Monday, August 21, 2017


Human Peacock! Yves Saint Laurent: The Perfection of Style at the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts (VMFA)

At 21, young adults in the US come of legal drinking age; some graduate college and many undertake jobs or travels. For Yves Saint Laurent, 21 is the age he falls heir to Creative Directorship at Christian Dior, jump starting a 44-year endeavor of 'perfecting style.' Saint Laurent's 1982 statement, "I am no longer concerned with sensation and innovation, but with the perfection of my style" inspires Yves Saint Laurent: The Perfection of Style, a retrospective curated by French Historian Florence Müller and Chiyo Ishikawa of the Seattle Art Museum. The traveling exhibit is on view at the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts until August 27th. Keep Reading for a look inside...                                            

 Yves Saint Laurent: The Perfection of Style at the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts (VMFA)

Chronologically convened, Yves Saint Laurent: The Perfection of Style relays the trajectory of Saint Laurent's youth, rise to fame and major accomplishments. Featuring items from the Fondation Pierre Bergé-Yves Saint Laurent, over 100 ensembles, jewelry, photos, drawings and videos present a rare glimpse into the person and the process. The exhibit explores 11 facets of Saint Laurent's design tenure--including his beginnings as a designer, the revolutionary designs that re-define the 'modern woman,' artistic influences and a colorful spectrum of evening wear indicative of a style evolution over five decades of creative exploration.

Set of paper dolls made by Yves Saint Laurent as a teenager; this is the first time the couture cutouts were shown in the US

Entering the introductory gallery, Saint Laurent's early interest in fashion is evident in brazen portraiture (including a nude!) and his famed paper doll couture collections. The paper cutouts, featuring Bettina Graziani and Suzy Parker, are created during Saint Laurent's teenage years and on display for the first time in the US. Growing up in Oran, Algeria, Saint Laurent orchestrated fashion shows with the constructed cutouts and invited his sisters via handmade invitations!

Fashion show programs for two paper dolls collections: A/W 1953-54 and A/W 1954-55

"The forty-four-year career of Yves Saint Laurent (1936-2008) demonstrates that the power of style reaches well beyond the ephemeral fluctuations of fashion. More than just a trendsetting couturier, Saint Laurent built an oeuvre of unique creativity and originality, earning him exhibitions in major international museums" [exhibit wall]

Young Yves

Moving further into the exhibit, collection boards and color swatches from 1962 to 2002 line a slim corridor, showcasing the translation--from sketch, to garment, to editorial--across a broad spectrum of design milestones. Of note is the Elephant Blanc short evening dress (S/S 1958)--part of the Trapeze collection that marks Saint Laurent's successful debut in fashion--and an oversized Paris pink satin bodice with black velvet skirt (A/W 1983). While collections vary in theme and tailoring, the commonality across seasons is that in 'perfecting style,' Saint Laurent aptly replaces constraints and corsetry, with comfort and class.

Installation view of the exhibit on entry

The exhibit's midpoint highlights the patterning and garment creation process with "toile" and "stockman" and hat and body forms. Iconic garments illustrating socio-political inspirations such as Le Smoking and Homage to Piet Mondrian are captured in The Genders, Modular Wardrobe, Alchemy of Style and Artistic Influences. Saint Laurent creates a feminine version of both traditional tuxedo and safari ensembles, blurring the limitations of gender confinement through clothing. Visitors are also presented a slate of silhouettes that echo the style of known artists such as Pablo Picasso and Tom Wassermann.

Evening ensemble A/W 1968 haute couture collection

Ending with an Explosion of Color, the largest section of the exhibit features a rainbow 'runway' lined with enchanting evening wear. Meticulously handpicked styles paired with collection notes and swatches are arranged along the color spectrum from dark to light. Each piece is equally exquisite and effusively indicative of Yves Saint Laurent's design evolution, as he balances trend and timelessness to achieve an absolute 'perfection of style.'

Wall of sketches + swatches

Pretty patterns & prints!

A Living Legend installation view

Evening Gown A/W 1977 haute couture collection

[L] Daytime dress A/W 1976 haute couture collection // [R] Evening gown A/W 1983 haute couture collection

Wedding gown A/W 1970 haute couture collection

Miscellaneous jewelry

Quick glimpse of Artistic Influences

The Genders // [L] "First" pantsuit S/S 1967 haute couture collection // [R] Skirt suit S/S 1967 haute couture collection

The Genders // 1960s Rive Gauche 

From Darkness To an Explosion of Color 


Purple, Pink, Red

Seeing Red!

Up close of two of my favorites in the red section

Iconic dresses

Purple Power!

From Darkness to an Explosion of Color


Wedding gown and evening gowns

Types bards and toile hat forms // Hat blocks

The Alchemy of Style

[L] pretty awesome leopard print // [R] Evening gown A/W 1986 haute couture collection

A Modular Wardrobe

Installation view

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