“The great change came when I discovered my own style… It was with the tuxedo jacket and the transparent blouse. I became conscious of the body and began dialogue with women, began to understand better what a modern woman wants.”
Yves Saint Laurent
The idea of un type parfait, or the perfect garment, was first explained by Yves Saint Laurent in 1978 during his interview with John Helpbern. The rule was simple: to design a type of garment, whether it is a blouse or a pair of trousers, that would encourage women to build the rest of their wardrobe around them, so she wouldn’t have to constantly change her wardrobe, but instead – update it with a few new items designed around the same basic prototype. His perfect never-go-out-of-style wardrobe was very minimalistic, but showed how a garment from 1962 could live in a happy visual harmony with something designed in 1968.
Pea jacket was a part of Spring 1962 collection. It looked like a feminine, softened version of a sailor’s jacket. With a widened cut and luxurious navy wool fabric, it was still a couture piece, but its functionality and gilt buttons make is feel more realistic. It could be worn with white sweater and trousers for a chic day time look or, in a slightly altered cut, combined with red, white or blue sequined dresses and a few accessories - for an afternoon out.
Tunic’s role was to lengthen the figure and hide the hips and fit to more or less every figure. It was a perfect accompaniment for long wide trousers. The look was adopted by millions of women all over the world.
Trench coat. Originally designed for Autumn/Winter 1962 collection, the coat was inspired by a garment worn by officers during WWI. Always short, above the knee, the Yves Saint Lauren’s version was made either of gabardine or navy blue jersey. The trench was immortalised after Catherine Deneuve wore the black version of the coat in Belle de Jour movie in 1966.
Loose-fitting blouse. The very first smock featured in Autumn/Winter 1962 collection was described as “a peasant’s shirt reworked as a flannel tunic that hung over the hips, creating a tubular effect.” The blouse was one of the most favourite Saint Laurent’s garments and was seen throughout his work in various forms.
Tuxedo (le smoking). An truly iconic piece that took the way women dress to a completely new level, a must-have and something everyone awaited to see at each fashion show, from 1966 to 2002. Saint Laurent used traditional men’s tailoring in a completely new way. His technique is what made the final design so unique and impossible to copy by other couturiers – something they tried on numerous occasions.
It was such a big hit, but also a very controversial design. For the first time, women wore trousers showing that they had rights and opinions. According to Maime Arnodin, a Parisian art director, “…wearing trousers at the time was absolutely revolutionary. Elle magazine run article after article on Yves Saint Laurent and his smokings, but it wouldn’t let its own journalists wear trousers to work. And Yves’s trousers were so beautiful.” Laurent Bacall said of Yves Saint Laurent trousers: “Of course, it’s Saint Laurent. If it’s pants, it’s Yves.”
The stilleto heel and dramatic jewellery were the perfect finishing touches whenever tuxedo was worn.
Safari jacket was a part of “a safari outfit” featured in the summer 1966 collection inspired by Saint Laurent trips to Morocco. The iconic piece was designed to appear in the July-August 1968 issue of Vogue magazine in an editorial featuring Veruschka photographed by Franco Rubartelli.
Jumpsuit. The most functional of them all, the one-piece pantsuit was inspired by uniforms of aviators and first shown during Spring 1968 collection. Saint Laurent often returned to this design giving it different looks, making it look like a second skin or baggy and varying the length and shape of the bottom part, from tuxedo inspired trousers to shorts with a drawstring belt.
Based on Yves Saint Laurent by Farid Chenoune
Photo sources: Yves Saint Laurent by Duane Michals, sketch of a pea jacket of navy blue wool, white silk blouse and trousers for Spring/Summer 1962 collection, Saint Laurent's sketch of a trench coat for Fall/Winter 1986 haute couture collection, Yves Saint Laurent blouse in Women's Wear Daily July 1974, Vibeke wearing a grey stripped suit (le smoking) photographed by Helmut Newton for Vogue Paris 1975, Veruschka in a lace-up Yves Saint Laurent safari jacket photographed by Franco Rubatelli for Vogue Paris July-August 1968, Betty Catroux wearing a jumpsuit in the Saint Laurent Rive Gauche boutique, rue de Tournon for Vogue Paris February 1969 via Yves Saint Laurent and Yves Saint Laurent books