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A propos de l’exposition

The exhibition Sheer: The diaphanous creations of Yves Saint Laurent will be on display at the Musée Yves Saint Laurent Paris from February 9 to August 25, 2024. It will be the second chapter of a story that began last summer at the Museum of Lace and Fashion in Calais.

For the exhibition’s next stop, in Paris, the Musée Yves Saint Laurent Paris invited the curator Anne Dressen to be its artistic advisor; she will focus on transparency as a chosen artistic expression of Yves Saint Laurent. The exhibition has been designed by the architect Pauline Marchetti, whose work explores the intersection of perception and space.

Few articles of clothing are entirely transparent. In theory, transparency is incompatible with the very function of clothing, which is to cover the body, conceal or protect it. Intrigued by this contradiction, and by the powerful role diaphanous fabrics could play in his work, Yves Saint Laurent began using materials such as chiffon, lace and tulle in the 1960s. Like a leitmotif, he regularly employed transparency during his forty creative years, at times alongside embroidered or opaque fabrics. He daringly reconciled these contradictions, allowing women to proudly and boldly assert their bodies.

I’ve worked for quite some time now with diaphanous fabrics. The important thing is to maintain their mysterious nature…. I think I’ve done the best I could for the liberation of women. I created clothes that were perfectly in sync with the twenty-first century. ”.1

Drawing on the power inherent in fabric, this new exhibition will explore Yves Saint Laurent’s gaze towards fashion in all its complexity as it relates to the body and the concept of nudity.

The forty garments seen in the exhibition include iconic creations that retrace the history of Yves Saint Laurent’s uncovering of the female body, such as the first topless blouse, from the couturier’s spring-summer 1968 collection–baptized the “see-through blouse” by the American press–and the “nude dress,” a black chiffon dress with a belt of ostrich feathers from the following collection. Other rarely seen creations highlight the couturier’s virtuosity in presenting the silhouette of a powerful and liberated woman. Essential elements of the creative process are also seen in the exhibition: sketches, photographs, patterns on tracing paper, accessories (hats, jewelry, shoes, etc.), as well as a series of drawings by Yves Saint Laurent inspired by the paintings of Goya.

In dialogue with the creations of Yves Saint Laurent, works by modern and contemporary artists are seen throughout the exhibition. Anne Bourse’s hypnotic drawings echo the couturier’s superimposition of fabrics and colors; Man Ray’s experimental rayographs and fashion photos bring to mind the couturier’s research into lace; the fluidity of muslin and its movement is found in Loïe Fuller’s serpentine dance captured by the Lumière brothers; and finally, a work from Picabia’s Transparencies series attempts to render the visible and invisible part of his model, the elusive part of her persona.

Sheer: The diaphanous creations of Yves Saint Laurent is structured around five thematic sections. The first offers an introduction, exploring several garments made from organza, Cigaline®, lace, tulle and muslin: numerous variations that allowed the couturier to play with different see-though effects. In the following section, the woman’s body is gradually revealed through openwork use of diaphanous fabrics. By using lace and tulle, certain parts of the body are rendered abstract, as if lit by spotlights.

Upstairs, the exhibition explores the fluid movement generated by soft fabrics, such as muslin, which animate the body, both covering and revealing it, accompanying it as if it were a second skin, a dreamlike mist. In the fashion house’s “dressmaking” workshops, as opposed to those referred to in-house as “tailoring”, diaphanous fabrics would give complete freedom to the body. Further on in the exhibition, we see how transparency reveals the construction lines of a garment–those made of organdy in particular–allowing the body to be structured, as if we were discovering tracing patterns for the first time. Several bridal silhouettes with their tulle veils, so often reinvented by Yves Saint Laurent, close the exhibition, as they would in any runway show by him. Although Yves Saint Laurent’s brides are never transparent, they assert themselves with an unfathomable sense of freedom.

Sheer: The diaphanous creations of Yves Saint Laurent lets the visitor discover the great couturier’s artistic, perceptive and poetic vision; his creative rebellion against the ongoing prohibitions of society remains more inspiring today than ever.

(1) Yves Saint Laurent quotation from Yves Saint Laurent by Laurence Benaïm, Paris, Grasset, 2018 pp. 679, 680