Every Detail Matters

Yves Saint Laurent: The Perfection of Style contains the collection boards for every runway show offered by the designer over 40 years.

These collection boards—dating from 1962 to 2002—retrace decades of the maison de couture’s fascinating history and offer a behind-the-scenes look into the creative workings of the fashion house and the private life of the couturier. The depth and breadth of these historical materials are unprecedented.

Like the script of a film, each board includes the title, the clothing category, the season and year, and a series of miniature sketches. Saint Laurent added the name of the chef d’atelier (workshop head), pinned on a fabric sample, the number of the specification sheet, the name of the model, and finally the number and place of the look in the fashion show’s lineup, according to the exhibition catalogue. These records were kept together in a book referred to as “the bible,” which the couturier and his colleagues would turn to again and again. The bible was essential for managing client orders, as it specified vendors, fabric costs, and yardage, among other details.

In the exhibition’s final gallery, the back walls feature a large selection of pages of échantillons de tissu—fabric samples that Saint Laurent used as a reference for his preferred hues, including his favorites: pink and blue. In front of these pages are color-coordinated gowns from 40 years of his career.

The exhibition, Yves Saint Laurent: The Perfection of Style, will close at VMFA on August 27, 2017.