The Saint Laurent Blouse

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This appropriateness of usage and form gave them something self-evident, a nobility that stood the test of time. The blouse, like the sailor’s coat, the knit sweater, the officer’s uniform, or the trenchcoat, would write a new chapter in a book started by Chanel in the 1910s and 20s, that of a timeless allure. They perfectly illustrated the couturier’s aphorism: “My dream is to give women the foundations of a classic wardrobe, that escape from the fashion of the moment, to allow them a greater confidence in themselves.” “Fashions come and go, but style remains.” With this new gender revolution, the couturier dressed up his contemporaries in their daily lives, both those who were able to afford the famous label and the rest in the streets.The first style of blouse retained by history was the “Norman” blouse in pearl grey satin from the Fall/Winter 1962 collection, inspired by the peasant shirt – it was also called a “peasant blouse” for that matter. It was described by the New York Times of August 12, 1962, as being a peasant shirt translated into a flannel tunic stretched to the hips with a tubular silhouette effect. It was flattering to every silhouette; it was not only slimming, but also freed the bust, the waist, and the chest. Nevertheless, the previous collection had already included silk shantung blouses adorned with cut-out fringes worn with skirt-suits. The blouse, or rather the stylistic essence of the blouse, accompanied the entirety of the couturier’s works and took on various forms: a shirtdress appeared in an evening version in Winter 1963, a “longuette” shirtdress in Winter 1970, a peasant shirtdress in Summer 1971, a “painter’s blouse” coat in Winter 1974, blouses reworked into dresses. There were also the “Naïve shirts”, heralded as a great success by the American press, from the Winter 1974 haute couture collection. The “chemisier” long dress in chiffon with an ascot bow was one of the evening classics that had a vaporous effect. Yves Saint Laurent may have democratized the blouse, but he wasn’t the first to come up with it… Seventy years earlier, another genius couturier, Paul Poiret, photographed his wife Denise in a so-called “peasant” blouse inspired by the Slovak blouse. The look was more casual, less sophisticated, but the principle was the same.

The Saint-Laurent blouse’s success was partially due to the scandal around one transparent style that was worn bare-chested. This totally transparent model from the Summer 1968 collection, accompanied by a shorts tuxedo in black alpaca, created a scandal in the U.S. Americans nicknamed it the seethrough blouse. Yves Saint Laurent provokes, Yves Saint Laurent impassions. He placed, with but a few grams of fabric, a bold bet: to unveil and perfect femininity without falling into clichés or vulgarity. The light fabric sensually caresses the chest. A game of shadows and transparencies reveals the curve of a breast. This naughty game of opaque, changing fabric brings eroticism to its peak. And yet the cut is modest: a crew neck and long, puffy sleeves.In line with the principle of progression near and dear to the couturier’s heart, a first quest for daring transparency was attempted in Summer 1996 with a so-called “seethrough” chiffon dress, in navy blue organdy, who’s sequined embroidery dissimulated the chest. Later, a long, ostrich feather chiffon dress from Winter 1968 would entirely reveal the body, simply, transparently dressed with a jeweled belt in the shape of a golden snake. Laetitia Casta, the designer’s muse in his younger days, caused a sensation during the 2010 César awards ceremony by donning a similar style from the label. At the hand of Yves Saint Laurent, the blouse brilliantly succeeded in its conversion from a piece of peasant clothing to one for women the world over. An essential piece in the Saint Laurent wardrobe, it beautifully pairs with le smoking, forming a chic and charming duo.

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