Pop Goes Pret-a-Porter!
March 22, 2017
Bardot, Dior, YSL Galore in 60s Paris Fashion Exhibit
Step back in time to the “Swinging Sixties” where leggy girls ran about London with bangs bopping, micro-dresses flopping and the Beatles bopping in the background. The notorious Youthquake was Britain’s post-war era of sexed-up Cultural Rebellion. Mary Quant made miniskirts a thing, Mick Jagger reigned with glam rock glory and Twiggy put the “Mod” in Supermodel. Many of our favorite trends rose from these spirited streets and continue to flourish today.
Across the pond, the City of Lights was just as revolutionary, and thanks to the Museum of FIT you can ride the French New Wave à la mode. Paris ReFashioned, 1957- 1968, invites us to explore the capital’s stylistic shift away from Haute Couture and into Prêt-à-Porter (Ready-to-Wear). Divided into two distinct aesthetics, the introductory gallery is a recreated Couture Salon. From Madame Grès’ draped gowns to Cristobal Balenciaga’s inventive cocoon cuts, visitors tour a subdued room full of silken elegance. Amongst the 30 couture garments and accessories, the centerpiece is an A-line Trapeze dress designed by a 21 year-old unknown designer named Yves Saint Laurent. In 1957 he was anointed the late Christian Dior’s replacement. Putting the venerated Couture house in the sketching hands of a barely legal Yves heralded the relaxing of Parisian silhouettes and ushered a more youthful era of vogue.
The majority of the exhibition examines the dramatic sartorial swing in the 1960s. Serenaded by yé-yé songstresses Brigitte Bardot and Françoise Hardy, visitors meander a labyrinth of geometric screens and candy-colored fashions that evoke a 1960s boutique. The gallery opens with a yellow and white chevron mini dress by Emmanuelle Khanh, who curator Colleen Hill details “wanted to create RTW fashions that more for women like her: young; fresh; less expensive than couture; but still really stylish”. Despite France’s most famed designers being mainly men--Givenchy, Dior, YSL—the sixties welcomed of a girl gang of stylistes like Emmanuelle, Christiane Bailly, Michèle Rosier, Sonia Rykiel, and Gaby Aghion at Chloé. There were some pretty bold boys as well, with André Courreges’ “Space Age” vinyl cutouts, and Paco Rabanne’s “12 Unwearable Dresses in Contemporary Materials” being the most playful. Replacing traditional couture techniques with innovative materials epitomized the futuristic aesthetic of the new French fashion scene.
One of YSL's most famed quotes "Fashions fade, style is eternal", is worth pondering during this exhibition. Fashion is notoriously cyclical, but the 60's in particular seem to have a lasting influence...from Yves's iconic mondrian dresses and Givenchy's LBDs to cult films like Qui Etes-Vous Polly Magoo? (a parody on Space-Age fashion), and Belle du Jour (costumed by YSL) being constantly referenced. The intertextuality of art, cinema, and pop culture woven into the garments of that era are still sashaying down the runways today. Despite being designed for a more millenial consumer, the current crop of young designers overseeeing these houses still seek to archives for inspiration. Notice how Demna's mammoth puffers at Balenciaga are resonant of Cristobal's cocoon coats or Vaccarello's sexy suiting at YSL is homage to le smoking? With the latest change-ups at Chloé and Givenchy, we can imagine some of the same looks housed in this exhibition will find themselves on the catwalks and the streets next season.
Paris ReFashioned! is on view at the Museum of FIT until April 15.