The Trickle-down Effect

I don’t believe in trickle-down economics, but I do believe in trickle-down fashion.  In his fall, 1965 collection, Yves Saint Laurent included six dresses that were an hommage to artist Mondrian.  One of the dresses was on the cover of French Vogue in September 1965, and by February there was a sewing pattern available from Vogue patterns.  None of that is surprising, but what is a bit of a revelation is how quickly this dress made it to the mass market.

All of the items in today’s post are from the spring and summer 1966 JC Penney catalog.  This was a catalog that was in homes by the beginning of the season, and so was surely in the works before the end of 1965.  The decision to knock-off the idea must have been made soon after the styles were first shown.

Not only were the styles directly copied, they were also adapted to other garments like tops and skirts, and different colorways were used, apart from the primary colors plus black and white seen in the Yves Saint Laurent originals.

There were even styles for little girls, including accessories.  What about that handbag, and those sunglasses, and that triangle scarf?  A fifth grader was less than nine dollars away from a couture look costing thousands.


The Mondrian dress was available in sizes as small as a little girl’s three.

Some of the ad copy referenced Mondrian, while others did not.  Yves Saint Laurent was not mentioned, of course, but some of the copy did mention that this was a look straight from Paris.

It would be interesting to actually see one of these dresses and to examine how it was made.  The YSL originals were pieced, but I suspect these were made from fabric that was printed with the color-blocking, or maybe even with the color blocks and black stripes applied on top of the white base.  At $6 for a woman’s dress and $3.90 for the child’s, it does not seem possible that the time intensive process of piecing would have been feasible.

The trend was short lived.  There were no Mondrian/Saint Laurent designs in the fall winter 1966 JC Penney catalog, and none the following spring either.  If you were to find a vintage ready-to-wear dress of this style, I think it’s pretty safe to say it would be from 1966.

I’ve got to wonder if women wanted to continue wearing these dresses, seeing as how they were so connected to one specific season.  I’m pretty sure that anyone who made the Vogue version wouldn’t have easily given it up, as the pattern was pieced, and was quite difficult to make.  But at $6, I’m betting a lot of the mass market models went straight to the back of the closet.


Filed under Curiosities, Designers

15 responses to “The Trickle-down Effect

  1. I remember the “color blocking” in 1964-65(was in high school) from clothes my mother purchased at market. I wonder if YSL did it first? It certainly took off and showed up n US! The Vidal “wedge” haircut did as well-it and the “color blocking” have reappeared! I’m with you Lizzie! Trickle down fashion is very real – the other-no! Fun post-thank you!


  2. Splendid post!
    I have one of the ‘reissue’ patterns “V1557 The Mondrian Dress Pattern Hack”, dated 2015, itself just a repackaging of V9048 pieces, 9048 instructions and an official “pattern hack” set of instructions printed onto the fourth page. The pattern pieces are printed/ V9048/V1557. The envelope does state: “Recreate the look of V1557 Yves St. Laurent Vogue Paris Original”.
    If only Vogue could pull this off with other designers they’ve working with before!

    Liked by 2 people

  3. Norah

    There was even a knitting pattern in the September 1966 Workbasket magazine:


  4. I love the Mondrian dress. It’s fun to see which trickle down items worked or didn’t work. The pastel version? Hmmm… But I love the purse. Thanks for a fun post.


  5. My favorite piece was the color blocked bag! But really, some of the trickle down color combinations weren’t very good.


  6. Such an interesting post! Wondering now if my mother may have worn a JCPenney version as one of your photos above struck a memory of sorts. Thought you might be interested in a recent Mondrian dress Sue, one of my Australian friends, recently made. Her inspiration was from an exhibit at Bath Fashion Museum she had recently seen. Her construction of the Mondrian dress was most fascinating.
    Wishing you a most Happy and Wonderful 2017! Look forward to learning more from you, as always!!!


  7. I very much enjoyed this. Being such an iconic look, I was surprised it didn’t last that long. This was a perfect match for those white go-go boots!


  8. Pingback: The #OutlanderEffect – Tartan Tinted Ramblings

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