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Saturday, August 7, 2010

Yves Saint Laurent

I've just returned from a stunning exhibit at the Petit Palais. It is a retrospective of the life and work of the designer Yves Saint Laurent.

You may have noticed from previous posts that I am self conscious about my "look" and really fairly ignorant of the whole world of fashion. It's just not something that I've ever paid attention to. I tend to be quite practical when it comes to clothing and much prefer comfort over style. That said, I do appreciate really well designed and well cut clothing and much prefer to invest in something that I know I will really wear and appreciate rather than something that happens to be fashionable this season.

Furthermore, my experience of clothing and fashion is inextricably linked with my childhood and (lack of) money. My nicest clothes were hand-me-downs from an older cousin.

My mother has spent a lifetime shopping in second hand stores for herself and for us. At best, fashion has always seemed an unimaginable luxury and at worst, a narcissistic waste of money. Also, as with anything we don't really understand, there is a simple ignorance of the appreciation or value that others place in a particular area.

It was with my natural curiosity and willingness to open myself to new experiences; whether as "anthropologist" or ignorant beginner that I decided to go see the Yves Saint Laurent exhibit. It was a little bit like my decision to go see CSN. Who ARE these guys after all, and what is all the fuss?

Wow. I was completely blown away by the genius of his creation. The exhibit features about 300 haute couture models with a selection of pictures, drawings and films that illuminate 40 years of creation. I had no idea that YSL was one who imagined how "to give women more self-confidence". He broke with tradition and was the first to design pants for women. He also said "Fashions pass, style remains". Now those are concepts that I can relate to! It was fascinating to watch him work - he described drawing his designs as though the pencil was moving of its own volition and that he had no foreknowledge of what wanted he wanted to draw. It reminded me a little bit of Mozart or other artists who have been said to transcribe what comes through them. Gave me shivers.

He also had a lot of insight into the duality of the female experience - on the one hand wanting to be taken seriously as a professional (and looking the part), while having another 'fairy tale' or playful side and wanting to manifest that as well. He designed "costumes" for both sides. I had no idea I would relate to these concepts. And I was entranced by the clothes. You can see more here.

I continue to learn about myself. Now I understand why I love my collection of St. John knits, on the one hand, and why I still shop at second hand stores on the other hand. Now if I could just find exquisite shoes that are still comfortable (and that I can afford ;-0) ! And if I could just learn how to put in those darn pierced earrings!

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