PARIS — The Yves Saint Laurent Museum in Paris has teamed with the Museum for Lace and Fashion in Calais, France, for a two-part exhibition focusing on the way that Yves Saint Laurent used nude effects in his designs.
The first leg of “Yves Saint Laurent: Transparencies” will run in Calais from June 24 to Nov. 12, and will be followed by a show in Paris in February 2024. Co-produced by the two institutions, the Calais exhibit will feature 60 outfits spanning more than four decades in addition to accessories, drawings, photographs and videos.
“The exhibition shows how Yves Saint Laurent was able to rethink the language of seduction in the context of sexual revolution,” the Museum for Lace and Fashion said in a statement.
While naked dresses rule the red carpet in 2023, the lingerie-inspired looks were considered scandalous when Saint Laurent introduced them in 1966, four years after founding his label. “Nothing is more beautiful than a naked body,” the late couturier once declared.
During a preview at the Yves Saint Laurent Museum in Paris, Elsa Janssen, its director, and Anne-Claire Laronde, chief curator and director of the Museums of Calais, provided a glimpse of some of the key designs that will be showcased, including the 1968 Nude Dress, a completely transparent floor-length chiffon dress with a ring of ostrich feathers around the hips.
Modeled by the designer’s muse Danielle Luquet de Saint Germain with nothing underneath but a jeweled belt, the dress shocked onlookers at the time. It still caused a sensation decades later, when French model and actress Laetitia Casta wore it to France’s Césars film ceremony in 2010, albeit with a lace bodysuit.
Domitille Eblé, manager of the graphic arts collection at the Yves Saint Laurent Museum Paris and co-curator of the exhibition, showed off a featherlight sheer pussy-bow blouse made from a dry fabric called cigaline, which Saint Laurent paired with a bermuda version of his signature tuxedo in 1968.
The clothes will be displayed alongside his original sketches and collection boards, as well as images such as the Jeanloup Sieff photograph of Marina Schiano in 1970 wearing a dress with a plunging lace cutout in the back. The outfit will open the exhibition in Calais and also features on the poster.
The set design by Studio Tovar will take advantage of the soaring volumes of the museum’s contemporary wing, with a monochrome design featuring translucent panels printed with key quotes and images, said Shazia Boucher, heritage curator and deputy director of the Museums of Calais, who is co-curating the show.
The catalogue includes a text by fashion historian Emilie Hammen explaining how Saint Laurent contributed to women’s emancipation through his clothing. His designs played with sheer fabrics like lace, tulle, chiffon and organdy, as well as cutouts that selectively revealed the chest, back, buttocks and stomach.
“Her text also provided the foundation for the captions within the exhibition in order to provide historical context for this man’s view of women’s bodies and nudity — what it says about the era and about his role in it,” Laronde said.
The Museum for Lace and Fashion opened in 2009 and draws between 50,000 and 70,000 visitors a year, many of whom are unfamiliar with fashion, according to Laronde. “We are always careful to also address audiences who have never seen a fashion exhibition,” she said.
While rooted in the local lace industry dating back to the 19th century, the museum has produced exhibitions with institutions worldwide including the Cristóbal Balenciaga Museum for a show on the Spanish couturier and the Groninger Museum in the Netherlands for an Iris Van Herpen retrospective.