Mondrian!

Yves Saint Laurent sketch of Mondrian and Pop-art dresses
Image: Fondation Pierre Bergé-Yves Saint Laurent.

Yves Saint Laurent’s Fall/Winter 1965 collection, inspired by the abstract paintings of Piet Mondrian and Serge Poliakoff, included one of the most iconic garments of the twentieth century: the ‘Mondrian’ dress. David Bailey photographed the multicolour Mondrian dress for the cover of Vogue Paris’ 1965 September issue, and Saint Laurent’s Mondrian designs spawned countless knockoffs, including sewing patterns and knitting patterns. Today, Yves Saint Laurent Mondrian dresses may be viewed in museum collections such as those of New York’s Metropolitan Museum of Art, the Victoria and Albert Museum, and the Los Angeles County Museum of Art. (On the construction of the Mondrian dress and on fashion inspired by modern art, see the posts by Couture Allure and oh mighty!)

Yves Saint Laurent's Mondrian dress photographed by David Bailey for the cover of Vogue Paris, September 1965
Vogue Paris, September 1965 Photo: David Bailey. Image: tumblr.

In early 1966, Vogue Patterns introduced Yves Saint Laurent with five pieces from the “Mondrian et Poliakoff” collection. The designs were photographed in mid-century splendour at Knoll International, Paris by Richard Dormer. The first page of the Vogue Pattern Book editorial shows model Merle Lynn standing before a 1954 Florence Knoll lounge chair:

1960s Yves Saint Laurent shift dress Vogue 1556 in Vogue Pattern Book
Vogue 1556 by Yves Saint Laurent. Vogue Pattern Book, February/March 1966. Model: Merle Lynn. Photo: Richard Dormer.

Vogue Patterns chose a simple, red-accented Mondrian dress for the highly sought-after Vogue 1557:

1960s Yves Saint Laurent Mondrian dress 1557 in Vogue Pattern Book
Vogue 1557 by Yves Saint Laurent. Vogue Pattern Book, February/March 1966. Photo: Richard Dormer.

The photos of Vogue 1567, a dress and coat, show a 1955 Tulip Chair by Eero Saarinen (hair by Alexandre of Paris):

1960s Yves Saint Laurent dress and coat 1567 in Vogue Pattern Book
Vogue 1567 by Yves Saint Laurent. Vogue Pattern Book, February/March 1966. Model: Merle Lynn. Photo: Richard Dormer.

And the last page of the editorial shows what looks like one of Knoll’s signature textile wall panels:

1960s Yves Saint Laurent suits 1569 and 1571 in Vogue Pattern Book
Vogue 1569 and 1571 by Yves Saint Laurent. Vogue Pattern Book, February/March 1966. Photos: Richard Dormer.

The pattern envelopes show different, colour images from Dormer’s shoot. Here are Vogue 1556 and Vogue 1557 (see Paco Peralta’s blog posts here and here for more images):

1960s Mondrian pattern Vogue 1556 by Yves Saint Laurent
Vogue 1556 by Yves Saint Laurent (1966) Image: PatternVault on Etsy.
Yves Saint Laurent Mondrian dress pattern Vogue Paris Original 1557
Vogue 1557 by Yves Saint Laurent (1966) Image: the Vintage Patterns Wiki.

The description reads: One-piece dress. Sleeveless shift has narrow, contrasting inserts around the hem, down center back, and crossing high in front to create a yoke.

Richard Avedon photographed Jean Shrimpton in this Mondrian dress for his final issue at Harper’s Bazaar:

Richard Avedon photo of Jean Shrimpton in Yves Saint Laurent Mondrian dress, Harper's Bazaar, October 1965
Harper’s Bazaar, October 1965. Model: Jean Shrimpton. Photo: Richard Avedon. Image: tumblr.

Irving Penn photographed Veruschka in the same dress for British Vogue (via Magdorable; see her recent post for more photos):

Veruschka photographed by Irving Penn in a Mondrian dress for British Vogue, September 1965
British Vogue, September 1965. Model: Veruschka. Photo: Irving Penn. Image: Magdorable!

You can see a photo of Veronica Hamel in the same dress here. (Thanks to Paco Peralta for alerting me to these last two images.)

