PANTSUITS ("CITY PANTS") AND ST. LAURENT

by Pat Jacobs
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In 1968, the trouser or pantsuit, after tentative efforts over the previous seasons to secure a foothold in fashion, appeared to be gaining ground at last.

Launched by designer Yves St. Laurent, the wide-legged pantsuit featured a loosely belted tunic top, topped by a long, clinging, button-through jacket. This provided practical comfort and femininity for the average woman.

Of his "city pants", St. Laurent has said: "I am convinced that trousers (pants) are truly the incoming way to dress."

The press was unenthusiastic for them and fashion buyers initially hesitated. Nevertheless, the final orders were reported to represent two-thirds of the total buying at St. Laurent's fall-winter collection.

But the trouser suits and city pants weren't accepted by certain segments of the public at first; many elegant restaurants refused admittance if women wore them.

Legend has it that one particular female, upon being refused, retired to the ladies' room, removed her pants, came back in her mini-length suit jacket, and was only then smilingly led to her table!

An offshoot of pantsuits were the romantic velvet ones worn with frilly silk shirts; by Victorian braiding, jeweled and embroidered waistcoats, Byronic collars, swirling capes, cavalier hats, gold chains, and extravagant baroque costume jewelry.

This particular fashion phenomenon was credited to St. Laurent's "George Sand" suits, but the initial inspiration came from the passion of young Londoners for old clothes from street markets, such as panne velvet.

Another noted designer, Mary Quant, put her minis over trousers or pants to create a romantic silky look trimmed at the waist and neck with rows and rows of gilt chains. There was also an abundance of sequin trimmings in the Paris collection.

But it was St. Laurent who was red-hot. His city pants, at once acclaimed AND condemned, became the daring NOW look. Lauren Bacall wore his black jersey jump suit to the opening of the designer's U.S. boutique, Rive Gauche. And many other stars loved his clothes as well.

St. Laurent became a celebrity's celebrity. From his first collection (1957) on, he scored such smash hits as his trapeze line, long tunics, the Modrian look, and others. But even though he was highly sought after, the designer was always for the "little man".

He was the first of the Paris designers to reach for the mass audience (There was already a Rive Gauche boutique in Paris, launched in 1966): "People on the streets have more impact."

The new U. S. boutique was an immediate hit; Among the bestsellers were City Pants (1968 prices ranged from $145-$175!).

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