January 6, 2017
Last Updated on September 27, 2023 by Dominique de Merteuil
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 –
Katharine Hepburn looks stunning in her trousers.
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
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!
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
Moi in the Marlene Dietrich-inspired look, photographed by Gregory Michael King.
Beautiful tailcoat designed by Ewa Godun.
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
I am at heart a gentleman.Marlene Dietrich
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