Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Slav to Fashion

Yves Saint Laurent

Yves Saint Laurent Evening Ensemble

Yves Saint Laurent (French, born Algeria, 1936). Evening Ensemble, fall/winter 1976-77. Blouse: multicolored floral printed silk chiffon with gold lamé polka-dot brocade; Skirt: black silk velvet and green silk moiré; Belt: maroon silk velvet with gold lamé, rhinestone, and silk embroidery and maroon and gold metallic and maroon silk twined rope and tassles. Bequest of Yolande Fielding-Scheftel, 2006 (2006.271.14a–e).

In the mid-1970s the relevance of haute couture was seriously debated. The political and social upheaval of the 1960s, the emergence of a plethora of creative ready-to-wear designers, and the increasing preference for a sportswear approach to dressing as represented by American fashion were among the shifts in lifestyles and taste that appeared to sound the death knell of the calcified and elitist world of the maisons de couture.

It was at this time that Yves Saint Laurent, haute couture’s preeminent practitioner, threw caution to the prevailing winds with a collection of unrivaled fantasy and luxury. He called it his “Russian Collection,” but his designs were Slavic only in their Oriental excess and opulence. Inspired by the Bakst costumes of the Ballets Russes, each ensemble appeared to be a repudiation of the informal, pared-down, and functional looks of the street. By employing all the techniques of the petites mains—those workshops of embroiderers, passementerie makers, lace weavers, feather workers, and jewelry makers—Saint Laurent revived the taste for elegant excess. Compared to the Art Deco spareness of the 1930s-revival crepe and jersey evening columns popular during the period, the Russian ball gowns were a sensory explosion of color, ornament, scale, and even sound, for each skirt was supported by a coordinated taffeta petticoat that announced the approach of its wearer with a dry rustle.

Comments (59)

  1. marina urbach Says:

    At the time when the relevance of haute couture is questioned, because of the shifts in lifestyles and taste, and the very existence of the elitist world of the “maisons de couture” is in doubt, the “Russian Collection” of Yves Saint Laurent appears, with its “explosion” of color, ornament, scale, fantasy and luxury:
    silk chiffon, silk velvet, silk moiré, brocade.
    It is relevant and helpful to put his “Russian Collection” in context and frame it within the various and often contradictory interests and concerns of the time.

  2. c willow Says:

    in the little panel which shows what garments ar going to be posted next, the mint colored skirt would always catch my eye but it didn’t look very pretty. I was blown away when it came up as a larger picture because the skirt and loose shirt are so traditional in such a 70’s way. I didn’t think it was possible to really do haute couture in the 70’s but YSL has proved me wrong.

  3. Laurie Aron Says:

    I remember, as a child, the Russian Collection in magazines, and what a relief it was from the otherwise somewhat banal typical clothing of the 1970s. It had this blown in off the steppes feeling, but also a little false, because who was YSL to diss the Revolution and decide we had to wallow in Tzarist riches again? Although I know a lot of it is really dance-inspired, if it wasn’t Tzarist, it seemed to be making fun of the serfs by making over their garments into luxe extravagances.

    Well, this particular example didn’t wear well, in my opinion. The blouse is rather mediocre, and the outfit as a whole is nothing to write home about. Not the best example, perhaps, of what he was trying to do, although that rustling taffeta must have been heaven…and hell at the opera, movies, etc.

  4. Kristin Bonecutter Says:

    While Yves Saint Laurent still stayed true to his haute couture roots, he adapted very well to the fact that the times, they were a-changin’. This is an excellent example of how designers that adapt and embrace the change continue to be successful, while others that are stubborn fall flat. Yves Saint Laurent adjusted to his market wanting more sportswear and ready-to-wear pieces, but he still maintained an air of luxury in what he designed. He wanted to keep his signature, and he did, while still using the lace makers, feather workers, etc. that were responsible for such luxurious and priceless pieces he is known for.

  5. Daniele L Says:

    I follow in love with the pink backless evening dress spring/summer 2001 from Jean Paul Galtier. This is another classic example of Jean Paul Galtier’s fashion sense; elegant yet sexy. The pink satin fabric he has used enhances the overall appeal of his dress. The cut accentuates the woman’s natural curves; it does this in a classy yet very sedutive way by exposing the back with just the corset lacing.

  6. Laurie Aron Says:

    Yeah, but les petites mains or not, you could dress up in so many of the styles YSL was trying to push couture toward without having to pay couture. The swipe of street dress was particularly obvious. I would hope couture could rise above and supply something different and special, not rehashes of what people were already wearing, and indeed already HAD worn for several years,

  7. Ruth Says:

    I love this…something in the show that I could see wearing in my life…as beautiful as many of the other things are, they seem mostly for the Red Carpet…not something I’m too likely to do.

  8. Maya Says:

    I really enjoyed all of the color in this dress. It was fun and reminded me of gypsy- or pirate-style attire.

