Blending the Lines Between Fashion and Art: The Yves Saint Laurent Mondrian Dress

Mar 29,2016 | 15:37 EDT By Bidsquare

An iconic Yves Saint Laurent look, the Mondrian dress has become one of the French designer’s signature pieces. The dress was inspired by Saint Laurent’s favorite Dutch contemporary painter and founder of the Des Stijl art movement, Piet Mondrian. Although Mondrian himself did not collaborate with Saint Laurent, the designer took the liberty of embedding this favorite artist’s masterpieces into fashion after he bought a painting by the artist with his lover and business partner, Pierre Berge. The dress appears as a seamlessly simple ensemble of primary colored squares, however the real complexity lies in the construction and intense haute couture tailoring of the dress. The Mondrian Yves Saint Laurent dress was part of the symbolic 1965 Fall Women’s Collection, and has since been a phenomenon in the fashion world. It was featured on the September 1965 cover of French Vogue.

September 1965 cover of French Vogue

Although the Mondrian Collection included other collaborations between Yves Saint Laurent and works by artists such as Serge Poliakoff and Kazimir Malevich, the six Mondrian dresses were staples of the Yves Saint Laurent 1965 collection. The original six dresses are located in various museums around the world including the Rijksmuseum in Amsterdam, the V&A Museum in London and the Metropolitan Museum of Art. The dress featured in the April 7 auction differs from other originals, as Saint Laurent custom made this version of the dress for Mrs. Daly with sleeves.

Given the 1960s trend of the sack dress, Saint Laurent realized that the simplicity of the dress’ shape would be ideal for displaying bold color blocks of Mondrian’s modern paintings, as the artist himself had created a large influence in the graphic and flat plane visuals through his “neoplasticist” style. The design of the dress is quite simple; six wool jersey and silk A-line graphics including black lines and blocks of white and primary colors. The dresses were made of pre-dyed fabrics and each individual colored square is sown on separately. The construction of the dress, however, is what makes this dress more complex than it appears. The techniques and skills required to construct the dress required precision cutting and intensive haute couture stitching to accommodate the female body. The dichotomy between the simplistic design of the dress and the elaborate construction are one of the many staples of the Saint Laurent and the brand’s achievements in luxurious fashion and innovative designs.

“Fashion is art and you are the canvas.”

The significance of this piece is not only limited to Yves Saint Laurent’s own fashion legacy but also exemplified to the world the possibilities of collaborating fashion with fine art. This was one of the first collaborations in which a couture powerhouse seamlessly blended the lines between fashion and art and is to this day one of the most important breakthroughs in fashion, pioneering the way for future designers and artists.

YSL Mondrian Dress

An Yves Saint Laurent Mondrian Dress, Lot 226 in Leslie Hindman Auctioneers Luxury Accessories and Couture auction

Leslie Hindman Auctioneers presents a long sleeved Yves Saint Laurent Mondrian dress, custom made for the distinguished society hostess Mrs. Rosemary Daly, an early patron of Yves Saint Laurent Couture House. The Spring Luxury Accessories and Couture Auction takes place Thursday, April 7. View the full catalog here.