Fashion designer Yves Saint Laurent, who passed away yesterday at the age of 71, was famous for many innovations: putting women in pea jackets, printing Mondrian’s color blocks on 1960’s mod shifts, convincing women that they should tart themselves up in the lavish patterns of the Russian peasantry. But unquestionably the biggest contribution he made, in fact his entirely legacy, rests on one five letter word: pants.
It was St Laurent who, early and often, argued that the women of the late 20th century needed a new silhouette for her new life outside the home—not the fruity little suits of the 1950s with their attendant hats and gloves and their reliance on a network of excruciating girdles and bullet bras, but the casual elegance of trousers that could take the long strides into the boardroom. He even offered an evening version, “le smoking,” a female take on the tuxedo not seen since it was embraced by Sapphic flappers in the 1920s.
If the image of Hilary Clinton, running from Puerto Rico to South Dakota in her endless stream of slacks and longish jackets has become so familiar that it is barely noticeable, she can thank Monsieur Saint Laurent. Whatever you think of the candidate, and her campaign, she has driven the final nail in the sartorial coffin of feminine dress and for that all of us can be extremely grateful.