Yves Saint Laurent with Victoire - Preparation of the first collection - december 1961 © Pierre Boulat courtesy Association Pierre & Alexandra Boulat

Prepare to be dazzled by this comprehensive exhibit of works by iconic fashion designer Yves Saint Laurent. On display are over 100 exquisite garments from his haute couture and ready-to-wear lines, as well as numerous sketches, photos and films of his life and work. On loan from the Fondation Pierre Bergé – Yves Saint Laurent, this is an in-depth look at the artistry, glamour and influence of this quintessential designer and his extraordinary career.

It was in 1958 while working as an assistant designer for Christian Dior that Saint Laurent first gained wide-spread recognition for his talents. Soon after, at just 21 years of age, he was promoted to Artistic Director at the House of Dior. A striking example of his sophisticated style is the Éléphant Blanc dress, featuring white tulle embroidered with silver metallic thread and rhinestones. Glittering like the Eiffel Tower at night, it’s absolutely stunning.

In 1962, he and his partner Pierre Bergé created Yves Saint Laurent haute couture in Paris, and he launched a revolution in the fashion world by taking inspiration from such diverse sources as pop art, ancient history, exotic destinations like Africa and Asia, and even every day urban street life.

On display here is his brilliant Mondrian cocktail dress, with pops of primary colors and a modern, less form-fitting shape, as well as the pantsuit, which blurred gender lines by offering styles borrowed from menswear. In fact, some consider his tuxedo for women (“Le Smoking”) as one of his most daring accomplishments.

He launched another innovation in 1966 with his ready-to-wear line: Saint Laurent rive gauche. These clothes catered to the younger, modern woman, and offered separate pieces so clients could express their individual look. The venture was a huge commercial success.

Yves Saint Laurent: The Perfection of Style also includes those behind-the-scenes tools used to create and present his top fashions. For example, the “collection boards” were used to organize the garments to be worn at his fashion shows. Each board shows sketches of several garments, a swatch or two of each fabric, and the name of the model selected for the runway. Viewing these collection boards adjacent to the finished garments dramatically bring these ensembles to life.

“History has already cemented Yves Saint Laurent’s reputation as one of the greatest couturiers of the 20th century,” said Alex Nyerges, VMFA Director. “This remarkable exhibition presents Saint Laurent’s exquisite designs in an immersive environment that allows visitors to see firsthand the development of Saint Laurent’s style, as well as his impact on fashion, film, and popular culture.”

Through August 27, 2017
Virginia Museum of Fine Arts
200 N. Boulevard, Richmond, Virginia  23220. Website: vmfa.museum

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Phil Tremo is the France Today Ambassador for Washington DC. Phil has been charmed by France ever since a school trip to the popular Festival d’Avignon. Over the years, he has explored many regions of l’Hexagone, including a recent vacation to Champagne to pick grapes during harvest season - Santé! Back at home in Washington, D.C., he enjoys a variety of French cultural events, including films, concerts, and language classes. He is excited to be representing France Today in the D.C. area.

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