Exhibition

Yves Saint Laurent and feathers

Group of silhouettes by Yves Saint Laurent at the Birds of Paradise expo MoMu Antwerp, Photo: Monica Ho

Group of silhouettes by Yves Saint Laurent at the Birds of Paradise expo MoMu Antwerp, Photo: Monica Ho

The exhibition Birds of Paradise concludes with a group of silhouettes created by one of the most important designers of the 20th century: Yves Saint Laurent. The way Saint Laurent used feathers marked a new era in the 1960s. Moreover, the silhouettes demonstrate that he continued to use feathers until his career ended in the 2000s.

Sketch of Zizi Jeanmaire by Yves Saint Laurent

Sketch of Zizi Jeanmaire by Yves Saint Laurent

His meeting with dancer Zizi Jeanmaire inspired him to use feathers for theatre and dance costumes, such as the huge ostrich feather fan in combination with a black V-necked sweater in Zizi’s famous act ‘Mon Truc en Plumes’ from 1961.

Yves Saint Laurent not only marked the emancipation of women (e.g. his smoking for women), but also of the feather. It left the ornamental register and has gone on to cover the entire body and fly around like an irresistible cloud. Just like in the 1920s, the 1960s stand for freedom, and women’s liberation. The clothes are loosened from the body and it is freed of every form of limitation. The feather emphasizes this simplification as a prefect symbol of lightness. A feather cape by Yves Saint Laurent, that he created later on in his career, suggests the disruptive image of an eagle with its wings folded. It is the personification of the allegory of the bird-woman: elusive, flighty, incomprehensible and mysterious.