Classic of Fashion

From 1955 to 1965, Parisian couturiers made the tailored suit their showpiece. They gave it a second wind by adapting it to the transformations of the consumer society. Ba-lenciaga was the first couturier to dare to break with Dior's New Look. His single-breasted, full, and flowing jackets once again underemphasized the breasts and the waist, recalling the style of the 1920s. Similarly, Chanel suits, in tweed and colored woolens, were a modern version of the first styles that had made the house's name. In the early 1960s, the tailored suit became an absolute must, immortalized by Jacqueline Kennedy. Despite the boldness of mini-suits by Courreges and the very colorful versions by Cardin, young women, in open rebellion, had little taste for the garment, preferring an explicitly rebellious wardrobe: leather jacket, mess jacket, cardigan, and work jacket, which they mixed and matched, rejecting anything that could in any way evoke a bourgeois uniform. For young women, the tailored suit embodied a fashion that resembled a yoke. Only the pants suit, whose ambiguous and androgynous character corresponded to the prevailing nonconformism, found favor in the eyes of young women who had made the liberation of mores a veritable battle cry. The denim or corduroy version was for those who wore it a symbol of political commitment. Yves Saint Laurent was able to echo this movement of rebellion in his collections: car coats, safari jackets, Mao jackets, and dinner jackets were modern versions of the tailored suit.

The 1980s saw a revival of the fashion for the tailored suit, associating a certain taste for the classic with a representation of the consecration of women in the world of work. Armani's suits were hugely successful among executive women; those of Chanel enjoyed renewed favor as symbols of relaxed luxury and elegance; and suits by Thierry Mugler and Christian Lacroix were baroque and festive. This rebirth was only an apparent one because the tailored suit was gradually losing its raison d'ĂȘtre and being replaced by other garments. The uniform no longer appealed to women at a time when fashion was governed by the cult of youth; the jacket had become a free element, and it alone continued to develop. Pants suits, like those of Jean Paul Gaultier, can still express, in a society where clothing taboos have largely faded, a way for women to emphasize their difference and their particularity.

See also Chanel, Gabrielle (Coco); Doucet, Jacques; Paquin, Jeanne; Patou, Jean; Tailoring.


Breward, Christopher. Fashion. Oxford and New York: Oxford

University Press, 2003. Chenoune, Farid. A History of Men's Fashion. Translated by Deke Dusinberre. Paris: Flammarion, 1993.

Steele, Valerie. Fifty Years of Fashion: New Look to Now. New Haven, Conn.: Yale University Press, 2000.

Waugh, Norah. The Cut of Women's Clothes 1600-1930. London: Faber, 1968.

Xavier Chaumette

TAILORING Tailoring is the art of designing, cutting, fitting, and finishing clothes. The word tailor comes from the French tailler, to cut, and appears in the English language during the fourteenth century. In Latin, the word for tailor was sartor, meaning patcher or mender, hence the English "sartorial," or relating to the tailor, tailoring, or tailored clothing. The term bespoke, or custom, tailoring describes garments made to measure for a specific client. Bespoke tailoring signals that these items are already "spoken for" rather than made on speculation.

As a craft, tailoring dates back to the early Middle Ages, when tailors' guilds were established in major European towns. Tailoring had its beginnings in the trade of linen armorers, who skillfully fitted men with padded linen undergarments to protect their bodies against the chafing of chain mail and later plate armor. Men's clothing at the time consisted of a loosely fitted tunic and hose. In 1100 Henry I confirmed the royal rights and privileges to the Taylors of Oxford. In London, the Guild of Taylors and Linen Armorers were granted arms in 1299. They became a Company in 1466 and were incorporated into the company of Merchant Taylors in 1503. In France, the tailors of Paris (Tailleurs de Robes) received a charter in 1293, but there were separate guilds for Linen Armorers and Hose-Makers. In 1588, various guilds for French tailors were united as the powerful Maitres Tailleurs d'Habits. Tailoring has traditionally been and remains a hierarchical and male-dominated trade, though some women tailoresses have learned the trade.

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