Last month, I went to see the Yves Saint Laurent retrospective at San Francisco's De Young Museum. Like these "tribute" shoes, the YSL exhibit seemed hastily organized. The clothing on display was pulled from the Fondation Pierre Berge, an organization dedicated to the collection and preservation of exceptional haute couture. I might have taken another year to negotiate with the ladies; mixing the Fondation's holdings with borrowed pieces from YSL's clientele.
I did love this wedding dress, knit by Yves Saint Laurent dressmakers in 1965. Here we have a white wool mummy on the cusp of the sexual revolution. Consider the simple, phallic shape of the thing. The way it covers every part of her body and keeps the alluring - hair, breasts, waist, legs - from view though her hands and mouth are exposed. The dress is probably very, very hot and heavy to wear. She is wrapped and tied with ribbons, forcing her groom to have patience in his steady, slow progress to unwrap her cocoon.
The dress is knit in a variation of the Aran style fisherman's sweater. The stitches knit into the dress have significance to me. In Aran patterns, the honeycomb is a symbol of the hard-working bee. In the Hebrew Bible, honey is a spiritual food. In the case of the the knitted wedding dress, it is also, most certainly, a reference to the wearer's sexuality. She is a flower, awaiting pollination.
The basket weave stitch is said to represent the fisherman's basket, and hopes for a plentiful catch. Aran sweaters are traditionally made of untreated wool which retains natural lanolin. The lanolin gives the sweater a degree of water resistance. This wedding dress is a form of protection.
Not on the museum label - just my own observations about the dress. And maybe that's what was missing from the DeYoung show for me - some kind of acknowledgment of the depth and complexity behind the couture of Yves Saint Laurent. These are not just pretty clothes.
A series of Mummified Barbies by the artist E. V. Day recalls the power of the bee and the potent sexuality of this troubled icon of femininity. Day wraps Barbie in twine and dips her in hot beeswax, leaving only the eyes and, occasionally, the feet, as a conduit for experience.
What did your wedding dress look like?