Left: A Saint Laurent Rive Gauche printed silk-crepe pyjama set, c 1970. Right: A Halston printed crêpe de chine pyjama set, c 1976 Picture credit: FIT Museum
While in New York, I paid a visit to the Fashion Institute of Technology to see Yves Saint Laurent + Halston: Fashioning the ’70’s, which closes on April 18. I found it to be a less-than-convincing comparison of YSL (mostly haute couture) and Halston’s vaguely similar aesthetics.
Tan suede shirt dress by Halston, 1972 Picture credit: FIT Museum
The Saint Laurent Rive Gauche "safari" jacket, 1968 Picture credit: FIT Museum
A multicoloured silk ensemble by Yves Saint Laurent, 1977 Picture credit: FIT Museum
The problem with this exhibition was that putting together patterned pyjamas from both designers or offering the Saint Laurent safari jacket from 1968 (famously photographed on Veruschka and seen as a statement about the Vietnam war) had nothing, as far as I could see, to do with the Seventies and nor did the tan “ultra-suede” coat by Halston.
Left: A Saint Laurent Rive Gauche wool, velveteen and nylon ensemble, 1976. Gift of Marina Schiano. Right: A Halston wool ensemble, 1970-71 Picture credit: FIT Museum
To be fair to deputy director Patricia Mears and assistant curator Emma McClendon, they were aiming both to follow the timeline of the separate designers as well as showing where their visions collided. But I just did not get where a flared-sleeve, evening kaftan from Halston fitted with a YSL silk tunic with gathered peasant sleeves and a Chinese hat. But it was intriguing to see who had donated the Yves Saint Laurent outfits — from Lauren Bacall to Tina Chow.
A red beaded nylon evening kaftan, c 1977 Picture credit: FIT Museum
A black, fuchsia and teal satin, velvet, and taffeta evening dress by Yves Saint Laurent, 1976 Picture credit: FIT Museum
Left: Halston knitted printed cotton dress, c1976. Right: Yves Saint Laurent printed silk-chiffon dress, 1971. Gift of Lauren BacallPicture credit: FIT Museum
Saint Laurent Rive Gauche wool, satin and silk-crêpe “Le Smoking" evening suit, c 1982. Gift from the estate of Tina Chow Picture credit: FIT Museum
Saint Laurent Rive Gauche rayon, velvet and gold lamé evening kaftan, 1976. Gift of Paloma Picasso Accessories Picture credit: FIT Museum
The curating duo described the concept of the show as “a re-evaluation of Saint Laurent and Halston set within the larger cultural landscape of the dreamy, indolent, sexy Seventies.”
It might have been smarter to explain that it was because Yves was enlivened by the new concept of ready-to-wear and the streamlined work of designers such as Halston, that he morphed the silhouettes and concepts of his haute couture into pret-à-porter. That is what gave the French designer such power and fashion influence in the Seventies and Eighties.
Elsa Peretti for Halston silver “bone" cuff, c 1971. Gift of Lauren Bacall Picture credit: FIT Museum