Tuxedo Pants

AKA: le smoking pants

How to say it: as it looks

Traditional Features: 

body template

  • braid down the outside leg seam
  • no cuffs
  • invisible hip pockets
  • no belt loops


…of the style: The tuxedo pant began life as part of a set – the Tuxedo. The tuxedo as we know it originates from Tuxedo Park in upstate New York in the 1880s. It is thought that the tailless coat of the Tuxedo came to the USA with James Brown Potter, who encountered the style while staying with the Prince of Wales at his estate at Sandringham – the Prince favoured the new style and insisted that Potter have one made up also. Prior to this it was common practice for men to wear dress or tailcoats when dressing for dinner and other formal occasions.

Once back in the USA the new suit style, imported by Potter, was instantly popular amongst the Tuxedo Park crowd, but it wasn’t until Griswold Lorillard (another Tuxedo Park resident) and a group of his friends wore tailcoats that had been cut off to resemble the tailless style to the Tuxedo Park Ball in the Fall of 1886 that the style really got noticed. Lorillard had meant to parody the new British style of suit, but his prank got so much attention and publicity that the Tuxedo style spread across the country. Young fashion mavericks of the time quickly adopted the Tuxedo as their formal suit, but it wasn’t until 1888 that the American establishment accepted the tuxedo as appropriate men’s attire, and even then it was only approved for summer or informal occasions.

The pants that went with these early Tuxedos had a mid-rise, a full cut, no cuffs and no belt loops. They were worn with the traditional formal accessories such as a waist coat or cummerbund and were usually made out of the same fabric as the jacket. In Edwardian times the dandies started to wear Oxford grey or midnight blue pants with their formal wear.

Grey pants lost favour after WWI, but the midnight blue became almost as popular as black in the 1930s. It also was during this time that the braid down the outside leg seam, which had been optional in the past, became a standard addition to tuxedo pants.

Women picked up on the tuxedo trend as early as the 1930s, with women like Marlene Dietrich and Greta Garbo inspiring women to look to the men’s department for clothing options, however it wasn’t until Yves Saint Laurent launched his ‘le Smoking’ suit in 1966 that women really embraced the tuxedo style. ‘Le Smoking’ was a minimalist, androgynous tuxedo for altered for the female figure, it was introduced in the midst of the women’s movement and became the ‘look’ for the fashionable, liberated woman.

Where women in pants had previously been banned from classy establishments, the ‘le smoking’ was like a free pass – if a woman must wear pants, they should be designer. And while the women’s tuxedo was not met with fanfare on all fronts, it was certainly groundbreaking and heralded a new was of thinking for women’s fashion.

The tuxedo pant has remained a popular style for women since that fateful day in 1966, and while the cut changes with the trends, the signature features of the pant remain (although the braiding on the leg is now often replaced with a satin or contrasting panel).

…of the name: The name came from Tuxedo Park in upstate New York where the pant (as part of the suit) was apparently first introduced to the United States.

For more info on Tuxedo Pants and ‘le Smoking’ try Wikipedia, eBay, Voguepedia or check out the Fairchild’s Dictionary of Fashion

Random Facts

  • In 1968 the New York Socialite Nan Kampner was refused entry at the restaurant La Cote Basque because she was wearing a ‘le Smoking’ tuxedo. To get around the no pants policy, she removed her trousers and wore her jacket as a micromini. She was then shown to her seat.
  • In French and several other European languages, ‘le smoking’ is slang for tuxedo or formal wear.

21st Century Tuxedo Pants

In the 1980s women’s tuxedo pants had pleated fronts and were worn with a cummerbund. Nowadays, the cummerbund has pretty much disappeared, as have the pleats and the modern tuxedo pant has a slim, sleek silhouette. Worn with a matching jacket or just a casual t-shirt the style has broken its formal connotations and has become a pant for all occasions.

saint laurent stella mcartney

Saint Laurent, Stella McCartney

escada emilio pucci

Escada, Emilio Pucci


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