What I Didn’t Buy – Chopped Saint Laurent Rive Gauche Dress

We laughingly call the Goodwill Clearance Center, “The Dig” for reasons that would be obvious if you have ever visited one of these centers.  Everything is piled high in huge bins, and one must dig for the treasure.  Sometimes I want to call the place “The Heartbreak” as was the instance this week when I pulled the above garment from a pile of Forever 21 and Kathie Lee.

This was a dress from Rive Gauche, which was Yves Saint Laurent’s boutique ready-to-wear line.  I say was a dress because someone had chopped off the bottom one third and left the unfinished “up-cycling” project to be put in their donate pile.  I was attracted to the fine wool plaid and was pleased to see the label.

I will say straight out that I am not an expert, or even a novice when it comes to knowing the various lines that Saint Laurent designed over his long career.  Something about the braid and the brass buttons were slightly reminiscent of his famous 1976 Russian Ballet collection, but the plaid was not.  Because of the damage, I decided not to buy the poor mutilated thing, but I was intrigued and wanted to find out more about how Saint Laurent developed his ready-to-wear collections as compared to his couture.

When it comes to a designer who does both couture and ready-to-wear, the relationship is often thought to be one of the couture being developed first, and then the next season’s ready-to-wear is often based on the ideas of the couture.  I had that in mind when looking at this piece.  But after reading about how Saint Laurent actually worked, I realized that he did it the other way around.  Rive Gauche was like an experimental workshop, and the clothes made for the boutique were often developed into the grand ideas of the couture.

Could some of the ideas seen on this dress gone on to be further developed as the Russian collection?  I’m sure I cannot say, but it points out a valuable lesson.  A garment does not have to be couture to be significant.  I think that was shown very well in the recent Museum at FIT exhibition, Yves Saint Laurent + Halston: Fashioning the ’70s where many of the garments on display were actually Rive Gauche, and not Yves Saint Laurent couture.

I like this photo because it shows the reverse side of the fabric.  Even though Rive Gauche was ready-to-wear, it was high-end and expensive.  This was a very nice, finely woven wool plaid.

I have said this before, but to to remind all the DIYers out there:  Think before you cut.


Filed under Designers, I Didn't Buy...

15 responses to “What I Didn’t Buy – Chopped Saint Laurent Rive Gauche Dress

  1. I am going to see the Halston/YSL show at the Naples museum Nov 7.
    Can’t wait! Shall I send you some petty cash to buy this sort of thing for me?I still love it and I think it would be cute as is! Wish I had a Goodwill like yours near me!


  2. Joyce

    I call the best of the best when I find them damaged “Heartbreak” as well. Perhaps the bottom was shredded or damaged beyond repair-we can only hope.

    Sometimes I wish I could take a video camera to the GW clearance center. The “experience” is priceless.


  3. I would wear it as a top . The pieces I see with this label are usually peasant like. I dont mind digging through bins I always find something……


  4. I can relate! My older sisters wrecked a bunch of my Mom’s lovely clothes by chopping everything into minis — so annoying!


  5. Fascinating, Lizzie. Thanks. I found a Rive Gauche piece last year, and will tell you more about it soonish, for Secondhand Week in November.


  6. Julierie The Carolina Thrift Chick

    As I have put it in describing the GW Outlet, it is not for the faint of heart. I have shopped at the one up in Asheville and we have one locally about an hour and a half east of you. It is amazing what you can find but also heartbreaking as well. For the price, sometimes it is truly worth the roll of the dice to pick up something just to save it.


  7. I’ve been to a Goodwill outlet maybe three times. I don’t really have the patience to stay there long–but every time I’ve discovered something nice, from pretty silk fabric to Japanese yukata. And you, of course, find treasures.


  8. the Couture/RTW design concept has always been puzzling -the Couture line and RTW -most often (each designer worked differently) The to finally create each . The “birth’ started in sketches- then developed…Most often a great deal of collaboration (cost of materials and fabric, etc.)then the most important- appropriate client profile. This was explained to me by several designers and business directors. The Ready to Wear was much more exciting to me …while i used both for editorials.


  9. I am a dedicated thrifter, but Goodwill in general is just not my lucky place. The clearance center is entertaining but I never find anything. Unless I go with BB, whose Goodwill force is strong. Value Village and St Vinny’s are my magical places. I can almost pay for the rest with the patterns I’ve bought and sold.


  10. One has to wonder if the original cutter knew exactly what s/he was trying to upcycle, or even cared. It would be interesting to get into the mind and thought processes of the one who cut the dress; what the end result was supposed to be. To me, it would have to be someone who didn’t know designers or how precious some of their works can be. Looking at this 70s smock top, I have to say it doesn’t look like a designer piece. Judging from the good job (as far as I can tell) of the cutting, I’d say the original owner had good intentions, which in the end, were cruel intentions.


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