Designer Inspiration: Yves Saint-Laurent

‘In 1985, Caroline Rennolds Milbank wrote, “The most consistently celebrated and influential designer of the past twenty-five years, Yves Saint Laurent can be credited with both spurring the couture’s rise from its 1960s ashes and with finally rendering ready-to-wear reputable.”‘ (source)

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YSL is credited with introducing the tuxedo for women, calling it ‘Le Smoking’. I was actually tempted to make a version of the original 60s tuxedo for the Sewcialite Soiree (for which I made a mustard corduroy suit instead) but decided if I got hot and took the jacket off, I would look like a waiter!

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I personally prefer the version above over the version below, but both must have been equally ground-breaking in a time when a lot of women probably didn’t even wear trousers, let alone a suit.

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‘At the age of 17, Saint Laurent moved to Paris and enrolled at the Chambre Syndicale de la Haute Couture, where his designs quickly gained notice. Michel De Brunhoff, the editor of French Vogue, introduced Saint Laurent to designer Christian Dior, a giant in the fashion world. “Dior fascinated me,” Saint Laurent later recalled. “I couldn’t speak in front of him. He taught me the basis of my art. Whatever was to happen next, I never forgot the years I spent at his side.”‘ (source)

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‘Although Dior recognised his talent immediately, Saint Laurent spent his first year at the House of Dior on mundane tasks, such as decorating the studio and designing accessories. Eventually, however, he was allowed to submit sketches for the couture collection; with every passing season, more of his sketches were accepted by Dior. In August 1957, Dior met with Saint Laurent’s mother to tell her that he had chosen Saint Laurent to succeed him as designer.’ (source)

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‘In 1957, Saint Laurent found himself at age 21 the head designer of the House of Dior. His spring 1958 collection almost certainly saved the enterprise from financial ruin; the straight line of his creations, a softer version of Dior’s New Look, catapulted him to international stardom with what would later be known as the “trapeze dress”. Others included in the collection were dresses with a narrow shoulder and flared gently at the bottom. At this time, he shortened his surname to Saint Laurent because the international press found his hyphenated triple name difficult to spell’ (source)

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Saint Laurent was fired by the House of Dior in 1960 after less than stellar follow up collections but sued them for breach of contract and won. He then set up his eponymous line with his partner Pierre Berge.

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One of Saint-Laurent’s most iconic designs must be the Mondrian dress (which had a resurgence a couple of years ago thanks to the Sewing Bee). It’s so completely 60s! I do love it. Maybe I’ll make a version one day?!

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‘In the 1960s and 1970s, the firm popularised fashion trends such as the beatnik look; safari jackets for men and women; tight trousers; tall, thigh-high boots; and arguably the most famous classic tuxedo suit for women in 1966, Le Smoking. The 1965 Mondrian collection was particularly renowned. Saint Laurent also started mainstreaming the idea of wearing silhouettes from the 1920s, 1930s and 1940s.[citation needed] Yves Saint Laurent brought in new changes to the fashion industry in the 60s and the 70s. The French designer opened his Pret-a-Porter House YSL Rive Gauche in 1967 where he was starting to shift his focus from Haute Couture to Ready-to-wear. One of the purpose was to provide a wider range of fashionable style being available to choose from in the market as they were affordable and cheaper.’ (source)

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And, of course, like most big name designers of the 60s and 70s, Yves Saint-Laurent released sewing patterns!

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I love the yellow version (unsurprisingly)

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I think pattern envelope designers (from the big 4) could learn something from times gone by!

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I love this coat!

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I kind of love this dress, but I’m not sure how well it would work on anyone with boobs! I guess that’s true of a lot of 60s fashion though.

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What’s your favourite YSL look?

Christian Dior: Designer of Dreams

Waaay back in February I went to the amazing Christian Dior exhibition at the V & A – my Aunt, one of her friends and I booked tickets as soon as they went on sale, and I’m so glad we did as it’s now sold out! I can see why – I think it’s the best exhibition I’ve been too. It’s certainly the largest! I wish I could go again as there was so much to see, but that doesn’t seem likely.

