Yves Saint Laurent Exhibition extra credit madison dye

Madison Dye Yves Saint Laurent Exhibition at the Denver Art Museum May 1, 2012


May 2, 2012

Extra Credit Museum Exhibition Paper


Yves Saint Laurent

I recently attended the highly anticipated Yves Saint Laurent exhibition at the Denver Art Museum, and was not disappointed. This quickly turned out to be one of my all time favorite exhibitions, and showed me that fashion design can be one of the most dynamic and beautiful forms of artistic expression. YSL exploded into the fashion world when he was made creative director for Dior after his friend and mentor Christian Dior dies of a heart attack; Saint Laurent was only 21 years old. He produced many a line for Dior that was not received very well by the public, and two years later, he branched off and formed his own YSL brand. He started with very high end couture pieces, and had many internationally famous clients. Saint Laurent began to tire of designing only for the ultra rich and created a ready to wear line. His stores carrying this line opened up in cities all over the world, to huge lines of people that would last well into the night. YSL had become one of the most influential and sought after designers in the world, after a relatively short amount of time.

In the Denver Art Museum, after purchasing a relatively expensive ticket and waiting in line among the huge swells of eager tourists, visitors are ushered into room after room exhibiting everything that is YSL. There is a recreated version of his studio and drafting table, complete with a video of the designer himself telling some of his creative methods and creating techniques. As one of the most influential and revolutionary fashion designers of all time, there was a lot of information that the curators had to sort through and decide which outfits and collections to display. One of his most groundbreaking designs was introducing the feminine suit to be worn either day or night. Women in pants at the workplace were virtually unheard of and women attending upscale functions at night wearing pants were almost sacrilegious. YSL broke all the rules and introduced a feminine pea coat based on sailor’s jackets as well as high-waisted, loose fitting pants. Displayed in the exhibit was room after room of mannequins displaying his revolutionary designs. There was a room with wall to ceiling fabric swatches in every color imaginable, and a detailed description of how the designer chose the color and texture of his fabrics. The next room in the exhibition contained all of his international collections with clothes exhibiting the cultures of places all over the world including Russia, Morocco, China, Japan, and India.  This was one of my favorite parts of the show because all of the colors, patterns and textures from the different cultures placed next to one another really produced a breathtaking effect.

The two pieces in the exhibit that immediately grabbed my attention were two beaded jackets, depicting two of Van Gogh’s most famous designs, Irises from 1889, and Sunflowers from 1917. Each jacket boasted an impressive 100,000 plus beads, pearls, and sequins, and over 650 man-hours. The jackets were laid down flat in waist high glass boxes, as opposed to almost all other designs, which were on mannequins. The choice to display them laying flat rather than on a human form implies that they are so delicate and heavy that they are intended to be admired and appreciated rather than worn. These startlingly detailed jackets exhibit the beautiful relationship between art and fashion, and I have not stopped thinking about them since visiting the exhibition.  The amount of detail that went into creating these jackets is truly breathtaking.

This exhibition did a fabulous job of condensing his long, full career into an exhibition. He accomplished so much throughout his lifetime; beginning at a very young age, and by the time he retired, YSL had changed the fashion world forever. I absolutely loved this exhibit and I am very thankful that the only Northern American showing was in Denver. I went with a good friend of mine who has hopes of becoming a fashion designer herself someday, and seeing her reaction to this amazing tribute to the life and career of YSL made the exhibition all the more fascinating to me.

2 Responses

  1. I think its interesting that you pointed out the two jackets with Van Gogh designs on them. It’s always intriguing to see that ways that the arts interact, in this case the way paintings directly inspired a fashion designer.

  2. I am really jealous that you have gone to this exhibit and I need to get back to the museum to see whats going on. I think fashion is a really great way for people to wear art. YSL has altered the way that many people look at fashion. He has stayed so sophisticated throughout this career and really pushed himself to try new things. I heard that his international collection is really fascinating and from the sounds of your experience the textures and colors are unreal.

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