The Vogue 1567 envelope gives a better view of the Tulip Chair:

1960s Yves Saint Laurent dress and coat pattern - Vogue 1567
Vogue 1567 by Yves Saint Laurent (1966) Image: the Vintage Patterns Wiki.

Here’s the description: One-Piece Dress and Coat. High-waisted dress has contrasting bodice with high band collar, a button-trimmed inset, and sleeve banding to match gathered skirt. Self belt. Long sleeved, double-breasted coat with yoke seam has wide, button-trimmed belt and pockets in seams. Trim stitching.

And the bold teal of the wall panel may be seen on Vogue 1569 (I haven’t been able to find a pattern image for the fifth pattern, Vogue 1571):

1960s Yves Saint Laurent suit and blouse pattern Vogue 1569
Vogue 1569 by Yves Saint Laurent (1966) Image: the Vintage Patterns Wiki.

The description reads: Suit and Blouse. Long sleeved, slightly fitted jacket has wide hem band and optional purchased or self belt. Trim stitching. Tuck-in blouse has high shaped neckline, squared-off armholes, and welt pockets. Gathered skirt has pockets in seams and optional purchased or self belt.

Vogue 1557 and 1569 were both featured on the cover of the Vogue Patterns counter catalogue:

Yves Saint Laurent Mondrian dress pattern Vogue 1557 on the cover of Vogue Patterns catalog, February 1966
Vogue 1557 by Yves Saint Laurent, Vogue Patterns catalogue, February 1966. Image: eBay.
Yves Saint Laurent suit pattern Vogue 1569 on the cover of Vogue Patterns catalogue, March 1966
Vogue 1569 by Yves Saint Laurent, Vogue Patterns catalogue, March 1966. Image: eBay.

Illustrations of Vogue 1557 were also commissioned for the monthly Vogue Pattern Fashion News (more illustration scans posted by Damn Good Vintage—click the image for the post):

Yves Saint Laurent's Vogue 1557 illustrated on the cover of Vogue Pattern Fashion News, February 1966
Vogue Pattern Fashion News, February 1966. Image: the Vintage Goddess blog.

Although Yves Saint Laurent’s Mondrian collection was inspired by modern art, Vogue Pattern Book’s editorial at Knoll situates pieces from the collection in the context of modern design. The editorial is interesting, both for how it frames the designer’s garments and how it ignores his celebrity. The designer’s name is prominent on the news booklet and first counter catalogue—arguably more overtly promotional publications. But the name Yves Saint Laurent is not included on the magazine’s cover or even mentioned in the Editor’s letter; there’s no photo, no bio like those we see in later decades. The emphasis is firmly on the designs and their place in contemporary visual culture.

Next: My version of Vogue 1556.

15 thoughts on “Mondrian!

  1. Wow, look at how short those hemlines were! I did not remember that as early as 1965. I was 20 years old in ’65 but by 1968 my skirts and dresses were fingertip length. Slacks were not yet worn by women in typical business environments. It could be that mini skirts made them acceptable at last. Even a skinny person had to be careful sitting down in a fingertip-length skirt 🙂

  2. Interesting about the designer’s name being in the background. Do you think designer prominence was a later development or just specific to these particular designs? I always call this the “building dress” because it looks more at home with furniture and architecture–so it’s fun to see how these designs were shown off with interior design as the influence. Thanks for sharing all these photographs!

    1. Yes! I’d been thinking in similar terms, as though the dress is a monument, like a Le Corbusier church. It’s so graphic and linear, the editorial setting almost implies a continuum between fashion and the arts..

      I’m no expert, but I suspect designer celebrity was already a phenomenon by the mid-Sixties. In this case the magazine seems to have opted to convey how au courant the pieces are—as though introducing YSL himself would distract from his work. I don’t have many older Vogue Pattern Books, but I do have one from 1961 with a profile of Irene Galitzine. It has two large photos of her modelling her designs, and she shares her entertaining secrets and a recipe (!)

  3. oohhh .. Sarah, thank you very much for linking. I think I saw this post over a hundred times. I love it. Congratulations for your job search, so exhaustive and perfect, and I look forward to see your version of mondrian dress. Greetings from Spain !!!

    Paco

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