As the famous quote from Time magazine goes, ‘Coco Chanel gave women the little black dress and Yves Saint Laurent gave them the option of leaving it at home’. And, really, why would you wear a simple dress when you have one of these iconic outfits to choose from?
The Mondrian dress is the clearest example of the worlds of fashion and art colliding. Yves Saint Laurent designed the bold, block-print shift dress in 1965 after being inspired by several modernist artists, but especially Dutch painter Piet Mondrian. The dress was an ideal canvas for women who wanted their mini-dresses with a helping of intellectualism on the side.
Launched in 1966, at a time when a woman wearing trousers was considered rather risque, Le Smoking unleashed a wave of publicity matched only by the debut of the bikini two decades earlier. After centuries of ruffled dresses, the slim-fit tuxedo-style suit, worn with or without a shirt underneath, was the sexiest outfit to hit Paris since Joan of Arc bared her breasts. And to this day it remains popular with celebrities such as Angelina Jolie and Cara Delevingne.
In 1968 Yves Saint Laurent dressed the supermodel Veruschka in an oversized beige cotton jacket – the kind of style that would previously only have been spotted on hunky game rangers in Kenya’s Maasai Mara. But then they probably wouldn’t have accessorised it with a lace bodice and silver loop belt like she did. The image sparked the iconic safari trend, which is still alive and well today.
YSL’s Ballet Russes collection in 1976 did what every fashion designer dreams of – it set the tone for an entire decade. The haute-peasant look he debuted on the catwalk was inspired by Eastern folk art and before long the fashion pack of Paris and New York were coveting embroidered peasant dresses, oversized jewellery and full Russian skirts.
If the peasant dress was the look of the 70s, then the bolero wins the prize for the look of the 80s. Bold, bejewelled and bright, it captured the exaggerated, embellished aesthetic of the age and could be worn with everything from a little black dress to a pair of jeans and a shirt.