Wednesday, June 01, 2011

Mondrian as Inspiration

Dear Readers: Your blog hostess is in need of a break. This week, I will be republishing random posts from the last 5 years. As always, your comments and suggestions are very welcome. Thank you for being here!

Piet Mondrian: "Kompozicija" 1921

Quick, who designed this dress?

You said Yves St. Laurent, didn't you? Sorry, wrong. This is actually a linen top and skirt by Jr. Sophisticates. The ad appeared in Vogue magazine in April of 1961. 1961?????? But St. Laurent didn't debut his own label until January of 1962!

That's right, my friends. Using Mondrian as an inspiration for fashion was not the original idea of Yves St. Laurent. So, who was the designer at Jr. Sophisticates in 1961? Anne Klein, that's who. She designed an entire group of one and two piece dresses based upon the paintings of Mondrian a full 4 years before St. Laurent's versions made such a splash in Paris.

There is a major difference, though. Klein's top above looks rather blocky and square, rather shapeless. Take a look at the two St. Laurent versions below, from his Fall/Winter 1965/66 collection.

See how the dress curves in gently at the sides to define the waist?

See how there is subtle shaping at the bust? There are no darts, but the dress curves gently over this area.

You can see it better in this photo of the first dress from the collection at the Metropolitan Museum of Art's Costume Institute. Instead of piecing flat blocks of fabric and covering the seams with black binding, as it appears was done by Klein, St. Laurent has cut the blocks of color and black strips separately. But the pieces are not squares and rectangles. They actually have odd angles at the edges. The shaping of the garment that would normally be achieved with darts is all cleverly hidden in the seams where one piece joins another. And when those oddly shaped pieces are joined together, they appear as a flat grid as in Mondrian's painting.

That, my friends, is couture.

For more Mondrian inspired fashion, take a look at this site, which was put together several years ago by Snap Dragon. Even Nike has produced Mondrian inspired shoes, shown here.

UPDATE:  Welmoeds posted a comment in which she shared her blog post about designing a copy of the YSL dress for herself.  She drafted the pattern and you can see that on her blog here.  And you can see the fantastic results here.  Fabulous job and thank you for sharing Welmoeds!