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Saint-Laurent’s translation of De Stijl’s aesthetics into wearables

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  • Model in a Mondrian dress on the cover of Vogue Paris, September 1965

Surrealism later triumphed and succeeded De Stijl after Mondrian emigrated to New York City, thereby switching the global artistic scene to America for a while. However, the 1960’s saw a renewal in picturality with the emergence of movements such as minimalism and a resurgence of the European geometric monochrome. Although this reformation is essentially talked about in pictural art, the choice of Saint-Laurent reflects the remaining influence of De Stijl on the design world. The French designer Yves Saint-Laurent (1936-2008) created a total of 10 dresses for his Fall-Winter collection of 1965. The collection was named “Hommage to Mondrian” and reflects a tendency in Saint-Laurent’s work to be inspired by renowned painters and contribute to their recognition. The Mondrian dresses had a huge impact on the fashion world of the 1960’s. They are still considered a hallmark of the 20th century and have evolved to the status of cultural heritage.

Only decades later, the dress added another component to the movement that was initially absent: fashion. Indeed, the main failure of neoplasticism, as mentioned before, was the lack of engagement with the viewer. By transferring the aesthetic codes of De Stijl into clothing, Saint-Laurent gave the audience the opportunity to embrace Mondrian’s work. The dresses made it possible to inhabit the work of art and, ultimately, give it life.

What is most striking about the models on the catwalk is the contrast between this image with the original painting by Mondrian. Rigidity and immobility in the initial artwork are substituted by natural curves of the human body, and the movement of the catwalk run. Even though the motive of Saint-Laurent was primarily to formulate his collection of 1965 as an hommage, it actually achieved much more: art that was perhaps too rigid in its conceptualization, became available for a human being to wear, and to appropriate.