  9. Amari Says:

    wow these dresses are different maybe you could maybe make me another dres of the dress Wabi Sabi’s dress.these dresses rock but i would like yo see more dresses that are unique!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  10. Amie Says:

    I see this outfit as a gypsy kind of outfit, absolutely stunning. It is wearable and looks so comfortable and yet it has it’s own little nisch of style. I love the materials used and think the timing for the outfit was perfect in the 60’s and 70’s was when evreything was being modernised and at the same time simplified and I think this outfit with it’s design is a great combination of the 2.

  11. annie Says:

    nice dress!
    remminds mee of the oolden days!

  12. Ms Susan B Says:

    Nothing in 1970s fashion was the same after YSL debuted the Russian Collection! I remember the thrill of looking at page after page of the draped and fur opulence in Vogue. I still have the issue. Thanks for including this, Met curators. For readers wanting to peruse a few more pieces from this historic runway collection, run over to the Galleries at FIT and peek into the final room of the “exotica” exhibition.

  13. Valentine Says:

    This dress is the perfect masquerade party dress. It shows feminism, fierceness and creativity. The emerald color plus the purple color equals total mellow/cute chic.

  14. Tracy Says:

    Very nice!

  15. francesca winterbottom Says:

    fine dress I should say. It is a very pretty dress. I like the color a lot.

  16. csovern Says:

    Yves Saint Laurent really captures the attention of visitors with this look. The blouse is rich in color and has a one of a kind design. The silk green skirt completes the outfit giving it an elegant look. Furthermore, the twined rope gives in a unique look. The style of the belt is something we often see today minus the tassles.

  17. Ross Hallan Says:

    It would be so refreshing to see young women wearing more colourful dresses and blouses these days; the colours in this ensemble are so pretty

  18. Bartholomew Preston Says:

    Uma Thurman at the Oscars ‘04.


  19. Diane Fisher Says:

    It is awesome!

  20. Theo Willison-Parry Says:

    The intrinsic value of dresses like these to modern fashion is irrefutable. The fact the YSL has created a work which is like… dunno, it’s just really… nice…

  21. Shana Marie Says:

    Im so in love with the Blouse the multicolored floral printed silk chiffon with gold lamé polka-dot brocade. It’s absolutley fabolous and I would wear it. It’s almost like a plastic effect and its has an old fashion effect as well as a current feel to it. I want to remake it in my size :) I think Im going to add Yves Saint Laurent to my favorite desinger list

  22. maria diaz Says:

    Now focused on the relation between manking , tehnology and nature.The sources of inspiration for this collection were ” intagible ” phenomena like gravity , the forces of expansion and the weather , as well as the techonic forces that cause all kinds of shapes in nature . The creations in the collection represented the various forces . A number of dresses displayed the forces of expansion that are responsible for crystalline forms in nature

  23. FREDDY Says:

    This could just as well be today….
    Fashion is dead nowadays unfortunately!

  24. Elysa K Says:

    This dress is absolutely stunning.
    It reminds me most of gypsies, as well hippies.
    the bright colours make it hard to to take your eyes off of!

  25. mikole halsu Says:

    “Oh, i remember this dress! My Roma aunt gave it to me the night i premiered as Zeitl in Fiddler!”

  26. Samantha Says:

    personally this dress reminds me of a gypsy with the flowy skirt and frilly sleeves. It doesnt seem like something I would think came from the 70s.

  27. Alan "Rick" Smith Says:

    I like green. It makes my eyes pretty. I want to be a “slav to GREEN!”

  28. lauren Says:

    This dress is a gypsee dress it is not for normal people. THOugh the colors are nice it is not something I would wear

  29. 4411892883 Says:

    i like the pattern in the shirt, but i dont like how the whole outfit is a bit to much of a reminder of a gypsy.

  30. max Says:

    this dress is really cool i like it sister would probably like it

  31. roxy Says:

    some of the shoes are pretty odd. But when you really look at it, you can see the art in the piece of clothing. I also thought all the dresses are very pretty. For my taste, some had a little to much ruffles and flowers on some. Over all, the dresses were glamorous. I would never expect these dresses in this museum. That why I love the museum!

  32. Mike Says:

    It seems to me that although this style seems perfectly beautiful and viable in today’s world, no fashion designer in their right mind would ever produce anything like this, for fear of being readily judged as “too old” or such concepts like that.
    I fear for our future.

  33. Michelle Says:


  34. Rebecca Says:

    We love the rainbow top! I love the color green at the bottom! I love the sparkles!
    I would wear it all the time!!

  35. Phinith Says:

    There is something out-fashioned, but something revolutionary; there is something classical, but something daring. Velvet and green: a blend that exhales impertinence.

