me taking to the stage in 2017 as a circus lion tamer, a la American Horror Story with a hint of a Marlene Dietrich. A few too many Espresso Martini motivated outfit changes later and I’d arrived at a look that I simply call, the name that the young Marlene’s family nicknamed her, Lene.

On the surface perhaps it may seem wrong to have jokingly used the great Marlene Dietrich as the muse for our evening’s entertainment, she has been, after all, a great inspiration for me and countless other women looking to make their mark in a strongly male world. In a word though ladies, “Lighten-Up!” George Sand – the most celebrated woman writer of 19th Century France -was wearing men’s suits nearly a century before Marlene made the androgynous look popular and Katherine Hepburn also did a huge amount to popularise suits for women. Ironically, however, perhaps the ultimate credit has to be given to a man for ultimately giving women the freedom to wear the trousers. – cue sigh –

Le Smoking

In 1966, YSL introduced the world to Le Smoking, which was the first tuxedo suit designed for women and even though the idea of a glamorous woman favouring a tuxedo over a gown was frowned upon by many fashion critics at the time, there were also some very prominent names who became instant fans of Le Smoking, despite some very unpleasant repercussions. For example, Nan Kempner – a New York City socialite – was famously turned away from Le Côte Basque for wearing her YSL tuxedo suit, which few restaurants and hotels didn’t accept as appropriate attire for a woman. As a response to the restaurant’s ban, Kempner removed her trousers and walked into the restaurant wearing only the top half of her tuxedo, as if it was a mini dress. That’s what I call pushing boundaries!

A woman, especially a famous one, wearing a tuxedo suit has always been surrounded by a cloud of a scandal and we can only imagine what a scandal it was indeed when Marlene Dietrich showed up in 1932 to the premiere of The Sign of the Cross wearing just that. Oh, how I wish I were there!

Meine Damen und Herren! Let me now present you with the Marlene Dietrich tribute look, a tribute to all those who have fought for women’s right to wear the pants (Mickey Mouse, popularised in 1930s Germany is just a bonus) or in my case to wear the top part of a tuxedo and as the great Marlene Dietrich said, “Glamour is what I sell, it’s my stock in trade.” Now break out the cigars!

Marlene Dietrich

Marlene Dietrich

A Tribute to Marlene Dietrich and the Tuxedo

Tuxedo by Ewa Godun (I do have matching trousers but really wanted to focus on the coat.)

T-shirt: CATCH

Stockings: I honestly don’t remember but 99% of my stockings and tights are from Wolford.

Pumps: Jimmy Choo

Marlene Dietrich look

Moi in the Marlene Dietrich inspired look, photographed by Gregory Michael King.

Marlene Dietrich inspired look

Beautiful tailcoat designed by Ewa Godun.

history of the tuxedo

Dominique de Merteuil as Marlene Dietrich, photographed by Gregory Michael King.

‘Darling, the legs aren’t so beautiful, I just know what to do with them.’ Marlene Dietrich

Marlene Dietrich Look

Marlene Dietrich inspired look

Marlene Dietrich inspired look

4 Responses
  • Avatar
    June 27, 2020

    No sture who showed up first with a Tux- Josephine Baker or Lene? Great look. I started collecing vintage in the 70’s. Now 70’s is vingtage.

    • Dominique de Merteuil
      Dominique de Merteuil
      August 5, 2020

      I believe that Marlene Dietrich was the first to wear a Tux offstage, but I shall do more research!


  • Avatar
    January 10, 2017

    Such a fabulous look – beautifully conceived, totally convincing and stunningly modelled! Those stockings really do show off your legs at their very best! Karen x

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