Coco Chanel gave women the little black dress, and Yves Saint Laurent gave them the option of leaving it at home. In 1966 he shocked the world with Le Smoking, a tuxedo smoking jacket for women that carried a whiff of androgyny. Variations of the piece became a staple of his collection and ultimately paved the way for pantsuits and female power dressing. His trailblazing didn’t end there. Throughout the ’60s and ’70s, he popularized the beatnik look, safari jackets and thigh-high boots, and became the first designer to use ethnic models in his runway shows. That inclusivity reflected his desire to democratize fashion: he was the first French couturier to sell a ready-to-wear collection, lending off-the-peg a much-needed dose of credibility.
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