  36. Jennifer Fernandes Says:

    i love the Slav to fashion dress
    its so pretty
    and i also love the boots with the poka dots on it

  37. Paco Peralta Says:

    The great Yves Saint Laurent has become “master” for life for all subsequent generations of students, like me, we still admire his “courage” to create these clothes. This dress, for example, has all the qualifiers: sublime, extraordinary, wonderful, amazing, and so on. Etc.. Etc.. Thanks to the Metropolitan Museum to show this creation. Greetings. Paco

    El gran Yves Saint Laurent se ha convertido en “maestro” de por vida para todas las posteriores generaciones de alumnos, que como yo, seguimos admirando su “valor” al crear estos vestidos. Este vestido, por ejemplo, tiene todos los calificativos: sublime, extraordinario, maravilloso, sorprendente, etc. etc. etc. Gracias al Metropolitan Museum por mostrar esta creación. saludos. Paco

  38. Julie Says:

    I think this look is important for several reasons.

    First, it draws upon cultural influence. This is obviously a theme many designers refer to time and again, researching and reinterpreting costumes from various socioeconomic groups throughout time, and culture. The fact that YSL, like Chanel, drew from the Ballet Russes is interesting, in that today, the same is true of designers pulling from popular entertainment to influence their designs. For example, when Marie Antoinette came out several seasons ago, several collections reflected this influence (namely, Dolce and Gabbana.) It is interesting to see that today, we still pull from the same influences as those designers before us. (culture, history, political, or social unrest..etc.)

    Additionally, the look is interesting in that its a response to the trends of the time. While others were showing understated column dresses with relatively no volume in muted colors, YSL showed a full, colorful piece, laden with exoticism. Again, this still happens today. Designers swing from one extreme to another by way of silhouette, color palette and mood.

    Finally, the look struck me, because I immediately found myself referencing the peasant blouse Tom Ford did for YSL in 2000. While I know that designers pull from the archives of their respective design houses to inform their designs, it was funny to see it in front of me. It might have been interesting to display Tom Ford’s peasant blouse to show how fashion really does just move in cycles, constantly repeating, reinventing and redefining itself.

  39. Chelsea Hahn Says:

    The look portrayed here is very ethnic. I really like the incorporation of the more modern and historic looks. I enjoyed the colorful fabrics of the garment and it sort of reminds me of old time Mexico. Everytime I glanced at this garment I think of flamenco dancers as well. I love the incorporation of the rope as a belt. It really brings a more fashion forward side to the garment. This look could easily be worn by someone with the ethnic background attached to this garment or anyone off the street. The veristility of the garment is what makes this garment one of my favorites in the collection.

  40. Sydney Says:

    This is cute but why would anyone whant to wear it. It is good for display, but it wouldn’t be good if you’re going to a party or something, mabey something very formal, but not anything else.

  41. Michelle Says:

    When I see this I think dancers. The way the skirt is not too puffed out but just right for when you are twirling.

  42. just another person Says:

    I don’t like this- looks like a weird costume

  43. Nikki Goldfield Says:

    I liked that dress because it looks verry old and i like old stuff.
    there should be more dresses like that one and from him in the exhibition!!!(nikki g.10)

  44. Brenda Says:

    I LOVE this peasant style of fashion, it brings me back to the 60’s and 70’s, so carefree, loose and happy! The colors swirl about with such movement its a joy to behold. A celebration of life through fabric!

  45. Mary Says:

    This caught my eye as the best example of life- color, style, wearability for any woman to have fun in.

  46. laura Says:

    I reminds my of elsmeralda from “The Hunch-back of notre Dame”

  47. Denni Says:

    love the color combination!

  48. elizabeth Says:

    this dress is fabulous!!! it reminds me of a dress from the battle of flowers parade in san antonio at fiesta (party) time. i absolutely love it

  49. mack Says:

    if i ever see something like this again i’ll cry and hide under a tree stump for the rest of my life

  50. Denisse Garcia Says:

    i thought this dress was absolutely stunning!
    i loved what they did with the colors
    it seems kind of hippie but its something i would totally wear!!

  51. anne Says:

    The skirt and belt are wonderful. THe colors complement eachother very nicely. However, the top has me lost. With bizzare colors a strange pattern, and an overly poofy sleves it really kills the look. If you were to buy it, it would be a good ideat to cover it up with a shawl.

  52. Kat :-) Says:

    This dress confuzels me. I don’t like it. :-(
    sorry people who loved it
    I just didn’t feel the love

  53. MckenZie Walker Says:

    wow, that looks like what I imagine when i think of a gypsy

  54. Lucy Says:

    Like several other commentators, I remember the photos in magazines of the time which made an incredible and indelible impression. Always a thrill to see something from YSL’s Russian Collection. I didn’t, however, know of Chanel’s - wonderful comparison, could have been side by side.

  55. lauren Says:

    its ok. i wouldnt wear it, and i think its too much and its a little see through!!

  56. steph Says:

    awesome dress

  57. Leigh Says:

    I like this dress because of the interesting choice of fabric.

  58. Konstance Says:

    This Yve St-Laurent’ dress was, I think, to much original

  59. Rachel Says:

    This is ok I guess, but kind of reminnded me of a peasant’s dress when I saw it.

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