Sonia Rykiel’s earliest designs were sold under the label “Laura,” the name a Left Bank boutique owned by the Rykiel family that had opened during the 1950s. Rykiel began designing for Laura early in the next decade, and her initial intention was to create a perfectly fitted sweater that would suit her slender figure. She sent the sample design back to her manufacturers in Italy several times, each time asking for it to be remade in a smaller size. The result was remarkably narrow, with high armholes, and it was cut short at the waist to give the illusion that the wearer had longer legs. Manufacturers were skeptical that the design would do well, but it quickly caught the attention of fashion editors. It became known as the “poor boy” sweater, and it is considered one of the most important designs of the 1960s.
Rykiel’s mastery of knit clothing earned her the nickname “The Queen of Knits.” The Museum at FIT has an impressive collection of her early designs, including this pantsuit made from double knit wool jersey. The jacket’s plush faux-fur trim belies what is otherwise an informal design: its loose fit, button-front closure, and patch pockets appear to take more inspiration from a casual cardigan than a traditional suit jacket. This design highlights Rykiel’s ethos that clothing should not be designed for a certain occasion or time of day—an idea that took root during the 1960s and continues to resonate today.
Laura (Sonia Rykiel) pantsuit
Gift of Mary Cantwell
Paris Refashioned, 1957-1968
runs through April 15, 2017 at The Museum at FIT