A Tribute to Marlene Dietrich and the Tuxedo

Last updated on March 17th, 2024 at 10:59 am

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 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 male world. In a word though, ladies, “Lighten-Up!”

Trousers Not Just for Men

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.

Katharine 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 trousers. – cue sigh –

vintage slacks

Katharine Hepburn looks stunning in her trousers.

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!

Marlene Dietrich in Trousers

A woman, especially a famous one, wearing a tuxedo suit has always been surrounded by a cloud of 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!

Marlene had been wearing trousers for some time previous, but they had been poo-poohed and soft pedalled by her studio and freinds. Marlene herself, refused to pose for photographes in in her male togs. But on the evening of January twelth, a new era in feminine fashions was officialy inaugurated when, accompanied by a blushing and slightly embarassed Chavaliere, La Ditrich wore her tuxedo to the premiere. Before radio announcers and goggled-eyed spectators stuttering with amazment, Marlene coolly and challengingly wore the tax, which may yet become as much a symbol of liberty as Btsy Ross’ flag-and posed obligingly for the newspaper photographers.

Dorothy Calhoun for Movie Classic, 1934
Women wearing pants in the 1930s.
Movie Classic, 1934

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 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 designed and made by Ewa Godun (I do have matching trousers but really wanted to focus on the coat.)
  • The only t-shirt I own
  • Stockings: I honestly don’t remember where I bought them from, but 99% of my stockings and tights are from Wolford
  • Jimmy Choo pumps
Marlene Dietrich look

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

Beautiful tailcoat designed by Ewa Godun.

Marlene Dietrich inspired look

history of the tuxedo

Moi, Dominique de Merteuil inspired by the one and only Marlene Dietrich. Photography 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


I am at heart a gentleman.

Marlene Dietrich

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  • Donna
    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
      August 5, 2020

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


  • Karen
    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