Might I suggest that before you get started you make a cup of tea/coffee and get a snack of choice – you might be here a while. This post is also going to be picture heavy.
You might remember that I visited The Bowes Museum in Barnard Castle,Durham in April for their ‘Birds of Paradise’ exhibition (post and pictures here if you missed it). I only managed to catch this as I had seen mention of an upcoming Yves Saint Laurent exhibition in a magazine. What!? I thought. But that isn’t in London! Yes, Durham is in the north and they have got this absolute gem until October.
Unlike the Birds of Paradise I have managed a visit right at the start of this exhibition so you have all the way through to the 25th October to arrange a visit if you like what you see. Seriously consider it if you can – Durham has plenty to offer in addition to this gem, and if you feel like getting further north Northumberland is pretty gorgeous.
The tickets we bought were timed entry tickets, and I was glad to have them as the queue was building up in the foyer of the museum mid-morning and The Management reported that it got longer toward lunchtime. I think they have a winner.
Whilst on the balcony waiting for entry it was possible to watch a video (or whatever they are called these days!) of YSL runway show(s?). There was a sign showing that flash photography was not allowed but I checked with a room steward and was told it was OK to take photographs without flash. Unfortunately that means that some of the photographs are not as sharp as perhaps they could be. However, what I lost in quality I made up for in quantity. More about that later.
The initial ‘crush’ in the first exhibition room quickly spread out enabling anyone to be able to look as closely as was possible at these magnificent garments.
The permanent cases in The Bowes which house their own costume collections had been changed from my last visit to reflect the YSL garment shown in that particular case. Well done The Bowes. The case on the left shows tailored styles go well with the fabulous 1967 trouser suit, which I thought would not have looked out of place on a war time ‘spiv’.
Not all of the pieces were complete garments, and I was particularly happy to be able to have a really good look at the toiles produced by a couture house. I have to admit they are streets better than my own (when I actually do make a toile) and I loved that anyone could have been able to follow them to create a garment. Maybe that’s a lesson I need to learn in my pattern cutting.
The attention to detail shown by YSL is incredible. He was meticulous in his designing (apparently the drawings were done in two weeks away, twice a year, and he didn’t know until he started drawing what would appear), and was known to have things re-done if the seam was even as little as 1mm away from his requirements. This is why haute couture is so costly. His attitude to design was not to follow ‘fashion’ but to concentrate on ‘style’. As has been quoted ‘Fashion fades but style is eternal’.
I did try to take photographs of the details within the garments, we all get to see so many ‘styled’ pictures in magazines of spectacular garments but rarely do they show the tiny details involved in getting that finish. Many of the ideas are way beyond the scope of the majority of dressmakers but some were achievable with a great deal of attention to detail.
The gowns inspired by Henri Matisse were fabulously colourful, and whilst it would be incredibly time consuming to spend the time needed to do all the applique to get that amazing skirt it would be possible – just put by a month or two to make that if you want….. (and if you look very closely at the detail you can see that there are some ‘fluffy’ edges showing round some of the leaves – not machine ‘perfect’ but showing that these are truly ‘hand made’).
I was fairly surprised at just how wearable so many of the garments still were despite having been designed anything up to fifty+ years ago. Many elicited gasps of admiration from some of the young ladies who were visiting who wouldn’t have been born when they were designed. There were several I would have been very happy to have taken away had I been allowed. Who am I kidding – I would have been gloriously happy just to have been allowed to hold one up against me to see how I looked. I might even have agreed to diet for one of those (and there is little chance of me actually dieting for any other reason).
This jumpsuit would not have looked out of place during Jump Into June. So many garments were absolutely dribble worthy that it would be almost impossible to have a favourite. I loved one of the Transparence gowns (second from right), though clearly if I wanted to take inspiration from that it would have to be executed in something opaque, but I think my favourite is probably still the Mondrian shift dress which despite being designed in 1965 still looks incredibly fresh.
Throughout the exhibition it was possible to see where later designers had taken inspiration, and I did intend to try to show some YSL/Other designer comparisons but I haven’t had an opportunity to do that yet.
horrified amazed to discover that I had taken over 100 pictures – clearly I couldn’t put them all on this post but if you are still curious (and perhaps aren’t able to get to Bowes to see this in person) here is the link to all of them on Flickr.