Yves Saint Laurent + Halston: Fashioning the 70s

April 17, 2015 § 4 Comments

The Museum at FIT’s exhibit, Yves Saint Laurent + Halston: Fashioning the 70s, closes this Saturday. (See Bridget Foley, “That Real Seventies Show.”) If you can’t make it to New York to see it, a catalogue is available from Yale University Press.

Patricia Mears and Emma McClendon, Yves Saint Laurent + Halston: Fashioning the 70s. Image via Yale University Press.

The MFIT exhibit organizes the two designers’ 1970s work in three thematic sections: menswear influence, exoticism, and historicism. Since both Yves Saint Laurent and Halston had licensed sewing patterns in the ’70s, I thought it would be fun to present three pairs of patterns in the exhibition’s format.

Menswear

From Yves Saint Laurent, Vogue 1143 is a ’70s version of the famous Le smoking. Helmut Newton photographed Charlotte Rampling in a similar, Prince of Wales check pantsuit for Vogue (with original text here):

1970s Yves Saint Laurent pantsuit, blouse, and skirt pattern - Vogue 1143

Vogue 1143 by Yves Saint Laurent (1974) Image via Etsy.

According to the curators, Halston’s most famous garment is the Ultrasuede shirtdress. McCall’s 4391 is a zip-front shirtdress that includes special instructions for working with synthetic suede:

1970s Halston dress pattern, view A for synthetic suede - McCall's 4391

McCall’s 4391 by Halston (1975) Model: Karen Bjornson.

Exoticism

Yves Saint Laurent’s interest in “exotic,” non-Western dress is perhaps best remembered from his Russian collection (Fall 1976 haute couture). From Vogue’s Ballets Russes patterns, Vogue 1558 is a Russian ensemble consisting of blouse, vest, bias skirt, and braid-trimmed jacket—hat and babushka scarf not included (see more at Paco’s blog):

1970s Yves Saint Laurent Ballets Russes pattern - Vogue 1558

Vogue 1558 by Yves Saint Laurent (1976) Model: Karen Bjornson. Image via the Vintage Patterns Wiki.

During the 1970s, both Saint Laurent and Halston showed non-Western influence in their caftans and pajama ensembles. Halston pattern McCall’s 3590 combines both:

1970s Halston caftan, top, and pants pattern - McCalls 3590

McCall’s 3590 by Halston (1973)

Historicism

Inspired by the 1940s, Yves Saint Laurent’s Spring 1971 haute couture collection, Libération, launched the decade’s vogue for vintage. Although the 1971 collection was poorly received, Saint Laurent’s subsequent vintage-inspired efforts were very influential. From 1973, Vogue 2930 is a Forties-inspired dress-and-coat ensemble:

1970s Yves Saint Laurent dress and coat or jacket pattern - Vogue 2930

Vogue 2930 by Yves Saint Laurent (1973) Image via eBay.

Halston’s historicism focused on the interwar couture of the 1930s, especially the work of Grès and Vionnet. McCall’s 4046 is a slinky dress for stretchable knits. It has only one main pattern piece and is shaped by gathers and side darts:

1970s Halston cocktail or evening dress pattern - McCall's 4046

McCall’s 4046 by Halston (1974)

As the curators note, Halston and Yves Saint Laurent have been seen as embodying two separate styles: minimalist ready-to-wear vs. fantasy couture. Yet comparison of their work shows how their stylistic experimentation led them to common ground, particularly in the earlier ’70s. Interestingly, some Saint Laurent and Halston garments can be hard to tell apart until you examine the construction—something home sewers can certainly appreciate.

Designs by Halston and Yves Saint Laurent on the cover of W magazine, September 3-10, 1976. Image via WWD.

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