Yves Saint Laurent retrospective

The Yves Saint Laurent retrospective is at the Petit Palais just off the Champs d’Elysee.  I went last tuesday and it was my first real outing by myself since we moved to Paris (if you don’t include shopping for groceries).

The afternoon was a treat.  The show features close to 300 looks in 15 rooms, mostly divided up by era.  One room is dedicated to Catherine Deneuve, whom Laurent dressed on and off the screen.  They were showing some clips from “Belle du Jour”, a film I was lucky enough to catch a few months ago in new york.  I remember thinking as I watched it, how perfectly mod-chic she was.

One of my favorite pieces was a simple navy blue polka dot dress in silk crepe.  I couldn’t find a picture of it online, but this Laura Ashley dress is reminiscent of it.  It was wonderfully styled with a red espadrille wedge sandal and a straw hat.  An outfit I would love to wear today.

In fact, about half of the looks in the retrospective would look chic and modern TODAY!  He created so many timeless looks – the safari jacket, the tuxedo pantsuit and sailor jackets styled for women.

There were a few not-so-timeless looks, especially in the 80’s era – a colorblocked evening gown with gigantic puffed sleeves, for example.

One of the hallways between rooms had 5 or 6 looks from Laurent’s final show. They were all chiffon gowns in solid colored silk. Each was a different beautiful color.  Absolutely COVERING the walls around these mannequins were notebook sheets of swatches from Laurent’s archives.  They were all organized by color. Apparently he had a file for pink, a file for purple, one for yellow, and so on. Thousands and thousands of swatches, and he was always looking for the perfect color.  The effect of the pallette on the wall was beautiful.  It was mind-blowing to think of  how much meticulous effort, research, and organization had gone into his career.

The last room in the retrospective was dedicated to the couture evening gown and “le smoking”.  The room was a big, high-ceilinged ballroom with a chandelier turned down low and opera music in the background.  On the far wall, 30 mannequins had been mounted on the wall in 3 rows.  They all were dressed in various versions of “le smoking”, which is what the french call a tuxedo.  Laurent throughout his career continually reinvented le smoking in various ways: a tuxedo dress, a tuxedo jumpsuit, classic tuxedo with tails….all for women.  In the middle of the room was a tiered stage with about 50 mannequins, wearing glamorous gowns.  The room was a monument to elegance, craft and style.

Over at the blog Katiedid, she has some wonderful photos of the looks that were in the show and a write up of the retrospective that took place in SF a few years ago.


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