The Art and Brilliance of Yves Saint Laurent

by V. Buritsch-Tompkins

There are two weeks left to go see the Yves Saint Laurent exhibition in downtown Seattle.

The Seattle Art Museum is in the last two weeks of showcasing the art and brilliance of Yves Saint Laurent, creator of ready to wear as we know it in the traveling exhibit – Yves Saint Laurent: The Perfection of Style.

Some of the major points touched on in the exhibit are his time as a young director of fashion, his launch of ready-to-wear, and the hand-created hats and accessories he also found so necessary to complete the look. The matched colors of the season dyed to mixes of knit and fabric, available for purchase a la carte (as well as the modern pantsuit), was popularized by Saint Laurent.

(Paper dolls, created by young Yves, to share only with those closest to him – his sisters.)

In the days of the early 50’s and 60’s,the individual outfit was not nearly as open to interpretation- complete outfits were sold as a set. Enter Saint Laurent, patron guardian of being fashionable.

Does the look remind you of anyone? It should. Banana Republic borrows quite a bit from the revolutionary look that was popularized by Saint Laurent’s own launch: Rive Gauche, literally translated to Left Bank.  As most of the trendy fashion houses were stationed on the other side of the river Seine, dividing Paris, he meant his look to be for the fashion-forward everyday woman who wanted an identity.

(Rive Gauche – Front left and right: a 1971 daytime ensemble – silk blouse with red lips and black silk velvet hot pants, with a double-heart [black and pink] buckled passementerie belt; 1971 Yellow cotton dress with a trim of red guipure)

He pushed other fashion boundaries, giving look and presence to the pop art of the 60’s and 70’s.  He’s tied to the likes of contemporaries such as Andy Warhol, and throughout the exhibition are references to Mondrian and the female form. One example, in a room to itself, exhibits both a clothed model with a transposed nude silhouette.

(1966 Evening gown – Homage to Tom Wesselmann – purple and pink wool jersey dress, carefully pieced to show the perfect form of a fully clothed woman wearing a perfectly naked lady)

His sketches, on display, are suitable for a wallpaper border, and line the main grand hall near the entrance.

(Right: 1990 Homage to Zizi Jeanmarie – Fashion, Costume, Fabulous – Organza sweater with tailfeather fan of pink ostrich feathers; Left: 1988 Haute Coture short evening dress, black breathea weave belted dress with two white cotton pique doves)

The exhibition ends in a gentle Kaleidoscope of hues, leading you through a pathway of treasured accessories and color.

(Accessories from over the years, are a veritable treasure trove of “I Spy” for knowledgeable fashion fanatics. The accessory display is a table, in a black mirrored room.)

(An unnamed accessory from the runway of color at the end of the exhibit)

A quick treasure hunt before you go:

Naked men lounging on a female form, a bone for one’s nose, A leather flame-doused coat, a clip of The Pink Panther, and a quick, clipped quote of his feelings on high fashion being in the details.

If you wish to visit the Yves Saint Laurent exhibit before it closes in Seattle, the address is:

1300 First Avenue
Seattle, WA 98108

Their hours are:



(Written in loving memory and remembrance of Jacqueline Buritsch. You are missed, mom.)