My mum booked me a spot on her quilting group’s outing a while back. Ordinarily I wouldn’t really be over enthusiastic about that but it was a visit to the Yves Saint Laurent exhibition at the Bowes Museum, and tickets are as rare as hen’s teeth so I was rather pleased. In with the ticket price was lunch, served in one of the museum’s sumptuous rooms rather than taking place in the cafe. It felt very grand even though we only had soup and sandwiches! The Bowes museum was built by John and Josephine Bowes, to store their amazing collections of pictures, ceramics, antiques and general stuff. Due to Josephine’s French origins it was built to resemble a French chateau, not what you expect right up Teesdale!
I’ve been going to the Bowes museum ever since I can remember, so I am familiar with a lot of the collections. They often have some very well known exhibitions and if I’m interested it is close enough to visit whenever is convenient. The gardens are wonderful, especially in the summer on a rare day of sunshine and when the fountain is playing.
After lunch we had time to look round the museum, as entrance to the exhibition was on a timed ticket system and our time was 3pm. I mooched round the collection of paintings, which I love, ending up in the gallery in plenty of time for the daily performance of the famous Silver Swan. This automaton was created in 1772 and still works! The only other automaton of the time is in the Hermitage in St. Petersburg. I have also seen that one, which is a peacock, but not seen it working. I did take a video of the swan in action but WordPress doesn’t seem to allow me to upload it, so here is a picture instead. The craftsmanship is wonderful, don’t you think?
Onto the exhibition. There wasn’t just clothes, there was a video of the clothes being modelled on a catwalk, so that you could see how they moved on a real person, there was another video of YSL and one of his working partners describing how the clothes went from idea to model, which was very interesting. As well as examples of outfits, there were the toiles that he used to finalise details, which were wonderful to see.
There was also examples of prep work for beading and embroidery.
There was a shawl made entirely of beadwork, which was stunning, although I’m not sure how wearable it would have been. Possibly I don’t mix in the right circles!
Mum is of the right age to remember these styles coming out, and how different they were, although she didn’t wear designer labels. One of her sisters in law did and Mum can remember her “swanning about in them” as she put it! She remembers how avant garde trouser suits were and how people weren’t allowed to wear them to work for a long time.
Being more of a dress girl I loved many of his dresses, although there is no way they would go over my left leg, let alone fit me!!
Some of them seemed to be a bit over the top to be worn to any function, but I am sure that they must have been, especially in the 70’s and 80’s, when fashion did go a bit over the top, led by haute couture.
Some of the outfits haven’t really dated, or they’re coming back into vogue now, I’m not sure which. Mum really liked the Mondriaan inspired dress and said that she used to wear dresses of that style when she was younger (i.e. pre-children!)
I thought this one looked like a 1920’s schoolgirl outfit, clearly YSL was inspired by school stories!
And a few more gratuitous photos of clothes.
The exhibition runs until October and if you are given the chance to go, I would. There was an interesting mix of people there; many were of an age to remember the clothing styles first time around, they may even have worn them. Others were clearly fashion students; what a great opportunity to have! Others just amused me. They tottered their way around talking as if they knew all about the fashion world when it was clear that they didn’t, they just sounded silly. I found it wonderful to be able to see the design and the workmanship that had gone into each piece, some of them really were labours of love.