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?

Sequined Bomber Jacket

Quite a while ago Fabric Godmother had this amazing sequined fabric and I had to snap some up!

And my immediate thought was to make a bomber jacket out of it – especially after googling to find inspiration pics and finding out that loads of designers make sequined bomber jackets.

Sorry not sorry for all of the photos, I’m in love with this make and want to wear it all the time!

The pattern is McCalls 7100, which looks terrible from the styling on the pattern cover, but is actually a great bomber jacket pattern when you look at the line drawing. I actually had this pattern in my mind for if I ever decided to make a bomber jacket after seeing Sew Dainty’s lovely floral version.

I made the size small and made no changes – it’s only semi-fitted and I didn’t want it to be skin tight, though I don’t think I’ll  be able to get a thick jumper underneath!

The ribbing I got from my local sewing shop, along with the zip. I’m not sure I love it as much zipped up, but I’m glad there is the possibility to zip it up. I used a pack of cuffs for the cuffs (obviously!) and 2 packs of ribbing for the hem band and the collar. Luckily this pattern comes with a pattern piece for the collar so there’s no guess work involved.

This jacket is not lined, but since the sequined fabric was see-through I underlined it and bound all the seams with a matching binding, also from my local shop. The lining fabric was (I think) from Minerva Crafts. I think the colour was peach as I kind of wanted it to look almost like my skin tone was showing through, but the fabric was a but more pink than I thought it would be – but I think it looks okay.

The binding isn’t my neatest work every, but it serves the purpose of enclosing and hiding all the raw edges.

I really like the detail on the front where there is a square of matching fabric either side of the zip before the ribbing is attached.

I went for black ribbing, zip and pocket flaps (which are made of some mystery black fabric I had in my stash) because the lines on the sequins are black and I thought it would be the most neutral colour to pick out of the sequins – and the easiest to match in all the different bits.

 

Do you every make something and think ‘this is bonkers, I love it’?!? I have! And I’m so glad I’ve got something silly to wear to cheer me up in the dark times we’re currently living through.

I think that’s why I love sewing so much – you can make something you can imagine in your head into a real garment you can wear. And I find what I wear can really affect my mood – if I wear something colourful or that I feel really reflects my style and what I want to present to the world then I’m in a much better mood than if I wear something dull (or have to wear 8 layers of clothes to be warm enough to be at work!). Do you find that?

 

 

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!

Book: Balenciaga – Shaping Fashion

After I loved the Balenciaga exhibition at the V & A, I had to fight not to buy myself the book of the exhibition as I didn’t really NEED to carry it home from London! And then I was very fortunate to receive a copy for my birthday from The Boyfriend’s parents. And it’s definitely a good reminder of all the amazing clothes in the exhibition.

I would definitely recommend going to see the exhibition if you’re able to – it closes on February 18th. But if you can’t make it, then I would definitely recommend the book. I haven’t had a chance to read much of the words yet, but even having it for the pictures, it would still be worth it!

My mind is still blown by this beading!

I’m not entirely sure I knew what Balenciaga looked like until I looked through this book!

Kind of tempted to try to recreate this coat, for the lols!

In my whole life I don’t think I would ever get this good at embroidery!

I think I love this hat?!

This coat was in the exhibition – the engineering of it still amazes me. There are ribbons on the inside to hold everything together, but it looks so effortless it looks like it’s just draped on the model.

I LOVE this coat. Another recreation to add to the list….

This beading is mind-blowing.

This is a page of swatches of different fabrics and colours from 1967 – a sheet like this was made for each season to easily keep track of what was what and which model was wearing each outfit.

Although I love Balenciaga’s more out-there designs, I also love his more wearable pieces, like this tweed suit. I love the shape of the collar.

The House of Balenciaga had a ginormous building in Paris, which was featured in French Vogue when they included maps of all the big couture houses.

I really love this coat – it’s made of mohair and was described by British Vogue as ‘almost the equivalent of bubble bath in froth’. I would love to know what colour it is – unless it’s creamy white like the froth?

You can definitely see Balenciaga’s Spanish roots in this dress on the cover of Harper’s Bazaar.

This dress is really pretty and was a commission for a specific client.

And I find it even more amazing when you see what’s going on underneath the seemingly simple silhouette on the outside – there’s a whole corset and underwear inside the dress to give the wearer support.

Let’s not forget Balenciaga designed cabin crew uniforms, for Air France.

This is a semi-circular coat with rows and rows and rows of flounced lace attached to a net lining, over satin trousers. I don’t think it would seem weird for someone like Tilda Swinton to wear this on the red carpet now, and it was made in 1960!

This pink dress is possibly my favourite (or one of my 2 favourites) of Balenciaga’s designs. And, again, I love it more knowing what’s going on underneath the simple silhouette.

And finally I couldn’t not include this amazing feathered dress, which was designed by Givenchy, who was a pupil of Balenciaga and shared his high standards in textiles and construction. Again, this was made in 1968 but still looks so modern.

Did you manage to see the exhibition or are you going in the last couple of weeks? Do you have any favourite designers or books you love looking through for inspiration?