Frozen in Time

Musée Yves Saint Laurent Paris

Fashion means different things to different people, and for many of us, fashion stays boxed in at the mall or cascades down the runway.But, in Paris, fashion isn’t simply contained to a collection of garments, nor to an elitist event in the city; it weaves in and out like the golden, silk threads of the city’s tapestry. Paris, like many other beautiful cities, has a relationship to fashion; a hunger for aesthetic, yes, but also a need to tell the stories of life through wearable, moving artistry. An ineffable compulsion to indulge in the motility of fashion – the stylized ebb and flow – is part of the Parisian vérité.

Thus, Paris is the perfect location for a museum dedicated not only to the stuff of fashion – garments, fabrics, and other bits and baubles – but also to the history of fashion, intertwining with the history of people; the ever-shifting cycle of societal norms, and the influencers by whom everything is driven.

Enter Yves Saint Laurent: couturier, creator of deliciously regal cosmetics, artisan of handbags, and conjurer of other haute delights. Yves Saint Laurent, the person, is the foundational inspiration for Le Musée, in accompaniment with Pierre Berge. Musée visitors walk the grounds of the YSL couture house to experience fashion moments frozen in time, to digest the backstory and backdrop of YSL, and to relive Paris through periods of fashion. Thematic displays also pepper and punctuate the journey throughout and around the museum.

According to the museum website, “Beyond its monographic ambitions, the museum seeks to address the history of the twentieth century and the haute couture traditions that accompanied a way of life that no longer exists.” The museum exists in support from The Fondation, an organization which aims to preserve haute couture – its garments, its sketches, and its documents de la mode – as well as the organization of exhibitions inside and outside the YSL museum; and support from other like institutions, as well.

So often we dismiss the importance of fashion as an art medium, believing that because a garment was worn – or could have been – that it is somehow less esteemed, less untouchable, and less revealing of humanity than its brethren in oil portraiture, ancient sculpture, or architecture. However, while the more classically museum-bound artforms tell a story, fashion indeed reveals a truth about the human experience, flagging our most vulnerable and most triumphant moments with every flourish and iteration. We learn and reach out to touch for ourselves the historic limitations of women in every hemline, the breadth of classism in every fabric and silhouette, and the events and activities of the time with every accessory. In art that moves as fashion does, we can see ourselves inside the stories – our ancestors, our children, and our stamp on time.

While immortalizing the YSL couture house and all of the garments and documents therein, the Fondation and the people of Yves Saint Laurent and company have equipped Parisians and tourists for a time-travel experience they may not be expecting – a truly unmissable feast of fashion.

Text Kayla Naab
Images Courtesy of MusÉe Yves Saint Laurent