4.02.2012

yves saint laurent: the exhibit

The iconic Mondrian dress (1965)
© Foundation Pierre Bergé-Yves Saint Laurent, Paris
Photo A. Guirkinger

If you do one thing this summer, book a flight to Denver and see Yves Saint Laurent: The Retrospective at the Denver Art Museum. The exhibit, which is having its exclusive U.S. showing in the Mile High City, documents 40 years of haute couture by one of the most influential designers of all time. For anyone who loves fashion, it's an inspiring, fascinating journey through sartorial history and an absolute must-see.

Starting at the beginning of Yves Saint Laurent's career at Christian Dior and finishing with a stunning selection of evening gowns, the exhibit includes 200 haute couture garments, as well as photos (including some iconic Helmut Newton prints), video (don't miss the charming and hilarious animated short "La Vilaine Lulu") and recreations of Saint Laurent's studio and friend and muse Catherine Deneuve's enviable closet.

A stunning selection of evening wear. I want to go to this party so bad.
Yves Saint Laurent: The Retrospective at the Denver Art Museum.
Photos by Jeff Wells; courtesy Denver Art Museum.

Simply put, the clothes in the exhibit are beautiful.

From Dior cocktail dresses and safari jackets to le smoking tuxedos and extravagant evening wear, every garment is a revelation. The fabrics - wool, velvet, fur, chiffon, feathers - beg to be touched (you can't touch the actual garments, but fortunately they have some fabric samples you can play with), and the craftsmanship is exquisite. It's a truly impressive body of work, and it's an incredible opportunity to see so much of it all in one place.

A fraction of the jaw dropping le smoking tuxedos on display - seriously, there are so many of them,
and they're all incredible.
Yves Saint Laurent: The Retrospective at the Denver Art Museum.
Photos by Jeff Wells; courtesy Denver Art Museum.

As beautiful as the clothes are, though, the most fascinating thing about the exhibit is how it reflects on history. The gender revolution, artistic and cultural movements - the garments created by Saint Laurent not only tell the story of his journey as an artist, but also the journey of modern womanhood. Take, for example, the pantsuit. Now taken for granted as everyday business attire, it was so risque when Saint Laurent popularized it that New York socialite Nan Kempner was refused entry into a restaurant until she took off her pants, transforming her tunic top into a mini skirt. We really have come a long way, baby.

Yves Saint Laurent: The Retrospective is on view at the Denver Art Museum now through July 8. Do yourself a favor - go see it. Believe me, you don't want to miss it.

One of my favorite parts of the exhibit, this gallery showcased Saint Laurent's work inspired by
or created in collaboration with painters, sculptors and other artists.
Yves Saint Laurent: The Retrospective at the Denver Art Museum.
Photos by Jeff Wells; courtesy Denver Art Museum.

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