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London - Women can be divided into two neat hemispheres. Those of us who favour trouser suits - and those flibbertigibbets, the ones who use their breasts, the ones who simper and wear patterns and expect men to pay for things: the ones who wear dresses.
You can tell I favour the former. The woman who wears trousers is a superior species. Not for us the retro mumsiness of the rose-printed tea dress. Not for us the show-offyness of the strapless column. Not for us the downright rudeness of the mini or the plunging halter. No, the woman who wears trousers is more subtle than that.
I was always, always a trouser suit kind of girl. When I landed the job as the editor of a glossy magazine in 1998, my first purchase was a trouser suit by Jil Sander. My only concession to frivolity was that it was nut brown, not black.
For all the evening functions I was forced to attend as part of my job, I decided to buy a black Gucci tuxedo. I wore it with skyscraper heels, and absolutely nothing underneath. I kicked all the other girls in their simpering frocks into touch. I meant business. I was the boss.
And so it was no surprise that, when I got married, I wore a tuxedo. This was a cream, fine cashmere Helmut Lang suit that I wore over a cream Hanro vest, teamed with brown and Swarovski crystal heels by Bottega Veneta.
A frothy wedding gown was simply not me given that I was over 40, and the only person at the proceedings who was paying for anything.
My only mistake (apart from marrying the wrong man) was in later splitting up the tux, wearing the jacket with jeans, which meant the trousers looked too new against it.
I have stuck like glue to the tux for all-important occasions ever since: I wore a black tux with cropped trousers by Sarah Burton for Alexander McQueen to attend the formal dinner to welcome President Obama to these shores last year (I cannily bought an identical cream version, which I wore to watch the Monaco Grand Prix this weekend: it is cool and summery, and immediately placed me in pole position among all the other pit-lane groupies in their peplum dresses and passive aggressive white jeans and sari tops).
But how ahead of the curve am I? Tuxedos are suddenly all the rage, a trend sparked, I think, by the appearance of Livia Firth on the red carpet at the Baftas earlier this year. In her black Paul Smith tux, with a sleek ponytail, and husband Colin in tow, she out-classed all the Hollywood stars in their frou-frou puffballs.
Sales of tuxedos at Liberty in London have shot up by 25 percent in the past six months, with summer tuxes by Lanvin, Antonio Berardi, Stella McCartney and Yves Saint Laurent making all the girly dresses and gowns seem as tired as, well, me.
Hudson’s new Lou Lou tuxedo jeans (meaning they have a slimming satin stripe on each leg), named after Yves Saint Laurent’s late muse, Loulou de la Falaise, have sold out at Selfridges. It was YSL, of course, who first put women into the traditional men’s “smoking”, back in 1966.
Alternatives to the traditional jacket and trousers are the halter-neck jumpsuit, and the monochrome tuxedo dresses from Temperley London and Manhattan designer Phillip Lim. Initially sceptical, I have grown to love the jumpsuit.
I’m thinking, in particular, of the Stella McCartney example in the Ball Gowns exhibition currently on at the V&A in London- black, with a jewel-encrusted bodice - a tour de force: it screams action and adventure rather than the rather safe, trussed-up vision of femininity that oozes from all the over-embellished Bellville Sassoons and Mary Katrantzous also on show.
And if you’re still not won over, you only have to look at Gwyneth Paltrow in a plunging tuxedo jumpsuit at the recent Women in Film party to be convinced. The masculine sharpness gives her rather winsome blonde beauty an edge. It shouts, “Don’t mess with me!” Rather than her usual, “Hand me your latest cupcake recipe”.
How best to wear the tuxedo? The rest of you has to be, I’m afraid, quite feminine and groomed: a long head of glossy bed-head hair, immaculate make-up and fine strappy heels are all essential. Please don’t wear flat Grecian sandals, ballet pumps or mannish brogues.
I prefer a tuxedo worn over bare skin, as a white shirt makes it all feel too formal and businesslike, while a camisole worn underneath is too girly. I like a gently flared trouser that just skims the ankle bone (I can’t stand trousers that intrude upon the shoe). A little bit of toe cleavage is essential, too: a chunky heel or a shoe boot makes it all feel a little too wintry. - Daily Mail