The first room you go into centres around the famous Bar Suit from the 1947 New Look, and the subsequent Dior designers’ re-imaginings of it. I love the most recent one, below.

I loved the next room, with the black background and lights highlighting each outfit. There was also no glass here, so it was very photograph-able!

I love this black dress, with the fur collar and matching hat.

This is Princess Margaret’s 21st birthday dress. The embroidery was beautiful close up!

The exhibition was arranged thematically rather than chronologically, which I thought worked really well – you could see how each designer used the same influences to create new designs. The next couple of pictures were all inspired by 18th century fashion.

There was also a small collection of what looked like wedding dresses. All beautiful.

I love the embroidery on this one!

The next room was full of designs inspired by other countries.

I absolutely love this one! Maybe my next Dressmaker’s Ball dress!?

These ones was inspired by Mexican fashion.

And Japan.

I think the next room – the garden – might have been my favourite. I mean look at the blossom on the ceiling!

I loved this mini version of one of the flowery dresses!

I love, love this jacket with the flowered skirt. And the blue belt is perfection.

I mostly found that in each mini collection I liked John Galliano’s the least, but this is stunning. It’s from 2010/2011 so I may have to extend my Hundred Years Wardrobe project so I have an excuse to make a version of this.

Love the swatches next to the sketches of the designs.

I aspire to be this lady – so chic and giving zero fucks!

There was also a room in the exhibition highlighting each of the different Dior designers – I loved this gown with the bow at the back, if memory serves, which was inspired by the costumes from My Fair Lady, which you can definitely see.

The toile room was the best! This is one of the main reasons I want to go again to the exhibition. We went on the second Saturday of the exhibition and there were so many people I didn’t have as much time to look around as I would have liked. It was amazing, though, to see the design lines without the ‘distraction’ of the fabric choices.

I love the back of this dress. And the shoes!

Want!!

The final room was the room full of gowns. It was breathtaking! The lights changed colours gradually, which made the dresses look so different in different lights.

I feel like I may have to make this gold suit!!

I basically squealed out loud when I saw this dress. I love Lupita Nyong’o’s style and I have this dress pinned on my pinterest – I didn’t realise it was by Dior!

And this one was worn by Rihanna!

This last gown and quote was a very fitting end to such an amazing exhibition!

I bought myself the book of the exhibition in the gorgeous V & A shop, where I could easily spend hundreds of pounds without even thinking! I’m glad I’ll have the book to look through to keep feeling inspired long into the future.

Are you lucky enough to have got tickets to the exhibition? Are you going to the Mary Quant one that’s opening now?

 

 

Book: The Fashion Chronicles

A couple of weeks ago I decided to treat myself to Amber Butchart’s new book, The Fashion Chronicles. I really enjoyed her series recreating outfits from paintings and I would like to know more about the history of fashion (which will help with my Hundred Years Wardrobe project).

This is the perfect book for dipping in and out of, reading one or two sections at a time. The book takes you through ‘the style stories of history’s best dressed’, starting with Eve and going right through history to Beyonce.

I can remember doing a project on Egypt and specifically Tutankhamun at primary school, so it’s cool that he’s in the book.

And one of the outfits they recreated on the series – this was was particularly amazing I think.

And here’s another outfit from the series, with ALL THE BUTTONS.

I guess no book on the history of style and fashion would be complete without mentioning Marie Antoinette….

….or Georgiana, Duchess of Devonshire.

I also remember a segment on one of the episodes of the Sewing Bee on Beau Brummell and how he essentially invented the style of jacket he’s wearing and the idea of the dandy. (This is to the best of my recollection from probably years ago so forgive me if I’m wrong, I haven’t read his chapter of this book yet)

I love, love, love William Morris’s designs.

I like how Butchart has included some people who are influential for a specific garment, like Jules Léotard.

I’ve always loved Oscar Wilde so I’m thrilled that he has made it into the book. Also I’ve just realised that so far most of the people I’ve picked out of the book are men – before I looked through the book I assumed it would be mostly women, but it is a good mixture.

