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.