The scary monsters Yves Saint Laurent unleashed
Sunday 08 June 2008
Le Smoking. Safari suits. Sheer outfits. Animal print. Fashion has a great deal to thank the late Yves Saint Laurent for ....Or does it?
On watching the elegant, black-clad fashionistas at YSL's funeral last Thursday, and reading the reverent obituaries, his place in the pantheon of classic designers was certain. But let's not forget that unless you are a supermodel, Laurent's greatest hits are nigh on impossible to wear.
Since he entered the fashion world in 1954 – after winning a competition to create a cocktail
dress – the designer has been responsible for bringing new and imaginative ideas to clothing.
When we saw Bianca Jagger get married in a drop-dead-gorgeous trouser suit with nothing on underneath, it was inspired by YSL. Supermodel Laetitia Casta looked similarly to-die-for in a white dress constructed entirely of feathers (YSL himself developed it from an earlier look of 1968). Sixties It girl Betty Catroux worked his thigh-high boots with enviable panache.
These women have something in common: they are all tall, slim and beautiful. And that's the problem.
By the time the classic YSL pieces have travelled down fashion's food chain they become really rather scary – Claudia Schiffer in a "Le Smoking" jacket and trousers, accessorised with a lot of bare chest looks fab; Hillary Clinton in an anti-crease beige trouser suit with kitten heels? Not such a good look.
Ditto black leather thigh boots – OK, so principal boys might have been wearing then before the enigmatic French designer came along, but he definitely finessed them. What might he have thought about Heroes actress Hayden Panettiere in a short skirt and painfully tight boots around her muscular thighs?
Animal print is a trend universally acknowledged as "difficult". Yves Saint Laurent most wisely used it as a print for accessories, but the cat has been let out of the bag in a very bad way for everyone from Bet Lynch to Amy Winehouse. The master could never have conceived of Lycra leopard-print leggings.
It's possible that his 1968 sheer evening gown, with just ostrich feathers at the waist protecting the model's modesty was all done to attract headlines, but it did have an air of mystery about it. Nicole Kidman's trip down the red carpet in a micro mini-dress with bra and thong underwear clearly visible left nothing to the imagination.
Oh Yves ... what have you started? RIP.
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