I love that she has included women who transgressed gender norms, both on the stage as Vesta Tilley, above, did or in their every day lives like Radclyffe Hall. I might have to recreate a Radclyffe Hall-style outfit for my 1920s Hundred Years Wardrobe project.

And it would be great to recreate my namesake Amelia Earhart’s outfit for the 1930s. She looks so effortlessly cool – and was, obviously, a complete trailblazer.

I didn’t manage to make it to the V & A to go to the recent Frida Kahlo exhibition, but it’s undeniable that her clothes and the way she presented herself, both in her art and in person, are an integral part of her identity – and the reason people are drawn to her.

I have a deep love for Liberace’s flamboyant style – I had one of those pop out outfit books for some of Liberace’s iconic looks which you could dress him in – it was as amazing and weird as I think you must be imagining!

I still kind of want to recreate this outfit of Bowie’s.

I’m sure I’m not the only one who really fancies Prince, especially in the 80s. I’m sure I also wasn’t the only one who was gutted and shocked when he died 2 years ago.

Who doesn’t love Drag Race!? It’s interesting to look a RuPaul’s style evolution from the 80s to now.

I love that Butchart writes about men and women, through multiple centuries and from all around the world – I definitely think I’ll learn a lot about all different kinds of fashion and style once I’ve read the whole book.

Have you got this book? Are you tempted to get it if not?
 

 

The Hundred Years Wardrobe Project

Since I’ve been sewing for a while I’ve decided to try to challenge myself to expand my skills and to sew garments and with fabrics that are outside of my comfort zone. And so was born my idea for the Hundred Years Wardrobe Project.

I’m going to sew one thing from each decade of the 20th Century. There is no time limit for this as I want it to be a fun exercise and deadlines are often where stress lies for me.

I’m going to also try to do some posts about my research for each decade and share some of my inspiration. A while ago I did write some posts about fashion history but I ran out of steam with them – hopefully with a garment to relate the history to I will have more to say and more to share. Some of the makes will be inspired by fashion and some will be from films – either made at the time or set in the past.

I would love it if anyone else wants to join in with this project – I’m calling it a project rather than a challenge as there is no deadline and there will be no prizes, just the pride in having made something cool!

Spoiler alert: I already have my first make made and ready to blog soon!

Style Crush: Miss Fisher

I’ve just started watching Miss Fisher’s Murder Mysteries again – I think this is the third time (at least) that I’ve watched it. If you haven’t seen it, I urge you to watch it – it’s on Netflix in the UK and probably other countries too. If you like a cosy crime show like Poirot then you’ll love Miss Fisher. And her clothes are amazing! There’s a great article on Vanity Fair that says the costume designer tries to be as authentic as possible by using fabrics that would have been around in the 20s and pattern cutting that was actually used at the time, such as using panels instead of darts.

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As well as amazing clothes, Miss Fisher has an excellent line in hats.

This voile coat with, I think, embroidered panels is amazing! I kind of want to recreate it.

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This dress was made for dancing in – which is lucky because that’s what she does in it!

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Her nightwear is particularly elegant – I think I definitely need a silk robe in my life. My current dressing gown is the one I made as part of my Doc Brown costume – nowhere near as glamourous!

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I remember reading an article a while ago where the costumer designer, Marion Boyce, lobbied for a tennis episode as tennis was a huge sport an an influence on fashion in the 20s and she finally got her way in (I think) series 3. Word of warning, though, this episode features a rather nasty spider!

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I. Want. The. Parasol.

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Yellow and white is a great combo – you probably know by now how much I love yellow and maybe for the Summer I’ll find some white things too and sort of copy this look.

 

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This velvet coat is amazing!

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I also really like the character of Dr Mac who shows another side to 20s fashion – the acceptance of queer identity and gender bending dressing. I’ve seen some documentaries on tv (though I can’t remember exactly which ones) which mention that the 20s were much more a time of ‘anything goes’ than any other decade in the first half of the 20th century. She also has excellent hats.

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I’ll leave you with this picture of Jack in a wet bathing suit because of reasons.

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Have you watched Miss Fisher yet? Are you tempted to, if only for the beautiful costumes?