Today we bring you an excerpt from our Special Exhibitions Gallery on Yves Saint Laurent + historicism:
Historical pastiche was a key element of Yves Saint Laurent’s work during the 1970s. He experimented repeatedly with styles of both the Belle Époque and the Interwar years. These pieces displayed his indebtedness to the legacies of Christian Dior and Gabrielle “Coco” Chanel. Dior’s ultra-femininity, romanticism, and interest in volume re-emerge in Saint Laurent’s homages to the Belle Époque, complete with full skirts and gigot sleeves.
In the book accompanying the exhibition, curator Emma McClendon wrote that YSL’s historical influence spanned centuries:
Some of his most dramatic historical homages looked back to the nineteenth century, and even further to Renaissance and Elizabethan periods. The period of the “Belle Époque,” late in the nineteenth-century in France, held a particular fascination for Saint Laurent through the writings of Marcel Proust. The designer often likened himself to the novelist and kept a quote from his famed text À la recherche du temps perdu on his work desk.
McClendon noted the tension between the contemporary and the historical in some of YSL’s historicist designs:
This push-pull between pastiche and masquerade leant a unique quality to Yves Saint Laurent’s historical work, which can be seen clearly in the Rive Gauche ensemble from 1970. With its fitted sleeves that billow out after the elbow, laced bodice, and use of velvet, this color-blocked look is an exercise in historical fantasy.
For Saint Laurent, history provided inspiration from which to create some of his most provocative and memorable designs. As McClendon wrote, he used historical reference to “pull and meld multifaceted elements together to create a new form of the contemporary.”
For more on YSL + historicism, be sure to read the essay in the companion book. Love this post? Share it on social media with the links below, and tweet using #YSLhalston.